Match Report: Hawks Late Show Stuns Cats

The Box Hill Hawks staged a remarkable come-from-behind victory at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday afternoon, rallying from a 12-point three-quarter-time deficit to run away 34-point winners. 

In arrears for much of the afternoon and second best for large spells, the visiting Hawks dug in every time the Cats threatened to break the game open, scrapping and clawing to remain within touching distance before landing a series of decisive blows late on.

The boys in brown and gold found their rhythm in an extraordinary last quarter, booting eight goals to one – five of which came in time on – to keep their perfect start to 2024 in tact.

For the Hawks it was a result built on winning a different way – in fact, it was built around finding a different way, because despite many key statistical indicators leaning Box Hill’s way, the raw numbers don’t paint an entirely accurate picture of how nip-and-tuck the contest was for much of the day. 

They tell us it was a hard fought, contested arm wrestle which was only settled in the final throes of a frantic fourth term. 

Come game’s end Box Hill had tallied +77 total disposals, +8 inside 50s, +9 scoring shots, +39 hit-outs, +10 clearances and, crucially, +47 points from stoppage – but, again, much of the damage suggested by these numbers was done late.

Effectively, where there had barely been a trickle all afternoon there was suddenly a tidal wave. 

The Hawks’ best on the day was a close run thing between on ballers Cal Porter & Finn Maginness and the crafty small forward Sam Butler.

Porter’s 21 possession included a game high nine clearances, a game-high six centre bounce clearances and a game high nine inside 50s. Better again, his work without the ball was just as strong, with the skipper laying an equal game-high seven tackles. 

More, this impact came while applying the clamps to Geelong’s dangerous Mitch Hardie, who had started the match brilliantly while allowed to freewheel.

Truthfully, to explain or justify Porter’s influence with mere numbers would do his performance a disservice. The skipper was, simply, everything his team needed him to be and more when they most needed a lift. 

In the case of Butler his scoreboard impact will take the plaudits, but his work in and around forward 50 was first class all day.  Dangerous, busy and creative, he finished the contest with 17 touches, nine score involvements, four inside 50s, five marks and, yes, a game-high four goals.  

As for the hard-running, big-bodied Maginness, the Hawks’ no.32 was superb as a pure ball hunting midfielder. His work rate was exceptional and allowed him to accumulate a game-high 28 touches, take a game-high 10 marks, contribute to nine scoring chains, win six clearances, four inside 50s, four rebound 50s and kick a crucial final quarter goal.

Unsurprisingly, Maginness was the highest rated player on the ground come game’s end. 

Seamus Mitchell was another to impress, tallying 24 touches, five marks, 3 tackles, two clearances and four rebound 50s in a hybrid role in the midfield and across half back. His poise with ball in hand, daring runs out of defensive 50 and clean ball use (he finished with 91% disposal efficiency) was a highlight.

Another Hawk who has built into the 2024 season nicely is key back Jai Serong. Named among his team’s best performers for a second successive week, Serong totalled 22 disposals, took five marks and finished with a team-high five rebound 50s.

And lastly among the Hawks listed best was wingman Ed Phillips. Box Hill’s running man’s role was one of balance and hard work. He finished the day with 16 touches having touched every blade of grass on GMHBA. Thrown into the midfield mix to equalise the contest, Phillips took five marks, had four rebounds 50s, four inside 50s and won two clearances. 

Additional performers of note include the returning Jack O’Sullivan, whose three goal cameo ignited his side after half-time and big man Ned Reeves, who grew in confidence and effectiveness the longer the game went.

Despite the mid-morning start time, the game itself was played in warm conditions and it was the Cats who made the better fist of things in the early going.

Goals to Kaelan Bradtke and Tobyn Murray sandwiched an excellent finish from Josh Bennetts to give Geelong an early edge – but a quartet of late misses meant they didn’t take full advantage of their dominance.

Challenged at the quarter time huddle, six pointers to Reeves and Butler drew the Hawks to within three points after just eight minutes, but Shannon Neale and Murray answered right back to leave the sides right back where they started.

A well taken goal to Calsher Dear inched Box Hill to within two kicks, but any ground the Hawks had clawed back was quickly lost when Ted Clohesy returned serve just two minutes later. 

It had been the tale of the first half: whenever the team in brown and gold made inroads, the hosts would immediately settle. 

By the time play resumed after half time and Shannon Neale kicked goals two and three for the afternoon the Cats had surged into a game-high 24-point lead. There was still time enough for the Hawks to do something about the deficit, but it couldn’t afford to get beyond five goals. 

Jack Gunston, who had been moved up the ground and onto a wing, popped up inside forward 50 to kick the timeliest of goals after 10 minutes, before Jack O’Sullivan marked his return to football with a trademark rundown tackle and goal shortly thereafter to haul the Hawks to within 12-points. 

What happened in the next 10 minutes would prove vital in context of the result.

Murray’s fourth consolidated the Cats lead, but was cancelled out by Andreas Stefanakis’ first. Then Jed Bews’ first of the day was nullified by Sam Butler’s second in the shadows of three quarter time.

With the game on a knife’s edge and the Cats threatening to gap them, the Hawks had come up with two vital goals to stay in touch. Crucially, thanks to the work of Porter, Maginness et al, the contest was starting to slowly turn the way of the Hawks. 

With Zane Littlejohn’s words of encouragement ringing in their ears, Box Hill took to the field after the final change with the bit between their teeth.

Maginness’ snap drew Box Hill to within a kick, before the opportunistic O’Sullivan floated through the goal which gave the Hawks their first lead since early in the first term.

They wouldn’t surrender it.

Butler’s third gave the visitors some breathing room, but was quickly cancelled out by Oliver Wiltshire. 

Three points to the good as the final term ticked into time on, Andreas Stefanakis held his ground to mark brilliantly and finished calmly. Calsher Dear did the same two minutes later to hand the Hawks a 15-point lead with five to play.

Butler’s fourth shut the door, O’Sullivan’s third locked it and Dear’s third was the icing on the cake.

By the time the final siren sounded Box Hill had kicked 8.5 to Geelong’s 1.1 to turn a 12-point deficit into a 34-point win.

Box Hill 1.2 4.6 8.10 16.15 111
Geelong 3.5 6.7 10.10 11.11 77

Porter, Butler, Maginness, Mitchell, Serong, Ed Phillips

Goals: Butler 4, Dear, O’Sullivan 3, Stefanakis 2, Reeves, Maginness, Gunston, Bennetts

Disposals: Maginness 28, Mitchell 24, Serong 22, Porter 21, Bennetts 20, Hall 18, C Brown 18

The Box Hill Hawks wont be in action next weekend on account of the VFL’s match against the SANFL. The Club will next take the field on Saturday April 13 against the Gold Coast.

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