WHERE: North Port Oval
WHEN: Sunday, 2:10 PM
COVERAGE: Channel 7; SEN – 1116; 3WBC radio – 94.1FM
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
Round 1, 2018: Williamstown 9.14 (68) defeated by Box Hill 14.21 (105) at Williamstown Football Ground
Round 12, 2017: Box Hill 10.13 (73) defeated by Williamstown 17.16 (118) at Box Hill City Oval
Round 3, 2017: Williamstown 8.14 (62) defeated by Box Hill 13.12 (90) at Williamstown Football Ground
Round 14, 2016: Box Hill 12.8 (80) defeated by Williamstown 13.12 (90) at Box Hill City Oval
Round 2, 2016: Williamstown 14.13 (97) defeated by Box Hill 17.10 (112) at Williamstown Football Ground
SETTING THE SCENE
The penultimate hurdle before the battle for silverware will take place at North Port Oval on Sunday afternoon, when Box Hill and Williamstown face off for a spot in the 2018 VFL Grand Final.
The clash pits two of the best sides of season 2017 against one another; the Seagulls and Hawks finishing last season’s home and away campaign one and two on the table, with both club’s Septembers following similar scripts. After stirring qualifying final victories against Casey and Port Melbourne respectively, Williamstown and Box Hill turned in arguably their most disappointing performances of the year – Box Hill eliminated at the hands of a rampant Richmond, whilst the Seagulls fell to a fired-up Port Melbourne.
Chastened by an opportunity lost, both sides will be looking to go a step further in 2018.
The last encounter between the two clubs may not tell the full story, with one having to cast their eye back to the very first round of the home and away season. The Seagulls kicked five goals to one in the opening term, and still led by 22 points in the opening moments of the third, before Box Hill powered home with the last nine goals of the game to emerge 37-point victors.
But plenty has transpired since.
Williamstown and Box Hill have found their form at the right end of the year – the Seagulls on an imposing seven game winning streak and the Hawks recording their fourth victory on the trot. With no more second chances, the winning ways will need to continue for the side who is to book a date under the lights of Etihad next week.
The third week of finals will continue the ‘Love the Game’ series, a partnership between AFL Victoria and the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. The Foundation’s ‘Love the Game’ campaign reminds adults and the kids in their care that sport and betting don’t have to go together – whether a player or a fan, it’s about loving the game, not the odds.
HOW TO FOLLOW?
Hawks fans are encouraged to get down to North Port Oval to show their support for the brown and gold, with tickets priced at $15 for adults and $10 for all valid concession holders, while children under 15 will be admitted for free. Tickets will be available at the gate or can be pre-purchased here.
However, those unable to attend will be able to watch all the action unfold, with the first bounce to the final siren televised live on Channel 7 from 2:00PM. Alternatively, fans can tune into SEN or 3WBC for a live radio broadcast.
Running commentary will also be provided by our official social channels over the course of the match; with Twitter the destination for play by play action, and Facebook and Instagram providing updates by the quarter.
Chris Newman again boasts a bevy of AFL and VFL talent ahead of the clash, with several additions to his extended squad, to be finalised prior to the first bounce on Sunday afternoon.
Although named on paper and looming as an exciting addition for fans of the brown and gold, Grant Birchall will now look to freshen up for a 2019 campaign following Hawthorn’s semi-final loss to Melbourne.
Two members of Box Hill’s leadership group – Billy Murphy and Nick Evans – will in turn be pushing their case for an important call-up. Murphy is the Hawks’ second most prolific goal-kicker in season 2018, with his pace and pressure always providing a threat forward; while Evans has proven his reliability and industry down the other end of the ground, across half-back.
For the opposition, Williamstown have made four inclusions of their own, with dashing backman Josh Pickess, utility Tom Schnerring, able-bodied midfielder Jordan Jones and key defender Lane Buckwell, named in the Seagulls extended squad.
They strengthen an already impressive group, which was highlighted come the J.J Liston Trophy night when four Seagulls – Brett Bewley, Ben Cavarra, Nick Meese and Michael Gibbons – were named in the VFL Team of the Year; while Gibbons went on to share the highest award with Richmond’s Anthony Miles, and add his name to the history books as a dual Liston medallist.
HOW HAVE WE BEEN DOING?
Denied the double chance, the Hawks have been made to earn their spot in the preliminary final through consecutive wins – an enthralling extra-time elimination final triumph over Port Melbourne and a gutsy semi-final victory over the Cats.
The Hawks reserved their second consecutive preliminary final berth last week, controlling the contest and capitalising more efficiently than their opponents early; before withstanding a nervous period of Geelong dominance throughout the middle of the match. The Cats generated 60 inside fifties to 51 but were haunted by inaccuracy – before the Hawks put their foot the accelerator in time on of the third term, extending a 17-point advantage to a match-winning 42-point lead. In spite of a fourth quarter resurgence from the Cats, it wasn’t quite enough as the Hawks held on to run out the game 29-point victors.
The Hawks have hit a purple patch of form at the right time of the year, stringing together four wins against quality opposition to finish the home-and-away season by knocking off Casey and Geelong, before their classic win over Port Melbourne and ensuing semi-final rematch over the Cats.
HOW HAVE THEY BEEN DOING?
The Seagulls deservingly won their way straight through to the preliminary final, toppling the first-placed Richmond to progress with an unused double chance in their back pocket.
A strong four-quarter Williamstown effort was required to put away the Tigers, as the match got off to a tight and contested start with the margin never extending beyond 13 points. Richmond was the only side that could manage back-to-back goals under lights at the Swinburne Centre, until Williamstown moved to take control of the game in the third term. Despite a break when the four Punt Road Oval light towers turned off due to an overheated globe, the Seagulls’ momentum never wavered, kicking the opening goal of an extended fourth term, with the final margin standing at 25 points.
The victory took the Seagull’s end of season winning streak to seven, with the weekend’s appearance to mark their ninth straight preliminary final.
ONE TO WATCH
With two quality defensive units going head to head, this week’s grand-final decider could well be won in the back half – and in recent weeks, nobody has stood taller on the last line than Kaiden Brand.
Despite the Hawks conceding nine more inside fifties than Geelong last week, the brown and gold gave up fewer goals as Brand stepped to the plate to control the air in defence, taking a game-high nine marks and finding the perfect balance between the one-on-one contest and third man up. Impressively, the key defender not only locked down to limit the Cats, but continuously turned defence into attack, racking up 23 disposals and leading the charge with eight rebound fifties.
Communication and organisation between Brand and his defensive teammates will remain a key against a potent Williamstown forward line, and go a long way to securing a spot in the final match of the year if successful.