Match Report: Dogs Collar Hawks

Box Hill fell to a second loss of 2024 on Sunday after defeat to the unbeaten, ladder-leading Footscray at Whitten Oval.

Trailing by as much as 38-points early in the third quarter, the Hawks staged a spirited fightback to trim the margin to just six points with 31-and-a-half minutes gone in the last, before the hosts shut the door with the final goal of the game.

Goalless to quarter time and with just Josh Bennetts’ major to show for a difficult first half, Senior Coach Zane Littlejohn’s charges stuck to their task and once they found their groove made a move mid way through the third term. 

After Sam Willoughby’s goal extended the Dogs’ lead out beyond six goals it was a case of now or never for the Hawks, who responded to kick the final four majors of the quarter to gives themselves a sniff and set up a grandstand finish.

Chad Wingard got the ball rolling with an expertly taken set shot, before teaming with Ed Phillips to tee up Jack O’Sullivan’s excellent snap. 

Cal Brown, one of his side’s best players on the day, was collared inside 50 shortly thereafter and kicked truly, before Daniel Wood marked courageously backing into heavy contact, got to his feet and did the same after the three quarter time siren.

The Hawks had worked their way back into the contest on the back of work rate, contest and dare.

Cooper Craig-Peters gave the Bulldogs the ideal start to the final term with the first major after just two minutes, but the returning Ben Cavarra produced the perfect reply, reading the ball off hands at a boundary throw in before instinctively and brilliantly snapping his first VFL goal in 617 days.

‘Cav’ entered the game after quarter time and played managed minutes on his return from a ruptured ACL, tallying 14 touches as a hybrid mid-forward.

Dominic Bedendo and Phoenix Spicer goalled to give the hosts a 27-point advantage and, seemingly, shut the door for good as the match ticked into time on, but there was time enough for the Hawks if they were good enough. 

Cal Brown got the comeback going with a superb snap, before younger brother Tyler was in the right place at the right time to receive a handball from Cavarra and kick his first of the day.

Renewed and with momentum on their side, the Hawks attacked again. With four minutes remaining Cal Porter sent a kick goalward and ruckman Ned Reeves sorted out his feet to prod home a vital six-pointer.

Barely a minute later Josh Bennetts marked spectacularly, but watched as his difficult set shot sailed agonisingly wide to trim the margin to six points with two minutes remaining.

Footscray would will the ball forward and when Anthony Scott kicked truly with 35 minutes gone the result was finally, belatedly sewn up.

Come the final siren Box Hill finished minus 15 for inside 50s, plus seven for clearance and plus eight for tackles – as if to illustrate both the general flow of play and the Hawks’ efforts to stay in the contest.

Jai Serong was named his side’s best player on the day for his assured and vital role in defence. The key position tall had 22 touches and took eight marks – many of which were on the last line of defence and denied the Dogs certain scores – while using the ball well to either spread the field or advance his team.

The excellent form of Max Hall continued, too. Named in his side’s best players for the past three weeks, the Montrose boy finished the day with 31 touches, seven marks, a game-high 10 clearances and an equal game-high seven inside 50s. 

The aforementioned Cal Brown was another to impress, finishing as the highest rated and most prolific player on the ground. His 35 disposals included seven marks, five clearances, four inside 50s, seven rebound 50s, five tackles and two goals – making him the only Hawk to finish with multiple goals. 

The returning Josh Bennetts saw his efforts recognised by his coaches, too. The hardworking forward kicked 1.2 from his 16 touches, took seven marks and pushed up the ground to impact with two rebound 50s and two inside 50s.

Bodie Ryan’s development received another tick, as the first-year half-back displayed both his potential and growth. The South Australian product out of Glenelg was impressive with 19 touches and seven marks in his best display at VFL level to date.

Last but certainly not least among the Hawks best players was Tyler Brown. The ‘Brown Pup’ kicked a goal and had 20 disposals, including five clearances, two inside 50s and two rebound 50s in an encouraging display.

Other notable contributions came from the likes of Ethan Phillips, who took a game-high 15 marks, and Cal Porter, who battled away all day inside the contest to lay an equal game-high nine tackles. 

Box Hill will look to return to the winners’ list next Sunday afternoon against Sandringham in Wonthaggi. 

Box Hill




9.6 60





10.13 73

Serong, Hall, C Brown, Bennetts, Ryan, T Brown

C Brown 2, Wood, Wingard, Reeves, O’Sullivan, Cavarra, T Brown, Bennetts

Disposals: C Brown 35, Hall 31, Serong 22, Porter 21, Eth Phillips 20, T Brown 20, Ryan 19

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