Match Report: Hawks Edge Out Roos

The Box Hill Hawks came from behind on Sunday afternoon to topple the Kangaroos and, in doing so, claimed a vital four points in their quest for finals football.

The win moves the Hawks to 11-and-three on the season and into fourth place, one win ahead of fifth-placed Casey and two wins inside the top six with four to play; just as importantly, the victory keeps Zane Littlejohn’s charges within touching distance of the 12-and-two Gold Coast and Werribee atop the ladder. 

Trailing at every siren but the last, the brown and gold hit the front for the first time at the nine minute mark of the final term – a lead they’d defend grimly and wouldn’t relinquish. 

In a hard-fought and evenly poised contest, Box Hill tallied 23 fewer disposals, had 10 more inside 50s, six fewer clearances and five fewer marks – but five more scoring shots in a five point win. 

Without an established ruckman following Lloyd Meek’s late call up to senior side and missing experienced defenders Damian Mascitti and Hugh Beasley, a young and exuberant Box Hill found the early going tough against a North Melbourne outfit replete with AFL experience and in the midst of a six-game winning streak at the VFL level.

Ultimately it was the likes of Cal Brown, Emerson Jeka, Ned Long, Max Hall, Bailey Macdonald, Cooper Stephens and Sam Butler who rose to the occasion – and that’s doing a great disservice to their teammates who also played their part. 

Josh Morris’ kicked Box Hill’s first of the day after 11 minutes, but this goal was sandwiched by a pair of North Melbourne six-pointers either side and, truthfully, arrived against the run of play. At this point it looked a little like a case of ‘how far, North?’

But slowly the Hawks began to find their rhythm and play their way to notch small wins. There was a long way to go, after all.

Sam Butler came to life in time of the first to boot a goal, but it was the passages of play which lead to minor scores from Butler and Bennetts which would’ve given Box Hill’s brass greatest encouragement.

Having been on the back foot for the majority of the term, the Hawks attacked with pace and dare to create the chances which, while not converted then and there, laid the blueprint for what might work going forward. And that’s precisely what was reinforced at the huddle in-between quarters. 

Butler’s second gave his side the perfect start to the second term, before goals to Turner and Sellers undid all of Box Hill’s hard work in a matter of minutes. But then it happened again: the Hawks came to life, played some great football, created but couldn’t convert a string of chances.

Hall, Ryan, Thorpe and Bennetts saw shots sail agonisingly wide, but the deficit remained a manageable 14-points at half-time.

So the situation was crystal clear: so long as the Hawks stayed in touch, they’d create the chances to bridge the gap. When that time came, it would be a matter of taking those chances.

A goal to Hugh Greenwood saw the margin reach a game-high 21-points early in the third term, but a quick fire double courtesy of Hustwaite and Koschitzke trimmed the Kangaroos’ lead back to a single figure.

Cooper Smith gave the hosts back their three-kick advantage after 14 minutes, before Brandon Ryan’s first of the afternoon late on drew his side to within six-points at the final break. 

Blake Drury got his side what felt like the all-important first goal of the last term inside a minute, but Box Hill’s resolve was steadfast.

Ned Long snapped a tidy goal to inch his side inside a kick of North and when Darcy Murr’s first found it’s mark the Hawks had their first lead of the match.

Knowing more goals would be needed to keep the Roos at bay, Box Hill’s rearguard stood up to allow their side to keep attacking – a mindset which was rewarded when Harry Morrison arrowed through a beautiful running shot with 11 minutes played.

A seven point lead was handy, but it wouldn’t be enough. Kayne Turner’s second made things interesting, before Max Hall, the Hawks’ best on the day, marked strongly in-between two opponents and went back to kick the most important goal of the afternoon.

In a nail biting and frantic finish the Kangaroos spurned a pair of half-chances to tie the game up, but the final siren confirmed it was Box Hill’s day. 

Hall was superb throughout, finishing with a game-high nine marks to go with 19 disposals, four inside 50s and a crucial goal. Playing as a lead-up half-forward he presented, marked strongly and used the ball excellently.

Ned Long continues to develop and impress, with the big-bodied bruiser using his size and power in the contest from the off to win 22 touches, take six marks, have four inside 50s and a team-high six clearances. Like Hall he also kicked a vital last quarter goal.

Arguably Box Hill’s standout player in 2023, Cal Brown’s consistency has been remarkable to observe. The former Collingwood father-son lead his team with 28 touches and eight rebound 50s, while also taking three marks and contributing five clearances. Whether it be down back or on the ball, Brown’s contributions to Box Hill’s season cannot be understated and his importance to the side was underlined on Sunday.

Lachy Bramble was another standout on the day, with the Hawks’ flyer using his run and carry to accumulate 24 touches and finish with five inside 50s & four rebound 50s. Additionally, the seven marks he took illustrate his impressive work-rate.

Having already had a good day, Bramble contributed a handful of telling moments late in the game as the contest tightened up, gathering and distributing the ball cleanly to alleviate pressure.

Another who has built nicely into 2023 is Cooper Stephens. An off-season trade acquisition for the Hawks, Stephens has been excellent in the Box Hill engine room throughout the year – but particularly of late.

Like Bramble and Brown, ’Sugar’ was at his reliable best in tallying 21 touches, four clearances and six marks. A late run down tackle in the middle of the ground was as important a moment as the goals to Murr, Long and Hall. 

And, lastly, Emerson Jeka was excellent in his key defensive post. Without the aforementioned Mascitti and Beasley, ‘Jeks’ stepped up to lead a backline needing just that: leadership. Eight of his 15 disposals came after a mark and just about every kick that left his boot found a teammate.

The Hawks are next in action this coming Saturday, taking on the Tigers at Punt Road from 10am.

Box Hill

2.3

3.8

6.12

10.13 73

North Melbourne

4.3

6.4

8.6

10.8 68


Best:
Hall, Long, Brown, Bramble, Stephens, Jeka

Goals:
Butler 2, Ryan, Murr, Morrison, Morris, Long, Koschitzke, Hustwaite, Hall

Disposals: Brown 28, Morrison 24, Bramble 24, Phillips 23, Serong 22, Macdonald 22

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