Match Report: Dogs Take Down Stangs

The Box Hill Hawks fell to a fourth loss on the season on Saturday, beaten by an in-form and fast-finishing Footscray by 20-points. 

On a wet, grey and oftentimes dim afternoon at City Oval the visiting Bulldogs took control early and, while the margin never ballooned beyond 20-points, maintained a two-to-three goal advantage for most of the contest.

It was a day of what ifs and near misses for the Hawks who toiled hard but never lead, with Zane Littlejohn’s men struggling to adapt to the wet and slippery conditions as quickly and as well as their opponent.

In a surprise to nobody who watched the match, Damian Mascitti was judged to be his side’s best player on the day.

The experienced, classy utility made easy work of the slippery deck and was one of the cleanest players on the ground, marking and using the ball superbly from first siren to last. 

Box Hill’s no.50 finished with 25 touches – 21 of them kicks – eight marks and a game-high 10 rebound 50s. Truthfully, Mascitti is so consistent and reliable a contributor, assured performances like Saturday’s can sometimes go un-or-under appreciated.

Henry Hustwaite was another to impress on a tough day for the Hawks. ‘Huss’ made his return from a short injury lay off and finished his afternoon’s work with 18 touches, seven tackles and five clearances.

Playing a variety of roles across the midfield, the 2022 draftee’s first forays into senior football have been largely positive, with yesterdays showing another example of his potential and growing maturity. 

Hard-running wingman Ed Phillips continued his fine form with a 22 disposal, seven mark, three tackle game. Additionally, the former Saint won three clearances, three rebound 50s and four inside 50s – a contribution good enough to be named his side’s third best player.

Fergus Greene was the most damaging and dangerous forward on the ground, booting 3.3 from 10 disposals and four marks. 

Box Hill’s leading goal kicker in his two seasons at City Oval, ‘Ferg’ worked tirelessly for his team’s cause and is a touch unlucky to have just three goals to show for his efforts.

Debutant Lachie Bryce saw his selfless team game recognised by the coaching group, with the Frankston YCW product acquitting himself well across half-back and wing.

Another selfless and stand out performer was co-captain Cal Porter, who sacrificed his game to play a lockdown role in the midfield. While ‘Ports’ won just 10 disposals himself, his dogged, hard nosed and determined performance was typical of everything the Hawks’s brass love about him. 

Ultimately, while not always the best or most reliable indicator of how a match played out, the statistics paint a fairly accurate portrait of the gulf between the two sides on the day. 

The Hawks finished -24 in touches, -22 for inside 50s, -12 in clearance, -11 in marks and -13 in tackles. So, being even handed, the margin of defeat was about right.

Under the threat of darkening skies, it was the Dogs who started the brighter of the two sides, kicking two goals in the first eight minutes and, frustratingly, denying a Box Hill side who enjoyed the lions share of territory but couldn’t hit the scoreboard.

Fergus Greene jagged his side’s opening goal of the contest after 15 minutes, but saw the goal immediately cancelled out by Caleb Lewis. 

The returning Jaylon Thorpe, who had missed his side’s last game through injury, goalled to draw the hosts within a kick, but it was the Bulldogs who finished the quarter in the ascendency.

Ethan Hunt – no, not that one – kicked truly to re-instate his side’s two goal lead, before Buku Khamis and Sam Willoughby saw shots of their own sail just wide as the Dogs threatened to make an early move.

The rain rolled in late in the term and once the second period got underway conditions were as bad as any the Hawks had faced in 2023.

Josh Bennetts got the all-important first of the quarter, but in the search for a second Footscray’s Jarrod Gilbee struck a blow of his own.

Greene’s second came during a decent period for the Hawks and trimmed the deficit to just six-points, but again the hosts couldn’t find a follow-up. 

A Lachie McNeil goal re-instated his side’s two goal advantage and following a tough quarter of hard-fought footy, the Hawks had closed by a solitary point to trail by 12-points at the long break.

Once play got back underway it was Fergus Greene who provided the first goal of the half, kicking his third to again trim the lead to just six-points.

Hanging in and searching for back-to-back goals for the first time all afternoon, the Hawks were hit with a one-two punch back the other way.

Craig-Peters and Willoughby kicked the goals which took the lead out to 20-points, only for Lloyd Meek to mark and goal himself to draw to within 13-points with a quarter to play.

At the huddle Zane Littlejohn asked his troops for a big effort and, while the opening exchanges were cagey and goals hard to come by, his charges remained in the hunt and in with a chance.

Tyler Brockman kicked a crucial goal after nine minutes to haul his side within seven points, but as had been the case all day, a consolidating second proved elusive.

Sullivan and MacIsaac struck two decisive blows as the quarter approached time on and, sadly, with conditions as they were, it looked unlikely that the Hawks could find four goals in a little under 10 minutes.

To their credit, the boys in brown and gold played things out right to the end, with Cal Porter’s efforts rewarded with a goal late on, but the Dogs had time enough to answer back via Lachie McNiel, who’s second of the day was the icing on the cake.

The result leaves Box Hill in third place on the VFL ladder, needing a win next Friday night in Frankston to sew up a top four berth. 

Box Hill




8.8 56





11.10 76

Mascitti, Hustwaite, Phillips, Greene, Bryce, Porter

Goals: Greene 3, Thorpe, Porter, Meek, Brockman, Bennetts 

Disposals: Bramble 26, Mascitti 25, Phillips 22, Mackenzie 19, Hustwaite 18, Brown 18

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