Match Preview: Hawks Primed For Casey Clash

The night before round one, eh. It truly is better than Christmas Eve!

Who: Casey Demons
Where: Casey Fields
When: Sunday, 2:05pm
Radio: 3WBC, 94.1FM
TV/Streaming: live on Channel 7 from 2pm; available to stream via the VFL match centre 

Double Header

Casey Fields is set to stage the perfect ‘double bill’ on Sunday, hosting round one action in both the VFLW and VFL.

Our star-studded women’s team begins their season at 11:05am, before the boys take the field at 2:00pm.

If you can’t make it down to Casey for both – or either – matches, be sure to follow all the action via our social channels or the VFLW Match Centre – which will carry a live stream from 11am.

A Little Bit of History

It’s been a while since Box Hill last trumped Casey. Round 1, 2019 in fact. It’s been a wile since the sides last faced off at Casey Fields, too. Round 13, 2019, for anyone interested. 

The most recent of Box Hill’s victories over Casey was the last in a sequence of three consecutive wins the Hawks enjoyed against Sunday’s hosts – a sequence which included the 2018 Grand Final at Marvel Stadium sandwiched by two good wins at home. 

But since that day at Fenjiu Stadium in Box Hill the Demons have held sway, winning the last four meetings between the sides, including, naturally, the last time these two sides squared off.

That was in Round 6 of 2023 down in Wonthaggi.

The Demons were able to apply the brakes to a fast-starting Hawks outfit, pulling away just before half time before maintaining & managing a comfortable margin thereafter.

23-points down at the last change, Jacob Koschitzke gave the Hawks hope with the first of the fourth quarter, but quickfire goals from Tom McDonald and Jake Melksham shut the door. 

Connor MacDonald amassed 37 touches, eight clearances and kicked a goal, while Cal Brown was at his busy best to finish with 36 disposals, nine tackles and five clearances. 

Box Hill came into the match-up with a perfect 4-0 record, but couldn’t maintain the rage in a contest which ultimately came down to efficiency. While the Hawks tallied 81 more disposals, we were -7 for inside 50s; and although our rucks finished with 33 more hitouts we converted those into only five more clearances.

Sometimes more really is less. 

2023 So Far

Box Hill’s pre-season included back-to-back scratch matches against Footscray, an excellent hit-out for just our VFL contingent against Richmond and last weekend’s barnstorming victory against Essendon at The Hangar.

While the preceding three matches had represented a wonderful opportunity for so many of Box Hill’s VFL-listed and train on players to experience the level, that the team’s best performance was delivered by something approximating our best available side is no surprise. 

Truthfully, it’s hard to know what to make of pre-season sometimes. How are both teams setting up, what are they hoping to achieve, what is the relative strength of their line-ups? Come the season proper there’s an ‘honesty’ to how two sides approach contest, because winning is the goal and the sides are set-up to give themselves the best chance of making that happen. In pre-season, sometimes that just isn’t the case.

As for Casey, they navigated their pre-season with two wins and loss, defeating Carlton and Port Melbourne, while falling to Coburg last weekend. 

What does it mean and how much can we take away from these results? It’s hard to say. 

Selection News

Zane Littlejohn’s first squad of 2024 contains seven Club debutants, including Hawthorn draftees Bodie Ryan and Calsher Dear.

A smooth moving, straight kicking forward, Dear impressed with a four-goal showing last weekend against the Bombers and will hope to carry that confidence and form into his first game of senior footy. 

They’re joined in the selected side by pre season SSP signing Ethan Phillips. The newest Hawthorn recruit will make his debut four months after trading the red and blue of Port Melbourne for the brown and gold of Box Hill and, eventually, Hawthorn. 

A further four VFL recruits have been handed debuts, including last weekend’s six-goal hero, Andreas Stefanakis, Whitefriars old boy Daniel Wood, prized off-season recruit Tyler Brown and, finally, 2023 signing Ben De Bolfo – who lost all of his first season at Fenjiu Stadium because of a knee reconstruction.

Another exciting addition is James Parsons, who like De Bolfo sat out all of last year while rehabbing a torn ACL. A combative, classy, versatile and goal-kicking midfielder, Parsons’ impact was missed during 2023.

Having lost retirees Damian Mascitti and Hugh Beasley, AFL-listed Harry Morrison will provide some much needed experience in a back six which will need some time to gel, while Lloyd Meek shapes as a key figure in the midfield battle. He will be assisted in the ruck by developing big man Clay Tucker, while fellow tall Max Ramsden will likely be deployed forward.

Of the key names not to feature, high-flying forward Jaylon Thorpe saw the latter stages of his pre-season affected by a virus, while Vice-Captain Stu Horner copped a heavy knock in the second half last weekend which requires ongoing assessment.

Both will be monitored in the coming weeks and considered for selection once they resume full training. 

One(s) to Watch

It’s a concern that this is our first match preview of the year and I’m already indecisive. Surely I’d be able to pick one name to spotlight and padding the word count and splitting hairs would become an issue later in the year. 

But here goes… The best news stories are the returns of Parsons and De Bolfo, who have both worked tirelessly to put themselves in the mix for selection and a shoutout in this write up. 

Parsons produced some incredible moments in his debut season with us in 2022: a long, running, solo goal against Gold Coast and an extraordinary four goal, 23 disposal performance against Port Melbourne come immediately to mind. It’s fantastic to have him back.

As for De Bolfo, the Hawks recruited him from the Northern Bullants at the end of 2022. The former Northern Knight put together a strong pre-season and looked primed for a breakout year… Then disaster struck, with the key back tearing his ACL following an awkward landing while training with Hawthorn in January. 

De Bolfo’s rehab has been as diligent as possible and his form throughout pre-season an endorsement of the Club’s decision to recruit him.

Speaking of recruits, let’s chat Tyler Brown! Similar in size to Parsons, Brown shapes as an important addition to the Hawks’ ranks owing to his versatility. His best footy in pre-season has been through the midfield, but the one-time Magpie is just as capable of influencing the game behind the ball.

Look out for the ‘Brown Pup’ combining with older brother Cal, the ‘Brown Dog,’ throughout 2024. 

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

For those in Victoria, Channel 7 are carrying live coverage of the game from 2pm. Hawks fans interstate will be able to stream the match via the 7plus app or the VFL match centre. 

Membership

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

We play our first home game out of Fenjiu Stadium in Round 4, but getting in early will ensure you’re ready to go for the visit of North Melbourne on April 20th. 

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

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