Box Hill were left rueing missed chances after a 20-point loss at the hands of the Eastern Devils at Mulgrave Reserve.
The Hawks took it right up to the 2016 finalists from the first bounce and finished the match equal on scoring shots with a new high score of 49. However, the Devils’ accuracy in front of goal proved the difference as they consigned Box Hill to their fifth straight defeat, 11.3.69 to 7.7.49.
After a selection shuffle, the Hawks hit the field with three debutants in Bronte Bilston-Gourley, Gabrielle Mahoney and Brooke Slaney. However, there were no signs of nerves in their start as Box Hill continued their trend of winning the contested ball and clearances against their more-fancied hosts. Clare O’Donnell set an inspired example as she outmuscled two defenders to soccer through her side’s first from the goal square. Emily Gilder, fast becoming one of the most dangerous small forwards in VFL Women’s, bounced through a highlight-reel worthy snap from the pocket and Emma Mackie converted from a terrific contested mark to give her side a slim lead at the first change.
However, the Hawks were having trouble in defence with twin Devils’ talls Emma King and Stacey Livingstone. The pair had kicked all three of their side’s goals and would combine for ten to exploit a defence that badly needed more height. Box Hill’s attack on the contest was superb in the second quarter but the Devils hurt them on the rebound when errant disposal led to turnovers. A badly needed goal from Chantella Perera kept her side but in touch but Livingstone simply could not miss as the Devils headed into half time with a 14-point buffer despite having less scoring shots.
The Hawks needed to erase the two-goal gap in the third quarter and a freakish snap from Marinella Salafia was followed by a long bomb from O’Donnell in the first 12 minutes. Emma Mackie, Ebony Nixon and Rosie Dillon, the latter playing their finest games yet for the Hawks, were undeniable in the clearances. Infuriatingly, Livingstone’s fourth and fifth goals negated the inroads Box Hill had made.
Few could have expected the Hawks to put the Devils’ defence under siege in the last quarter and Box Hill could only lament not finding targets inside 50. Time and again, the likes of Gilder, Sarah Goode and Mel Kuys drove their side forward and time and again veteran Devils’ defender Meg Hutchins repelled.
With a brilliant snap under pressure, Gabrielle Mahoney gave her side a sniff with three minutes to go. However, it was not to be: a final charge was cut off by a smother and the Devils wheeled forward for Livingstone to kick the easiest of her six goals and blow the margin out to a most disproportionate 20 points.
Despite labelling the effort the Hawks’ best four-quarter performance yet, coach Patrick Hill was nonetheless left lamenting a second consecutive close loss.
“I was really pleased with how it looked, we’re starting to bring each other into the game,” said Hill. “We really looked like a VFL side out there today.”
Box Hill face Darebin next Sunday at Northcote Park from 2pm.