Qualifying Final Preview: Hawks Primed For Werribee

Box Hill’s September campaign begins today!

The third-placed Hawks venture out to Chirnside Park to take on and, hopefully, take down the high-flying Werribee in the Tigers’ own backyard, with the prize being a week off and passage through to a home Preliminary Final.

In what shapes as the biggest weekend of VFL footy this year, the Bulldogs host Casey at Box Hill City Oval in an Elimination Final, Williamstown entertain Collingwood in a sudden death match-up at Point Gellibrand and, finally, the minor premiers, Gold Coast, welcome the fourth-placed Brisbane Lions to Heritage Bank Stadium.

Who: Werribee
Where: Avalon Airport Oval, Chirnside Park
When: Saturday 2 September
First bounce: 2:05pm

Housekeeping

The Box Hill Hawks would love to see as much brown and gold at Avalon Airport Oval as possible, but encourages fans planning to attend to pre-purchase their tickets.

Tickets will be available for walk-ups on the gate, but entry is subject to capacity of the venue. Please note: there will be no cash sales at the turnstiles, so plan accordingly. 

A Little Bit of History

Nothing to speak of this year, but in the past the Hawks and Tigers have played a string of memorable matches, headlined by the most recent. 

The sides last met in round 17 of 2022. Upon reflection, that afternoon marked a turning point in Box Hill’s season and was the start of a much-needed and late surge to the finals.

In the weeks leading into the game Box Hill had slipped from seven-and-three and a comfortable place in the eight to sit seven-and-six.

Clinging to a finals berth, trailing at home and staring down the barrel of a fourth straight loss, the brown and gold rallied to secure a famous and unlikely win right at the death.

The Hawks lead by five points at the half and an early Jai Serong goal looked like a platform from which the home side could begin to build a match-winning run; but Werribee laid on the next 28-points without reply and two of the next three goals after that to lead by 25-points at the eight minute mark of the third term.

Former Box Hill premiership player Oliver Hanrahan had three to this point and following goals to Shiels and Parsons booted a fourth to give his side a 20-point lead at the 20 minute mark of the last. 

But the Hawks would have the last laugh, kicking the final four goals of the afternoon – including two in the final 90 seconds – to run away seven-point winners.

Fergus Greene was superb with six goals, while Tom Phillips (29) and Liam Shiels (27), were the brown and gold’s most prolific ball-winners. 

The win would come at a cost, however, with star midfielder James Parsons rupturing his ACL in an innocuous incident in the first term. He would manage the ailment for the remainder of the season and play just one more game – the Elimination Final – before undergoing surgery. 


2023 So Far

Curiously, as stated above, the Hawks and Tigers haven’t played each other this year. Comprised of 21 teams, the VFL is played across 22 rounds, with teams having four byes. This resulted in VFL sides playing all but two opponents in 2023. Strange, eh…

Box Hill claimed six of its last seven matches to finish in third place on the ladder come season’s end, half-a-game clear of the Brisbane Lions in fourth.

Zane Littlejohn steered his side to a 14-and-four record, which was an improvement on 2022’s return of 11-and-seven – a finish which funnelled the Hawks into an Elimination Final against Gold Coast.

Box Hill’s only blemishes came via defeats to Footscray, Williamstown, Gold Coast and Casey, while high points were a sensational win over Brisbane at City Oval and the hard-fought victories over North Melbourne, Richmond and the GWS. 

Werribee have enjoyed a superb 2023 under the stewardship of Michael Barlow. Having missed the minor premiership on percentage, the Tigers finished with a 16-and-two record to sit two games clear of the third-placed Box Hill.

Just this week the yellow and black had an equal league best six players nominated for the VFL Team of the Year: Dom Brew, Nick Coughlan, Kye Declase, Hudson Garoni, Tom Gribble and, of course, Shaun Mannagh.

Their only losses of the season came in round one away to Brisbane by a solitary point, and round four at home to Geelong – naturally their only defeat on their home deck. 

At that point Werribee sat one-and-two, only to peel off 15 on the spin to close out their home and away campaign. 

Interestingly, the Tigers and Hawks have played just two games apiece since the 1st of August owing to byes and last weekend’s wildcard matches. What impact, if any, might that have on proceedings?

Selection News

Box Hill have made nine changes to the side which accounted for Frankston a fortnight ago, re-calling a strong contingent of Cal Brown, Denver Grainger-Barras, Jai Serong, Ned Long, Brandon Ryan, Jacob Koschitzke, Henry Hustwaite, Max Ramsden and Jack O’Sullivan.

It’s a mouth-watering list of additions, covering just about every want or need of the Club’s selection panel. Midfield support, speed, ball use, height in attack and defence and class around goal. 

The unlucky names to miss are Max Hall, Kai Agosta, Lachie Wynd, Joel Trudgeon, Jake Arundell and Liam Coghlan; while the AFL-listed Lloyd Meek, Cam Mackenzie and Seamus Mitchell did not meet the qualification criteria to feature in the finals series. 

One(s) to Watch

The Hawks’ front third looks incredibly dangerous with the likes of Fergus Greene, Jack O’Sullivan, Josh Bennetts, Jaylon Thorpe, Jacob Koschitzke, Brandon Ryan and Sam Butler lurking around goal.

Around the ball the big bodies of Ned Long and Cooper Stephens will be supported by the run and carry of Lachy Bramble, Ed Phillips and Cal Brown; while Henry Hustwaite adds polish and poise with ball in hand.

In defence the duo of Jai Serong and Emerson Jeka have developed a promising partnership the longer the season has gone – and it’s a combination which can only be stronger when Denver Grainger-Barras is added to the mix as an intercepting option and outlet.

Throw in the hard-nosed combative nature of Josh Morris, the dash out of half back of Bailey Macdonald and the class of Damian Mascitti and she’s a good looking team on paper. 

How To Follow

Hawks fans can keep up-to-date with all the action via our official social media channels.

Curated match commentary will be provided on Twitter, while further coverage will be available across Instagram and Facebook.  

Where To Watch

All VFL matches can be streamed via the AFL app. Coverage of Sunday’s game starts at 2:00pm and can be found in the match hub or via this link.

Further, radio commentary can be found via our community radio partner, 3WBC 94.1FM.

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