MATCH PREVIEW: VFL Round 11

WHERE: Preston City Oval
WHEN: Sunday, 2:00PM
COVERAGE: 3WBC radio 94.1FM

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

Round 10, 2016: Box Hill 10.7  (67) defeated by Northern Blues 15.13  (103) at Box Hill City Oval

Round 19, 2015: Northern Blues 11.9  (75) defeated by Box Hill Hawks 26.9  (165) at Preston City Oval

Round 7, 2015: Box Hill Hawks 15.6  (96) defeated Northern Blues 10.6  (68) at Box Hill City Oval

Round 20, 2014: Box Hill Hawks 26.15  (171) defeated Northern Blues 6.6  (42) at Box Hill City Oval

Round 14, 2013: Box Hill Hawks 6.7  (43) defeated by Northern Blues 9.5  (59) at Box Hill City Oval

FORM

SUMMARY

Last weekend marked the first round of fixtures this season in which both Box Hill and the Northern Blues fell to defeat. The Hawks and Blues were each perfect between rounds 2 and 6 and occupied first and third on the VFL ladder.

Whilst Box Hill currently sit first, the Blues find themselves fifth. Both have a game in hand on many of the teams around them, so a win on Sunday will be vital to each side’s top four aspirations.

That both Clubs endured their worst performances and results of the season in round 10 is mere coincidence. It does, however, add a little extra intrigue to a contest where both will be looking to rebound following a month of patchy, if equal parts effective and encouraging, form.

The Northern Blues, so impressive at times this season, find themselves in somewhat of a holding pattern these last few weeks, struggling with the selection nightmare that confronts all aligned teams: continuity.

A fortnight ago they were brought undone by a spate of injuries during defeat to Werribee, losing the initiative, the lead and then the match when Andrew Phillips and Daniel Gorringe, their first and second rucks, went down during the contest.

That they lost by only 14-points, having more scoring shots in the process, is testament to the growth at Princes Park and Preston City Oval in 2017.

In print last week’s loss to Richmond mightn’t have made for pretty reading, but circumstance played its hand in limiting the options at senior coach Josh Fraser’s disposal.

Standout performers in the early parts of the season have won call-ups to the AFL – including Liam Jones, a shock (and deserved) early contender for the JJ Liston Trophy – whilst injuries to Carlton-listed players such as Sam Rowe and Alex Silvagni have left Northern a little thin in defence.

One positive in has been that of lively half-back Ciaran Byrne, with the Irishman returning from an ACL injury sustained late last year. But, like so many of his teammates, he will be pushing for an AFL recall before too long.

Box Hill’s unbeaten start to 2017 came undone last Saturday afternoon at the hands of Casey, the in-form team in the competition, who rolled into Box Hill City Oval and right over the top of a Hawks side that scrapped and fought, but couldn’t muster one more great escape.

To their credit the Demons were superb right from the off, but like Northern, the Hawks have had issues at selection that have stifled what was has been an extremely well-balanced team for much of the season to date.

Ayden Kennedy was a late withdrawal last weekend, joining important senior players David Mirra, Will Hams and Sam Switkowski on the sidelines. With four well-performed and reliable players watching on Casey was always going to be a tough proposition. The sooner they return, the better.

Still, omission breeds opportunity. Joseph Fisher and Jordan Lynch were each handed their senior VFL debuts last week, whilst Vincent Adduci featured for just the fourth time.

TALKING POINTS

1. SCOREBOARD PRESSURE
In the first seven weeks of the season Box Hill averaged sixteen goals and just under twenty-five scoring shots per game, recording six wins and a draw in that period.

In the Hawks’ last two outings those numbers have dropped to eleven and-a-half goals per game and twenty three shots. For the record, last week Box Hill recorded season lows in goals (11), total scoring shots (18) and points scored (73).

The how and why of those figures can be found in Casey’s excellent performance, but it’s no surprise those figures weren’t enough to get over the line.

In Northern’s first seven matches of the season they recorded six wins and a loss, averaging twelve goals and twenty-six scoring shots per match.

They, too, recorded season lows in goals (4), total scoring shots (11) and points scored (31) last outing.

So two attacks that had an uncharacteristic misfire in their last matches come together keen to return to the heady days of just a few weeks ago.

It’s hard to forecast exactly what might make for a winning score, especially with conditions possibly a little wet and wild, but both sides will certainly be gunning for greater productivity in the forward half.

2. BOUNCEBACK-ABILITY
On numerous occasions this season the Hawks have shown an exceptional ability to rally in the face of trying circumstances. On the ropes, seemingly about to stumble, they get back to their feet and come out swinging.

It’s happened so regularly that I’m sure many in attendance last week might’ve thought they’d flick the switch and surge over the top of Casey. Within four-points half-way through the third, it looked like that might just happen again. Alas, it didn’t.

So, for the first time in 2017 Box Hill and Chris Newman have had a week to gather themselves; not a stoppage, a quarter or a half, but a week to assess what went wrong and how best to ensure it doesn’t again.

Its a great test and opportunity for this group to show, yet again, a mental resolve that has fast become part of their DNA.

3. GENERATION NEXT
There’s a great deal of untapped potential in each of the state leagues around Australia, with a lot of it right under our noses each and every week. Naturally, many of those taking to the field in the VFL are looking for a crack at the big dance.

Come Sunday there’ll be two men sitting in opposing coach’s boxes who’ve played at the elite level and are thus the perfect candidates to guide and mould aspiring league footballers.

Josh Fraser and Chris Newman are each parlaying excellent AFL playing careers – they played 486 senior games between them – into promising coaching careers. See, it isn’t just players cutting their teeth in the VFL.

Having come into the game at the turn of the century, Fraser and Newman bring with them a wealth of experience borne of exposure to the stark evolution of all facets of Australian rules Football. With due respect to the elder statesmen of the game, these are voices that are new, fresh and just out of the game.

In conjunction with their senior coaching duties, both have been or currently are development coaches at their AFL aligned clubs and have taken the brave step of taking charge of their own side in an effort to fast track their development.

So it’ll be a clash of two rising stars off the field, just as two exciting teams do battle on it.

 

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