Match Report: Hawks Skittle Swans

The Box Hill Hawks came from 26-points down to defeat Sydney on Sunday, claiming a fourth win in five matches to start the 2024 VFL season and move to second place on the competition ladder.

The 27-point win came on a day of high drama at Box Hill City Oval, in which Hawks small forward Sam Butler suffered a horrific broken leg and the match was paused for over half-an-hour while he received medical attention.

Trailing by 10-points at the time the match was halted, Box Hill rallied following the resumption to kick seven of the next eight goals and nine of the last 13 to claim an emotional and important four points. 

The Swans boasted 17 AFL-listed players, including the likes of Aaron Francis, Angus Sheldrick, Jacob Konstanty, Peter Ladhams, Corey Wagner and premiership winning All-Australian Luke Parker, but it was the Hawks who had the greater breadth of contributors.

Cal Porter’s sensational season continued apace, with the Box Hill skipper awarded the ANZAC Medal for best afield. ‘Ports’ was the highest rated player on the ground, led his team in total disposals, recorded an equal game-high 10 tackles, a game-high 10 clearances and a game-high nine inside 50s. 

In his fourth season in brown and gold, the Hawks’ no.55 is unquestionably playing the best football of his life. 

He was supported in the contest by developing midfielder Josh Ward, who followed up an impressive performance last weekend with a strong showing against good opposition.

Ward covered the ground well from first siren to last to tally 21 possessions, which included eight inside 50s, three rebound 50s and three clearances. 

Another who consolidated an excellent showing last time out was Box Hill-listed midfielder Max Hall. Best afield against the Kangaroos, Hall showed all those watching why he’s one to keep an eye on with 26 touches, five marks, five tackles, three inside 50s and a goal.

Strong over the ball, clean in possession, a good decision maker and hard working, the former Eastern Ranges product’s development is something to behold. 

Calsher Dear’s fine debut campaign also continued, with the first-year forward unquestionably Box Hill’s best marking option. He was one of four Hawks to kick multiple goals – he kicked 2.4 all told,  but was the only one designated as a tall – with the returning Chad Wingard, Jack O’Sullivan and Andreas Stefanakis the others to register two majors on the day. 

While heartened by his work in front of goal, Dear must be highlighted for his work rate elsewhere. Whether with the ball, to present as an option or when charged with applying pressure, he was a standout. In fact, only seven players on the ground laid more tackles than the 195cm tall. 

At the other end of the ground Ben De Bolfo produced arguably the best of his five performances for Box Hill, winning 19 touches and taking eight marks in a confident performance in defence. 

Sidelined by a knee reconstruction last season, De Bolfo has been a wonderful addition to the Hawks’ on-field playing stocks since debuting for the Club in round one. In tandem with Ethan Phillips, the former Northern Knight is growing in confidence by the week. 

Lastly among the Hawks’ best was hard running wingman, Ed Phillips. Highly valued internally, Phillips’ impact can sometimes be undersold by raw numbers, with these figures often failing to do his output justice.

‘Eddo’ had 20 touches for the afternoon, took nine marks, had two clearances, drove his team inside 50 twice and rebounded out of defence three times, while kicking 1.1 – illustrating the amount of ground he covered and lines he impacted.

All told the Hawks recorded 49 more disposals, 16 more inside 50s, three more clearances, 32 more marks and seven more scoring shots in a contest which, at one point, looked to be slipping away, before turning completely on its head.

The early exchanges were incredibly tight, with little between the two sides and the balance of probabilities suggesting we were set for a real arm wrestle. 

Jack O’Sullivan’s opener was canceled out by goals to Corey Wagner and Ben Edwards, before Chad Wingard kicked a popular goal on return to snatch back the lead on 15 minutes. But from that point on the Swans turned the screws and looked to kick away.

James Lugsdin, Peter Ladhams and Jacob Konstanty kicked back-to-back goals in an eight minute span to take us to quarter time with the Swans three goals to the good, and while Wingard kicked a second within a minute of the second quarter restart Sydney continued to do the bulk of the attacking.

Between the fourth and 15th minutes of the second term the Swans added 15-unanswered points to kick out to a game-high 26-point lead and within touching distance of breaking the game open.

But the Hawks would keep the Swans scoreless for what remained of the term, while adding timely goals from the boots of Daniel Wood and Ed Phillips to remain in touch.

When Jed Rule kicked his first of the day two minutes in the third quarter the Hawks were eight-points behind and closer than they’d been for some time. 

A pair of Swans behinds followed, before Butler’s injury brought the game to a standstill on 13 minutes.

The Hawks forward was treated on the field for some half an hour, with both teams returning to the rooms to await further news of a restart. 

When play got underway it was one-way traffic. Henry Hustwaite goalled to get his side within a kick, Dear gave the Hawks the lead just minutes later and Tyler Brown’s first goal as a Hawk had Box Hill in complete control.

Aaron Francis pulled one back for the visitors, before Jack O’Sullivan’s goal of the day contender immediately snuffed it out. Picking the ball off his bootlaces right on 50, ‘Sul’ straightened up and sent his kick flying right over the goal umpire’s hat.

Dear’s second, Hall’s first and Josh Tovey – a late in for the called-up Max Ramsden – arrived in short order when the fourth quarter began and, all of a sudden, the Hawks had a 31-point lead and one hand on the four points. 

Lugsdin’s second on 15 minutes gave the Swans a lifeline, but it was as close as the visitors would get. Andreas Stefanakis kicked a pair of answering goals to settle things once and for all and when time expired the Hawks had recorded a sensational, season shaping 27-point win. 

The win sets up a tantalising match-up at Whitten Oval next Sunday, in which the first-placed Bulldogs will host the 2nd placed Box Hill. 

Box Hill

2.3

5.3

10.7

15.12 102

Sydney

5.2

7.5

8.8

11.9 75


Best:
Porter, Ward, Hall, Dear, De Bolfo, Ed Phillips

Goals: Wingard, Stefanakis, O’Sullivan, Dear 2, Wood, Tovey, Rule, Ed Phillips, Hustwaite, Hall, Tyler Brown

Disposals: Porter 30, C Brown 29, Hall 26, Hustwaite 22, Ward 21, Ed Phillips 20

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