Box Hill’s build towards round one continued apace on Friday night, with the third of four scheduled practice matches taking the Hawks to Seaford and a second match-up in three weeks against Frankston.
The sides had little resemblance to those that met at Parade College back on February 26th, but the night still represented the chance to balance opportunity and preparation.
Six AFL-listed Hawks turned out, headlined by the returning Changkuoth Jiath. It was CJ’s first taste of footy since a knee injury brought a premature end to a breakout 2021 and a crucial stepping stone to an early season return to senior football.
He was joined in the back six by Kyle Hartigan, while forwards Emerson Jeka, Seamus Mitchell, Jackson Callow and Jack Saunders suited up alongside them looking for vital minutes and touch ahead of round one.
From a Box Hill perspective off-season recruit Ben Cavarra featured in his new colours for the first time, playing a mix of midfield and forward as he took another significant step in his build towards the season proper.
Club Captain Hugh Beasley was passed fit to play, having overcome a slight niggle which had ruled him out of our first two hit-outs.
Like Cavarra and Beasley, Vincent Adduci and Fergus Greene also saw their first competitive minutes of Box Hill’s pre-season, as did youngsters Jimmy O’Connor and Campbell Tweedie.
Like the latter pair, the Hawks gave run outs to fellow development prospects Liam Coghlan, Luis D’Angelo, Mason Hawkins, Max Walton, Jake Arundell, Flynn Lakey, Max Hall, Lachie Wynd, Cayden Maki and Mitch Sruk.
Once things got underway it was the Dolphins who started the better, controlling both possession and territory for much of the first 10 minutes of play.
The Hawks’ first real sight of goal was nothing more than a half-chance, but it was more than Cavarra needed to notch his and the Hawks’ opening goal.
The former Western Bulldog read the ball best off hands, gathered cleanly and stepped his way inside before snapping a classy finish.
Max Walton was rewarded for a strong tackle inside fifty shortly thereafter as Box Hill enjoyed their best spell of the first quarter. He nailed his set shot and the Hawks had their first lead.
CJ had settled back into the swing of things, covering the ground well and confidently jumping to contest and intercept the ball in flight.
But it was Frankston who closed out the term on top. They rallied to kick the final three goals of the quarter to take a 13-point lead into the first change.
The Hawks returned to the field with renewed intent following the quarter time break and Cavarra’s second, kicked following another strong tackle won him the ball, was just reward for a positive start.
Jack Saunders was the last link in a chain that had willed the ball forward contest-by-contest, with Wynd and Greene’s quick thinking and fast hands key to ‘Mighty Mouse’ volleying through a sharp chance under pressure.
Back-to-back behinds might’ve given Box Hill the lead, but they were less than a good period of footy deserved. When Frankston’s turn to attack came they made no mistake, converting a pair of opportunities to skip to a 11-point lead.
Two more promising Box Hill attacks netted minor scores to close the gap, before Lachie Wynd kicked arguably the goal of the first half from a narrow angle as time expired.
With Cavarra done for the night O’Connor and Tweedie joined the fray after half-time.
Fergus Greene got himself and his team going when play resumed, kicking truly to snatch back the lead. Sadly, it was as good as the quarter got.
Frankston kicked four unanswered goals to take control of the game and set-up an ultimately match-winning lead.
The fourth quarter was an arm-wrestle in the early going. Played largely between the arcs, neither side was able to generate much in the way of meaningful offence.
Jack Saunders sailed through a beautiful set-shot after ten minutes to give the Hawks hope, but as had happened following Greene’s opener in the third quarter, the Dolphins had all the answers. They kicked the final four goals of the game to secure a 41-point win.
Box Hill will finalise it’s pre-season preparations next weekend against North Melbourne at Arden Street.
|Box Hill||2.0||5.4||6.6||7.10 (52)|
Goals: Cavarra, Saunders 2, Walton, Wynd, Greene