The Box Hill Hawks face a must-win clash against Werribee on Saturday, to keep their slimming finals hopes alive.
Box Hill failed to finish off North Melbourne last week, holding a commanding 31-point lead at three quarter time, before the Kangaroos slammed home six unanswered goals in the final term to steal victory.
Werribee claimed its third consecutive win last week, trouncing Coburg by 86 points. The victory was set up by its six-goal first term. Bior Malual (20 disposals, seven marks, two tackles and four goals) and Jake Riccardi (14 possessions, eight marks and six goals) were dominant in the forward-line for Werribee, while Tom Gribble (34 disposals, six marks and four tackles) and Michael Barlow (30 possessions, two marks and two tackles) were brilliant through the midfield.
Ryan Hebron put on a defensive masterclass in Werribee’s thumping win over Coburg, keeping fellow mature-age draft hopeful Sam Lowson to zero touches. Hebron was named best player for the Tigers, and looms as a key player in containing Box Hill’s plethora of dangerous forwards including Jackson Ross, Teia Miles and Dylan Moore.
Werribee’s forwards enjoyed a day out against Coburg, with 19-year-old tall Jake Riccardi’s equal-round-high six-goal haul sending him into a clear second on the VFL goalkicking table (four behind Port Melbourne’s Jordan Lisle). For a young key forward, Riccardi’s consistency at state level this season has been remarkable, going goalless only once in 16 games and booting multiple majors 10 times. It will take a strong effort from Box Hill defenders David Mirra (round high 11 marks last week), Jarryd Roughead and Jacob Koszchitke to limit Riccardi’s impact.
For Box Hill, young gun Mat Walker has booted nine goals in his past two games. Coach Max Bailey was impressed with the sharpshooters four-goal performance against North Melbourne lat week.
“Mat had a really good, strong start to the day with four goals. It was more the way he got the goals that was so impressive. He is an 18-year-old in a 25-year-olds body, and I don’t think he realises that sometimes. It was good that he realised that on the weekend and dominated his opponent.”
As it stands, Box Hill sit in eight position on the VFL ladder with a 7-7-1 record. The Casey Demons are hot on Box Hill’s heels, sitting only half a game below. With three rounds to play, two Hawks wins will mean the Casey Demons and Collingwood can’t snatch their spot in an elimination final, but the Northern Blues could do so with three victories of their own – which would have to include one over Box Hill in Round 20.
Werribee look set to play in finals, currently sitting in fifth place as a result of three consecutive victories.
Box Hill Coach Max Bailey believes the side must simply win this weekend if they are any chance of making a return to September action.
“Werribee is always a tough opponent, particularly in the midfield battle,” Bailey said.
“We know their midfielders including Barlow, Brew, Maishman and Gribble are a strong inside mix.
“For us, we need to be strong in the contested ball.
“They are a really consistent team. If you look at their stats compared to when they win and when they lose, there is not a lot of difference.”
“Choco Williams has obviously got them playing a consistent brand. Their standing in the competition is a real credit to them.
“We simply just have to win to make finals.”
Box Hill will face Werribee on Saturday at Avalon Airport Oval at 2pm.