Premiership defence on track: Baker

Box Hill’s chase for back-to-back premierships is well and truly alive, as the club exits its first bye for the year perched in the Top 4 on the VFL ladder.

A significant list overhaul over summer has not slowed the reigning premiers, who are beginning the 2019 season largely where they left off.

A combination of impressive form from Hawthorn listed players, leadership from experienced recruits and consistency from a brigade of youngsters has driven Box Hill to commanding victories over Casey, Sandringham and Coburg.

It’s seen Box Hill at its trademark best.

In matching the contest in the midfield battle and using their characteristic spread and elite foot-skills on the outside, it has allowed the Hawks plethora of small forwards to run riot. Averaging 14 goals a game this season, Box Hill has overpowered opposition defences to boast a percentage of 157.9.

Assistant Coach Torin Baker believes the club is positively placed heading into the second stanza of its season.

“Our indicators show we are tracking the way we want to, being Top 4 in a lot of KPI’s that we have been able to execute over the first four rounds,” Baker said.

“Overall we are winning enough of the ball around the midfield, defenders are contesting strongly, and we’ve been able to capitalise and kick at least 100 points most weeks.”

Box Hill opened its season in blistering fashion to down Casey in the Grand Final re-match by 62-points. The Hawks booted 15 goals from 49 forward-line entries (31 per cent efficiency) with twin targets Jackson Ross (five goals from 16 disposals) and Mitch Lewis (four from eight) grasping their scoring opportunities when they presented. Ross enjoyed a stellar opening three rounds to kick nine goals before a hamstring injury sidelined him for Round 4. Meanwhile, Lewis has cemented his spot within the AFL side after a strong opening fortnight for Box Hill.

One win became two after the club overpowered Sandringham by 41-points at Marvel Stadium. The Hawks were ultimately the more polished team in posting 16 goals from 20 scoring shots, with the opportunities afforded by Luke Meadows’ game-high seven inside-50s (among 34 disposals) crucial for the victors. Changkuoth Jiath was at his hostile best in recording five tackles, while his capacity to halve contests and even win them against the Zebra’s forward line saw him draw praise from coaches and supporters alike.

Round 4 saw Box Hill return to the winners’ list in retaining the ANZAC cup against Coburg by 51-points. Marc Pittonet received the ANZAC medal in registering a round-high 12 clearances to go with his 30 disposals, 42 hitouts and a goal making him the only ruck among the VFL’s top 15 clearance-winners this season (at an average of five per game). Harry Morrison responded to his demotion from the AFL side to make a statement with three goals and 32 disposals.

“Two of the best performances of the year occurred on the weekend, with Harry Morrison and Marc Pittonet playing standout games,” Baker said.

“We’ve shown that we have good capabilities as a team across defence, midfield and attack but we also know there’s a couple of areas that if we don’t get right we can be heavily scored against.

“That happened against Port Melbourne and in the second-quarter against Coburg last weekend.”

Against Port Melbourne in Round 3, the Hawks leaked the opening four majors of the match within the first 10 minutes and allowed the Borough to pluck a round-high 15-contested marks to three. After leading convincingly at every change, Port Melbourne never looked back.

In being depleted by injuries at AFL level, the match was identified as a ‘learning curve’ by coach Max Bailey. Failing against a Port Melbourne side searching for its first win of the season truly reflected the evenness of the competition – in which being even 10% off your game can leave you found wanting.

“We always know that the stand-alone clubs pose as big challengers, including Williamstown and knowing first hand against Port Melbourne,” Baker said.

“The competition will take a few more weeks to sort itself out, but clearly Essendon has produced some really good performances.”

Sitting atop of the VFL ladder and boasting a percentage of 262, Essendon undoubtedly look a primary threat in the Hawks’ plans for September success. The Dons enhanced their reputation with a 42-point drubbing of Geelong on Sunday to continue their unbeaten season.

Although nestled in the Top 4, Box Hill face Footscray, Richmond, Collingwood and Williamstown in a critical month for the club. With only one match separating the entire Top 8, it is needless to say that the Hawks can only afford to look one week ahead to the Bulldogs this Sunday.

The next month provides another opportunity for the new-look wealth of young Hawks to continue to grow together as a collective group.

Think of Harry Jones, Will Golds, Changkouth Jiath, Lachie Walker and Brayden Kilpatrick running out alongside the experienced Andrew Moore, Damian Mascitti and Luke Meadows.

The faster the Hawks can continue to gel together, the closer they will be to ultimate success.

“We are still trying to get the synergy together with a new and young group, but that’ll get better as the season goes along,” Baker said.

Box Hill will resume its season when it takes on Footscray at 11:50am this Sunday at the MCG.



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