R21 Preview: Blockbuster clash

The equation is simple for Box Hill. Defeat Collingwood and they book themselves a spot in the 2019 VFL finals series, lose and its season over.

Form guide

Box Hill kept its premiership-defence alive with a vital 17-point victory over aspiring finals rivals the Northern Blues last Sunday. The Hawks were back to their kicking and marking game style that has served them so well in an era of sustained success. Ranked first in the VFL for average kicks and second for marks, Box Hill recorded 38 more kicks and 34 more marks than the Blues – helping to generate a decisive advantage in the inside 50s (65-42). James Cousins (equal game-high 20 kicks), David Mirra (20 kicks and a round-high 11 marks) and Jack Scrimshaw (27 disposals, seven marks) were integral in setting up the Hawks going forward.

Despite being out of the race for finals, Collingwood will be out to spoil Box Hill’s party. Coming fresh off the bye, the 11thplaced Magpies have not recorded back-to-back wins since Round 14 and will be desperate to conclude their season with a bang.

Collingwood upset the Hawks by 14 points in the sides last meeting in Round 8at Victoria Park. The Magpies trailed by nine points at half-time, before overrunning the Hawks to slam home eight-goals-to-four in the second half.

But this situation is different.

This time, the Hawks will be armed with the experienced one-two punch combination of ruckman Marc Pittonet (av. 38 hit outs, seven clearances per game) and Skipper Andrew Moore (av. 25 disposals, six tackles per game).

Additionally, the reigning-premiers will be buoyed by hosting Jared Rivers’ men at its Box Hill City Oval fortress – winning six out of seven matches at home this season by an average of 33 points.

The match-up

James Cousins Alex Woodward.

It’s the battle of two of the league’s most prolific accumulators.

Hawk ball-magnet Cousins has been in stellar form since his return to the VFL in Round 12, racking up 26 disposals and five tackles per game to consistently top Box Hill’s disposal count. Coaches have been impressed by his improved ball use and consistency in impacting the contest over four-quarters.

Collingwood Captain Alex Woodward is producing arguably his career-best season.

The former – Hawk and J.J. Liston Trophy winner has continually led his side from the bottom of the packs, amassing 29 disposals per game – including notching 32 touches and seven tackles in his last outing against Casey.

The X-Factor

Mat Walker looms as the trump card.

The dynamic first-year Hawk is flourishing in a purple patch for Box Hill – booting 12 goals in the previous three weeks. Walker again turned the tide for his side last week, finishing with three goals, including the sealer in the dying stages.

‘Sky-Walker’ is proving to be a human highlight reel, taking two Mark of the Year contenders in the past fortnight, as well as displaying an improved intent to hunt the opposition – laying seven tackles in that time.

The Hawks no.33 is stamping his authority on the competition, and in a lethal combination up forward with sharpshooter Jackson Ross (33 goals for the season), is proving to be a duel threat both in the air and on the ground.

Jaidyn Stephenson is back.

Collingwood has revealed the suspended forward will make his return to the field in the VFL on Saturday.

Stephenson’s class is unquestionable, booting 21 goals from 12 games this season at AFL level, following a stellar 2018 NAB Rising Star debut season.

Likely to be teamed up with fellow AFL-listed playmaker Ben Crocker (av. 20 disposals and a goal-per-game at VFL level), Box Hill’s defenders will no doubt have its hands full.

The Coach

Box Hill Assistant Coach Marco Bello believes the side is ready to go for Saturday’s crunch match.

“It’s another elimination for us this weekend,” Bello said.

“We need to win, obviously, to climb into the Top 8.”

“This will be a real test for our young side. It will be a finals like atmosphere and a real pressure test for us.

“We’ll need to compete really hard again. Collingwood is renowned for being able to win clearances, a really good defensive side and able to hurt you going forward.

“Saturday’s game will certainly start and end for us in the middle of the ground.”

One thing’s for certain, Saturday’s clash promises to be a blockbuster.

Get down to Box Hill City Oval to support the Hawks final double-header for Season 2019!

Hawthorn’s VFLW side also face a must-win clash against Collingwood for a chance at finals footy.

Hawthorn VFLW will host Collingwood at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday at 11.30am, while Box Hill will take on Collingwood at 2pm.



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