Mid-Season Review

Top of the table; undefeated; wins away to Collingwood, Williamstown, Footscray and Geelong; three state representatives; the only blot on an otherwise perfect copybook being a draw at North Port Oval.

Fair to say that thus far 2017 has gone about as well as it could for first-year senior coach Chris Newman and his new-look Box Hill Hawks.

Chastened by an abrupt end to 2016, under Newman’s guidance the Hawks have played some terrific football through the first half of the year, regularly rallying from seemingly dire deficits and producing simply irresistible football.

With the senior side enjoying their mid-year bye, this week is the perfect opportunity to take stock, review and reminisce about the season to date.

What We’ve Learned

Style: this is a side capable of being both beauty and beast, as the situation dictates.

Practiced at both blowing their opposition away with a scintillating, powerful brand of football and hanging tough when on the ropes, Box Hill have proven themselves to be brilliantly balanced outfit.

At times they’ve asked all the questions, but more crucially, when asked those same questions they’ve had all the answers.

It’s that ability to adapt week-to-week and in game that has served them so well.

By virtue of changeable personal, the method that served the Hawks well at the start of the season has been stripped back and rebuilt. That the positive results have kept coming is testament to Newman’s coaching, his assistants and the playing group itself.

In the early stages of 2017 it was the tall timber up forward that ran roughshod, with Hawthorn forwards Ty Vickery and Jack Fitzpatrick forming a formidable pair. With Fitzpatrick having not featured since the win at Geelong in round 4 and Vickery in and out of the side, other avenues to goal had to be found.

Of late, Chris Jones has picked up where this pair left off, producing some fine individual form on his way to contributing an equal team-high twelve goals to this stage of the season.

But small as really been the new tall, with a skilful brigade of fleet of foot player the like of Sam Switkowski, Nelson Lane, Vincent Adduci and Kade Stewart having stepped up to cause havoc and panic in opposition backlines.

Their energy and urgency regardless of whether the ball is in hand or in dispute has been a joy to watch.

Substance: this side is never beaten. Mental toughness and resilience is just as important as fitness and form. This side has all four at the moment.

Down and on the verge of being out against Williamstown, Richmond, Collingwood and Port Melbourne, none of those teams managed the knock-out blow. Ask any prizefighter and they’ll tell you, there’s nothing wrong with leaning on the ropes, getting your hands up and preparing to re-load.

When you consider 47 men have represented the VFL senior side in 2017 you get an understanding of and appreciation for the organisation, adaptability and willingness of everyone to chip in and stand up when called upon.

A stream of steady and consistently dependable contributors reinforce the idea that this is a side which doesn’t rely on the output of a select few, but rather the collective effort of the match-day twenty-three.

A back to front approach: As if to prove the above point, Box Hill’s results are made all the more remarkable when you consider the Club has the third most potent attack and the fifth most miserly defence.

In defence, the form of Ayden Kennedy, Max Warren and Kurt Heatherley has merited special commendation, especially in the absence of skipper David Mirra, who has missed the club’s last three matches with a hamstring strain.

Conor Glass, Hawthorn’s Irish rookie, has also grown into the season, assuming greater defensive responsibility and looking more at home across half back with each passing week.

It’d be remiss of me to not mention the first eight games in brown and gold for Harry Morrison, who’s judgment and poise with ball in hand has marked him as a player worth watching in years to come.

Having played in every match to date he leads his team in total disposals and marks.

The defensive unit’s capacity to absorb pressure and break even in trying circumstances has been as important as anything in the Hawks’ unbeaten start to the year, with a less committed and organised side almost certain to have wilted if exposed to the same tests.

The engine room: Box Hill’s midfield mix is as balanced and collaborative as you’re likely to see. Big man Marc Pittonet has been in exceptional form, whilst recruits Will Hams and Andrew Moore have added grunt and class to an engine room the equal of any in the VFL.

In particular, Moore has been in quite stunning touch since debuting in round three, his influence growing more noticeable as the rounds tick by. Amongst his teammates he sits third in tackles, second in total disposals and first in clearances. Strong in the contest, brutal in the tackle and powerful on the move, the former Tiger would surely be circling team of the year selection.

Whilst Moore has overcome an interrupted pre-season, Hams has been sidelined for two of the last three matches by virtue of a rib injury. His work rate, work ethic and ability to bop up at vital junctures of tight contests means he shapes as an important figure in the Hawks’ quest for success after the bye.

One of the most encouraging stories to emerge from this group has been the opportunity afforded to Billy Murphy. Playing as a high half-forward, Murphy has proved his worth as a goal-kicking option capable of running through the midfield.


The final term at Whitten Oval. For anyone who followed the Hawks’ pre-season fortunes they’d know that Box Hill specialised in close results during the scratch matches, so that this one went right down to the wire surprised few.

Four points behind at the final change you just knew something special was in the offing. When Dallas Willsmore split the middle from outside fifty the Hawks’ lead was 14-points deep into time-on. A remarkable win was within touching distance, but not before the reigning premier made us sweat.

It was high-quality, nerve-wracking footy. Importantly, it proved this group can mix it with the best and come out on top.

The first term against Coburg. In the first thirty minutes of senior football at Box Hill City Oval for 2017, the Hawks kept the Lions scoreless – a good start in and of itself – whilst piling on eleven unanswered goals.

The visitors rallied to make a game of it thereafter, but they were never really in the contest. It was a breathtaking sign of intent from an outfit only beginning to stretch its legs and realise it’s potential.

Sam Switkowski’s third term at North Port. Having started the season well, Box Hill’s energetic tackling machine was grounded for a few weeks with a quad strain. With the Channel 7 cameras rolling he made sure those in attendance and watching around the country knew what they’d been missing.

Three goals for the quarter, five for the match. Take a bow, Switta.

The comeback(s). Williamstown, Richmond and Collingwood all had good reason to think they were mighty close to putting the Hawks away. All walked from the field at the final siren having been put to bed themselves.

Resilience has been at the heart of this Box Hill outfit, with an unerring ability to dig in, dig deep and find a way back into contests that look to be slipping away.

Importantly, this has given the team a reputation as one you must fight right to the very end, as well as the players themselves confidence that they can find multiple goals quickly. Sometimes that can be the difference.

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