Round 15 Match Report: Box Hill Down Borough

The Box Hill Hawks returned to the winners list on Saturday afternoon, outlasting a spirited Port Melbourne at Box Hill City Oval.

Fielding a youthful team – 11 of the Hawks’ match day squad were 21 or under, including seven teenagers – the brown and gold trailed for just over two minutes en route to securing a vital four points.

With a log jam of teams hot on the Hawks’ heels, the win moves Box Hill to nine-and-three on the season and keeps us right in the mix for a top four finish.   

Zane Littlejohn and his match committee made eight changes to the side which fell to Gold Coast a week prior, re-calling the likes of Changkuoth Jiath from an injury lay off and handing debuts to Darcy Murr and Kye Agosta.

Having lost the services of Josh Ward, Fergus Greene, Chad Wingard and Hugh Beasley the Hawks’ brain trust handed extra responsibility to the likes of Jai Serong to hold down a key defensive post, Henry Hustwaite in midfield, Cooper Stephens across half-forward and, of course Denver Grainger-Barras ahead of the ball.

A key defender by trade, Grainger-Barras was excellent deep forward. Named among his side’s best players, ‘DGB’ booted a game-high four goals, took six marks and had 10 disposals. Encouragingly for someone so new to the position, the West Australian’s ability to read the play, sum situations up and make himself dangerous deep forward was a highlight.

Another good news story was the performance of Jai Serong, who was asked to step into the shoes of injured co-Captain and key back Hugh Beasley.

Named Box Hill’s best player on the day, Serong settled early by taking a pair of important and impressive overhead marks and built nicely from that point on. Like Grainger-Barras, his ability to read the ball off the boot was on display, as was his willingness to attack the game having won possession.

The Hawks’ no.29 finished with 25 disposals, a game-high 10 marks, an equal game-high seven rebound 50s and laid two tackles.

Cooper Stephens was another to impress in a hybrid half-forward/midfield role. The former Cat won 22 disposals, took four marks, had three inside 50s and a team-high six clearances. While those numbers go some way to explaining his impact and recognising his work rate, he was probably better than they suggest. All told, this was a strong showing from ‘Sugar.’

Former Dandenong Stingray Henry Hustwaite continues to build his form and confidence at the VFL level. Stepping into a more prominent role in the midfield mix he had 22 disposals, an equal game-high six clearances, four inside 50s and a goal.

The Hawks’ best pure midfielder on the day, Hustwaite was clean and oftentimes clinical in the contest, winning important clearances to drive his team forward.

Another to excel was Cal Brown. Deployed wherever his coaches think his skill set best serves the team and state of the game, Browny’s class was on show from first siren to last as he tallied a game-high 33 disposals, a team-high seven rebound 50s, laid three tackles, took four marks, drove his team inside 50 three times and won two clearances.

Just ‘Browny’ things, really.

Another to catch his coaches’ eyes was Jaylon Thorpe. Capable of playing just about any position on the field, Thorpe is generally used as a marking forward or, in a pinch, as a relief ruckman. On Saturday he was deployed down back in a key defensive post and was unsurprisingly excellent.

Lending a hand to some of his younger teammates, Thorpey competed well, made and impacted contests and again impressed how versatile a talent he is. 

On a cold day in Melbourne’s East, under threat of rain and with a heavy deck in prospect, anyone who knows a thing or two about Box Hill and Port Melbourne games would’ve predicted a hot, tense and contested war of attrition. 

And it was… in parts.

Cam Mackenzie gave the hosts the perfect start when he kicked truly after just two minutes and the Hawks looked to be on the attack. Behinds to Max Hall and Brandon Ryan failed to give their side the reward their play deserved and, before long, Matthew Signorello had two and the Borough captured the lead.

Challenged and needing to respond, Hustwaite kicked an answering goal, Grainger-Barras jagged his first and the Hawks were never headed from that point on. 

The rain rolled in come quarter time but failed to slow Box Hill down. Debutant Darcy Murr kicked his first VFL goal after just a minute when play got back underway, before Grainger-Barras showed he had a taste for playing forward when he slotted his second just 60 seconds later.

The returning Lachie Bramble and Jacob Koschitzke got in on the act and the lead was quickly out beyond five goals.

The Borough’s Jake Gasper pulled one back in time on, but it was cancelled out by the quick stepping and sharp finishing of Jack O’Sullivan.

31-points to the good at the long break, Box Hill booted the first three of the third term to skip away to a game-high 50-point lead, with Ned Long, Mackenzie and Grainger-Barras the goal kickers. 

Any hope of kicking away was nixed by a Port Melbourne rally, however, as the visitors dobbed two late goals to give them an improbable sniff.

Given the flow of the game a 37-point three quarter time lead seemed like a bridge too far and when Grainger-Barras kicked the first of the last term – his fourth – after eight minutes the Hawks lead by 43-points and the result was beyond doubt.

It would be Box Hill’s only goal of the term.

To their credit, the Borough dug in to make a late run, kicking the final three goals of the contest to bring the margin back inside four goals, but they were always too far back with too little time left.

In the final wash up the Hawks were 23-points to the good having tallied 44 more disposals, won seven more clearances and taken 19 more marks in an assured performance. 

Box Hill return to action next Saturday against the GWS in Sydney.

Box Hill

3.4

8.7

11.10

12.11 83

Port Melbourne

2.2

3.6

5.9

8.12 60


Best:
Serong, Stephens, Hustwaite, Brown, Thorpe, Grainger-Barras

Goals: Grainger-Barras 4, Mackenzie 2, O’Sullivan, Bramble, Hustwaite, Koschitzke, Long, Murr

Disposals: Brown 33, Mascitti 26, Jiath 26, Serong 25, Mackenzie 23, Long 23, Stephens 22, Hustwaite 22

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