Match Report: Hawks Claw Cats

The Box Hill Hawks have staged another stirring and stunning late show to consolidate a place in the VFL competition’s top six and move back onto the heels of the top four. 

The one-point win came after the Hawks and Cats had played out a entertaining arm-wrestle replete with countless lead changes and momentum swings, which was only settled late in the day via the right boot of Finn Maginness and sure hands of Denver Grainger-Barras. 

As if to illustrate the quality of the contest and the fine margins which separated the sides on the day, neither team was able to fashion a lead greater than two kicks and could’ve easily swapped fates had one or two moments fallen the other way.

The visiting Cats enjoyed the better of the first term, using the favourable conditions that come with kicking to the scoreboard end to control large parts of the term and kick to a eight point quarter time lead.

Geelong’s goals in the opening frame came via James Willis, Ted Clohsey and Marcus Herbert, but were answered by timely and all-important majors from the boots of Max Ramsden and Jack O’Sullivan. Ultimately, Geelong might’ve felt a goal-or-two short of par given their territorial dominance and chances in forward 50.

The Hawks wasted no time in fashioning chances of their own when the two teams swapped ends for the second quarter, but an early return of three behinds was less than what their efforts deserved.

Finally, after 12 minutes, Ben Cavarra kicked his first of three goals for the day to tie the scores, before kicking his second barely a minute later to hand his side their first lead of the day.

Both the Hawks and Cats locked down for the 10 minutes which followed as the game was played in contests and between the arcs, trading minor scores until the game sprung to life deep into time on.

With half time just moments away, Geelong’s Lewis Antonac pinched the lead back, before Finn Maginness answered quickly thereafter. A Clay Tucker goal after the siren gave the Hawks their biggest lead of the afternoon and sparked a good ol’ fashioned all-in, with the team in brown and gold heading off to half-time 10-points to the good.

With the wind at their backs the Cats wrestled back the initiative and slowly but surely ate into the Hawks’ advantage.

Mitch Hardie found the mark to draw Geelong within two-points, before Ryley Hutchins’ was controversially awarded a goal despite his flying snap having clearly hit the post – a decision which handed Geelong back the lead. 

Clay Tucker snapped a sensational goal, his second of the day, to inch his side back ahead, and when Cavarra nabbed a third of the afternoon the Hawks were back out to a nine-point advantage late in the third quarter. 

But, as expected, the Cats wouldn’t go away. Hamish Lucas kicked his first of the match to leave the sides separated by just four points with just one quarter to play.

Just as the Hawks opened the second term with a flurry of behinds, they did so again come the fourth.

These let offs were just enough for Geelong to goal against the run of play to square things up, but when Jasper Scaife marked strongly, got rid of his opponent and ran into the open goal Box Hill were back on top.

It was fitting reward for Scaife, who finished with 1.4 from 13 touches and eight marks having competed well all afternoon.

If Zane Littlejohn had hoped his charges would kick on and kick away, the Cats had other ideas. 

Back-to-back majors from Kaelan Bradtke and Connor O’Sullivan ripped the lead back and asked the Hawks to win the game again… if they could.

Jack O’Sullivan and Chad Wingard saw half chances sail agonisingly wide, before Willis did likewise at the other end.

With 27-and-a-half minutes gone and time running out, Finn Maginness received a handball from Cooper Stephens, stepped an opponent and split the middle from just inside 50 to a rapturous applause from a packed City Oval.

Box Hill lead again – by a single point – and had a little under two minutes to survive.

Geelong threw everything at their hosts in those final few minutes, but were thwarted by two sensational contested marks from Denver Grainger-Barras and a spate of incredibly desperate defensive efforts from all and sundry  before time finally expired.

Josh Ward was again named his side’s best player, winning a team-high 31 touches comprised of five marks, tackles and clearances, as well as seven clearances, seven inside 50s and four score involvements. It was the sort of complete game the 2022 first round draft pick has produced consistently for Box Hill in 2024 as he pushes for a senior return.

Bailey Macdonald was also excellent, putting in arguably his finest display for the season. ‘BMac’ tallied 28 disposals, provided invaluable dare and dash with ball in hand and contributed enormously to the final result.

Another to keep their fine run of form going was Jai Serong, who again held down a key defensive post with great composure. His 27 touches, seven marks, five tackles and eight intercepts read as impressive on paper, but fail to do the quality of performance justice. Time and again he was strong in the contest, quick to react, smart with his decision making and clean by hand and foot.

Tyler Brown was an equally important figure on the day, winning 20 disposals in a strong and assured performance across half forward and, when required, where the footy needed to be won. 

A doubt prior to the game with a slight knock, Cal Porter stepped up and was, as per usual, superb. The skipper had 25 touches, six inside 50s, five marks, three clearances, five score involvements and eight intercept possessions. 

And, finally among Box Hill’s best was the match-winner Finn Maginness. Apart from his two crucial goals, Maginness had 24 hard fought touches, took four marks, laid seven tackles, four inside 50s, five score involvements and won three clearances.

Elsewhere, debutant Will McCabe impressed on debut to finish with 12 disposals and five marks from managed minutes which amount to about a half. 

The Hawks will be on the road next week, travelling to Queensland to tackle Southport on Saturday afternoon.

Box Hill




10.12 72





10.11 71

Ward, MacDonald, Serong, Brown, Porter, Maginness

Goals: Cavarra 3, Tucker, Maginness 2, Scaife, Ramsden, O’Sullivan

Disposals: Ward 31, Macdonald 28, Serong 27, Porter 35, Maginness 24, Hustwaite 24, Brown 20

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