Match Preview: Hawks Go West For Footscray Battle

It’s an early season summit meeting in the VFL, with the four-and-one second-placed Box Hill Hawks travelling out west to take on the four-and-zero ladder-leading Footscray on Sunday morning. 

Who: Footscray
Where: Whitten Oval
When: Sunday – VFL at 11:05am
Radio: 3WBC, 94.1FM
TV/Streaming: available to stream via the VFL match centre

Box Hill: played 5, won 4, lost 1 – 2nd on the ladder
Footscray: played 4, won 4 – 1st on the ladder

A Little Bit of History

Played: 2 – Box Hill 6, Footscray 4, 1 draw

The Box Hill Hawks and Footscray have met on 11 occasions in VFL action – including three finals.

While the Hawks lead the overall head-to-head 6-1-4, the Dogs lay claim to the most significant victory: the 2014 VFL Grand Final.

Boasting Alex Woodward and Sam Grimley, that season’s JJ Liston and “Frosty” Miller medalists, and current Hawthorn skipper James Sicily, the Hawks won through to the Grand Final by upsetting minor premier Port Melbourne at North Port in the Qualifying Final and dispatching Williamstown in the Preliminary Final a fortnight later.

Meanwhile, to book their place the second-placed Bulldogs saw off the standalone powerhouses in reverse order.

Played in front of just shy of 24,000 spectators at Marvel Stadium, the contest was one befitting both the stakes and the stage. Scores were tied at quarter time, the Bulldogs lead by a point at half time and the Hawks held sway but a single goal at the last change.

An already attritional battle, management and misfortune saw Box Hill lose a few bodies throughout the course of the day and wilt in the last. Footscray kicked 6.6 in the final frame to the Hawks’ 2.2 to run out 22-point winners.  

Box Hill sought and won a measure of revenge in 2015, winning both meetings with their Grand Final conquerors of the prior year.

The Brown and Gold claimed their round one rematch at the Whitten Oval by 13-points, before going on to capture the minor premiership with a 14-4 record on the season. By virtue of the Dogs’ fourth placed finish the two sides would meet in that season’s Qualifying Final, which the Hawks won by 40-points.

Sadly, Box Hill would again go on to lose the final game of the season – this time to the Andy Collins coached Williamstown. 

The sides would play twice in late 2023, first in the penultimate round of the home and away season and then winner-take-all semi final.

Footscray proved too strong in the first meeting, winning a low-scoring arm-wrestle by 20-points to keep their quest for a guaranteed finals place alive, while the loss scuppered Box Hill’s quest for a top two finish and the all-important home field advantage that affords.

Just a few weeks later Footscray would opt to play their Elimination Final against Casey at a neutral venue – Box Hill City Oval, a decision which turned more than a few heads.

The rationale was if Werribee defeated the Hawks in the Qualifying Final, the winner of their match with Casey would return to the venue to play Box Hill the following week.

It didnt quite work out.

On a sensational day of high quality footy, Box Hill lead narrowly at every change, kicked away to a 27-point lead early in the last, withstood a late Footscray rally which reduced the margin to 7-points with five minutes to play and, on the back of goals to Fergus Greene and Max Ramsden, ran out deserved 20-point victors.

Brandon Ryan and Greene kicked three apiece for Box Hill, while young small forward Jake Arundell was superb with two majors of his own and 20 disposals.

Lachy Bramble lead the Hawks with 32 touches on the day, while Damian Mascitti’s class and experience was invaluable as he racked up 22 disposals and 12 marks across half-back.

Truth be told, it was an exceptionally even team performance, with only Bramble winning more than Cal Brown’s 23 touches for the Hawks – and just Brown, Mascitti and Arundell tallied more than 20 possessions.

2023 So Far

The Box Hill Hawks bounced back from defeat on the Gold Coast in round three to record back-to-back home wins against the Kangaroos and Sydney.

While the wins away from home in rounds one and two were excellent, last weekend’s come from behind victory against the Swans could prove to be a watershed moment in season 2024.

Trailing by as much as 26-points mid-way through the second term, against a Sydney side replete with 17 AFL-listed players, the Hawks kicked 10 of the next 11 goals to turn the contest on its head. 

Cal Porter was a driving force on the day, amassing a team-high 30 touches, laying an equal game-high 10 tackles, winning a game-high 10 clearances and recording a game-high nine inside 50s. 

The returning Chad Wingard got through and looked sensational in his first half cameo, kicking two goals from eight touches, while Andreas Stefanakis, Jack O’Sullivan and Calsher Dear joined him in kicking multiple goals. 

Cal Brown and Max Hall’s fine 2024 seasons continued, also, racking up 29 and 26 disposals respectively. 

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have been impeccable through four hit-outs. Their perfect start to the campaign sees them atop the VFL ladder on percentage, having defeated the sixth-placed three-and-one GIANTS in round one, the 17th placed one-and-three Casey Demons in round two, the eighteenth-placed one-and-four Essendon in round three and, finally, the third-placed four-and-one Williamstown in their best performance of the year to date last start.

The win against the Seagulls was set up by a sensational first half in which the Bulldogs nullified their hosts’ when Willy kicked with the breeze, before taking full toll when it was their turn to run up a score. 

Two points ahead after kicking into the wind, Footscray lead by six goals at the half, kept the Seagulls at bay in the third and kicked away in the last. 

Trent Bianco was best afield with 26 touches, seven tackles and three goals, while Cooper Craig-Peters did a mountain of work inside the contest to win 22 touches and nine clearances. 

As if to illustrate their efficiency on the day and awareness of the conditions, just three Footscray players had more than 20 touches.

Well coached, well drilled and in good form, Sunday’s contest at the Whitten Oval shapes as a cracker.  

Selection News

The Hawks have made six changes all told to the side which beat Sydney last weekend, headlined by the returning Ben Cavarra.

Joining ‘Cav’ in the match day 23 are Jai Serong, Josh Bennetts, Clay Tucker, Cooper Stephens and Max Ramsden.

Out of the side go the injured Sam Butler, the elevated Calsher Dear & Josh Ward and the omitted trio of Jed Rule, Andreas Stefanakis and Josh Tovey.

One(s) to Watch

Ben Cavarra. Need we say more?

Ok, fair enough, for the sake of the piece we will.

Captain of the VFL Team of the Year in 2022, ‘Cav’ was forced to sit out Box Hill’s 2023 campaign rehabbing a torn ACL. 

His reintegration into the Hawks line-up comes as a massive boost to a side already sitting in second place. 

How To Follow

Match coverage will be provided via our social channels throughout the day, while a radio call will be available via our wonderful community partners 3WBC 94.1FM.

Where To Watch

You can catch the live stream via the VFL’s match centre! The first bounce is scheduled for 11:05am


Membership, as always, is the best way to support the Box Hill Hawks in 2024!

You can purchase your 2024 Box Hill Hawks membership via this link.

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