Mascitti’s milestone

Box Hill Vice-Captain Damian Mascitti is set to play his 100th VFL game when the Hawks take on Werribee on Saturday.

The 26-year-old has brought a wealth of talent and experience since joining the Hawks this season, with his cool head under pressure and elite ball use, and ability to seamlessly blend defence into attack, consistently shining bright.

In playing every game this season, and averaging almost 20 disposals, five marks and four rebound 50s per match as a dashing defender, Mascitti has landed on his feet at his new home at City Oval.

“I thought after seven years, it’d be good to experience a new environment,” Mascitti said of his move to Box Hill.

“I wanted to change it up a bit, being a local boy to Box Hill.

“It’s been such a good learning experience.

“Max (Bailey) has been unbelievable. He has such a totally different approach to a lot of things.

“So many new things…I haven’t done before or haven’t been involved with that I have done this year, that has been awesome for myself as a person and a player.

“That has been the most satisfying thing.”

Mascitti’s football journey stems back to his under-age days at the Oakleigh Chargers, where he was crowned Best and Fairest in 2012.

After missing out on draft selection, the versatile utility then enjoyed seven decorated years at Port Melbourne, achieving 2016 and 2017 VFL Team of the Year accolades and ultimately triumphing in the 2017 VFL Premiership.

Mascitti still has a strong place in his heart for the club where he played 84 VFL games.

“It’s funny looking back on it because I was a forward starting out in my early days. I was a different style of player,” Mascitti said.

“I called Port my home for so long. It was amazing, I was pretty lucky.

“In my first few years, I had injuries and struggled to get going. But once I started playing consistent footy, we had some really good success.

“We played in a lot of big finals and made a lot of prelims.

“Winning the flag in 2017 was the highlight without a doubt. The satisfaction I got out of winning that premiership was… indescribable.

“Team success and winning another premiership is a massive driving factor for me.

“That’s what you play footy for.

“I’ve definitely matured a lot as a player, become a better leader and a more experienced player over the journey.

Box Hill Coach Max Bailey vividly remembers watching Mascitti play four years ago –wherein only his 8th VFL match he accumulated a commanding 21 disposals and six marks off the half-back line.

“I remember watching him four years ago, coaching for Richmond, it was him and Brody Mihocek playing in the backline. If you had have asked me then, I would’ve said Damian Mascitti would be the one to get drafted,” Bailey said.

“The way he uses the ball, the way he creates and makes things happen I was really impressed with.”

There were no surprises then that when an opportunity opened, Box Hill jumped at the chance to acquire his coveted signature; a stellar coup for the reigning-premiers looking to replenish a leadership vacuum this off-season.

“Damo knows VFL football, but this is a new system he has come into,” Bailey continued.

“He’s a really calm guy; he’s a really good character and a good-natured person. The young players really get along with him; he’s not a dominating presence.

“I know Andrew Moore has really appreciated having him around as Vice-Captain and another older guy, to help him out in the leadership aspect.

“Playing in a backline full of Hawthorn listed guys, he’s probably thinking he has to take a backwards step with his leadership, but we want him to keep stepping up with it.

“We simply want the ball in his hands. His football ability speaks for itself.”

Mascitti credits his parents, who attend every one of his games, for their support in helping him achieve his milestone, as well as Port Melbourne Coach Gary Ayres who “stuck behind me early on when he probably could’ve easily flicked me off after I was injury-riddled for a year or two.”

Now into his eighth year in the VFL system, Mascitti is “enjoying the added responsibility” of the Vice-Captaincy at Box Hill.

And his professionalism and leadership has proved invaluable amongst the Hawks youthful brigade of talent.

“It just takes time,” Mascitti said of the wisdom he passes on to youngsters.

“Everyone leaves TAC cup and just thinks you’ll play every single game, and it’s just going to happen for you – I was exactly the same.”

“But VFL is such a different game. It took me two or three years to really adjust.

“I try and pass on the advice of just sticking at it.

“You never know when your time will come.

“It’s easy for you to think if it’s not happening, it might not happen.

“But things change really quickly. If you stick at it for a year or two or three years, eventually your time will come, and you will get the reward.”

In a VFL landscape where it is becoming harder and harder to survive, Mascitti’s story is a true testament of perseverance and love for the game.

And the highly respected Hawks no. 50 is making every moment count.

“You get to the end of every year and go I’m not sure what’s next? Am I able to keep doing this?

“Starting full-time work a few years ago, I was pretty close to stopping then and going to play local.

“But I think at the end of the day, I just always thought of myself as wanting to play at the highest level I can.

“This weekend is definitely a reward for effort, for sticking at VFL for eight years.

“To be able to play 100 VFL games is pretty satisfying.”

The Box Hill Hawks will take on Werribee on Saturday at Avalon Airport Oval at 2pm.


(Image: Kadek Thatcher Photography)

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