“The hardest game of the year to win,” or so the saying goes (don’t ask me for attribution, its just an old footy phrase – besides, this isn’t an academic paper), and this week the Hawks and Suns renew acquaintances with a Grand Final berth at stake.
Who: Gold Coast Suns
Where: Heritage Bank Stadium (Gold Coast)
When: Saturday, 16 September
First bounce: 3:00pm
A Little Bit of History
Box Hill and Gold Coast have played on four previous occasions and share a 2-2 split of the spoils, but thats not much fun… so let’s dig a bit deeper, shall we. On an aggregate count back the Hawks lead 378-371. That’ll work.
Funnily, this will be the fourth successive occasion in which the Hawks and Suns have met up north, with the sides having squared off in two home and away games and last season’s Elimination Final on the sunny Gold Coast since their first meeting – a 72-point Box Hill win at City Oval.
The two matches last year were rollicking, entertaining affairs which weren’t decided until late in the fourth term, while the round 14 match-up from earlier this season looked to be going that way at half-time.
After a superb and even hour of footy the Suns lead by a solitary point, before turning the screws and piling on 10 goals to one in a devastating third quarter.
They would stretch their lead further in the final term, kicking 6.1 to 4.3 to secure a 64-point win.
As if to illustrate the host’s quality on the day, they finished with just four more scoring shots – 29 to 25 – and kicked 16.2 after half time. Here’s another footy phrase for you: good kicking is good football.
The Run In…
Box Hill booked it’s place in Saturday’s preliminary final with a sensational win over the high-flying Footscray last weekend.
The Hawks won all but one quarter – the third, in which both teams kicked 3.3 – kicked away early in the final term and held their nerve as the Dogs mounted a late rally to win by 20-points.
Lead by the excellent Lachy Bramble (32 touches, one goal), Damian Mascitti (22 touches, 12 marks), Jacob Koschitzke (18 disposals, one goal, four marks, eight clearances), Brandon Ryan (three goals, seven marks) and Fergus Greene (17 disposals, three goals, six marks), Box Hill atoned for a loss to the Dogs just four weeks earlier to stay alive and advance.
As for the Suns, they’ve been excellent throughout their 2023 campaign. They lost just twice in the home and away season – to Werribee and Essendon by a combined three points – to finish the year with a 16-and-two record and the minor premiership.
They were the only side to kick in excess of 2,000 points during the regular season and boast the second best defence to boot.
On Qualifying Final day they saw off fellow Queenslanders Brisbane to the tune of 43-points, winning every quarter on the day and getting 14 goals out of the quartet of Sam Day (4), Chris Burgess (4), Alex Sexton (3) and Oskar Faulkhead (3).
So, it’s fair to say the Suns are a formidable outfit. But they aren’t unbeatable.
The AFL and Gold Coast Suns have very generously granted patrons free entry for Saturday’s final! Just be sure to wear your brown and gold and show plenty of voice!
The Hawks will go into the game unchanged! Read a very, very functional and flavourless selection piece here.
One to Watch
I’ve played this card once before this season, but I’m going with “the whole side.”
Why? Because getting the desired result can’t be down to any one individual. The Box Hill Hawks will win the game because the entire 23 contribute, not because one man does it all on his own.
A bit boring for such a write up, perhaps, but true nonetheless.
Where to Watch
The match will be broadcast live into Victoria on Channel 7, while those outside of Victoria will be able to watch along live on the 7plus streaming service or via the VFL’s match centre.
Tune in from 3:00pm to catch all the action.
How to Follow
As always, if you’re unable to attend the match or watch along, the official social channels of the Box Hill Hawks will have you covered.
Be sure to follow us on Instagram (if you don’t already) for behind the scenes access and Twitter/X for curated match commentary.