Round 20 Match Report

The Box Hill Hawks have bounced back from defeat to keep their top four hopes alive, toppling the league-leading Casey at City Oval on Saturday afternoon.

In a match which dealt the two sides a full spectrum of weather conditions, it was the Hawks who made the most of the sunshine when it arrived, with a seven goal to three third term ultimately the difference.

The purple patch set the Hawks up to run away 41-point victors, and make a statement to the competition in the process – handing the in-form Demons their first loss since round four and  snapping a formidable 12-game winning streak.

However, it was a grinding start to the match, with neither side quite able to impact the scoreboard early.

The returning Mitch Lewis looked dangerous, involved in just about everything that entered the Box Hill forward fifty; while small forward Billy Murphy worked hard to keep the ball locked in attack.

It would be David Mirra, last week’s unlikely forward hero, who would return to what was once an uncustomary position and look right at home putting the first on the board for the Hawks.

The swirling breeze continued to wreak havoc with disposal, with the game descending into a tight and tough contested battle in which both sides sought to find the right balance between offence and defence.

Casey’s Mitch White squared the scoreline, with just a goal apiece standing at the conclusion of the first term.

The resumption of play was dominated by the Hawks, with an elevated work rate resulting in a handful of promising opportunities which just weren’t quite rewarded.

Changkuoth Jiath was excellent across the backline, his confidence only growing by the week, highlighted in his athletic marking ability and dashing rebound. Fittingly, it was CJ who capitalised on a fifty-metre penalty after being dealt a late hit, breaking through with the opening goal of the second term.

Casey again closed the gap via Jay Lockhart, before on ominous storm began to roll in. Howling winds, a brief stint of hail and continuing rain providing difficult conditions for the players to navigate.

Pressure again lifted for the Hawks, a diving tackle in forward fifty from David Mirra rewarded with a free kick, as the former skipper made no mistake to put through his second goal of the afternoon.

Around the ground, Brayden Kilpatrick made polished disposal in slippery conditions look far easier than it should, leading the possession count at the half; followed closely by James Cousins who was setting the tone in close, to lead the clearances.

Murphy was rewarded for effort, the first to the fall of the ball to run clear and kick the final goal of the half, to push the margin to a handy 13 points at the major break.

Impressively, Box Hill were matching it with the league leaders in contested possession and also outtackling the Demons. However, it would be the period that ensued that would prove to be match-winning for the Hawks.

As the conditions cleared, Murphy began the third term in the same fashion as he ended the previous, crafting an opportunistic goal from the stoppage for his second major.

Lockhart, who had been important for the Demons, put through his second goal to end a run of three consecutive majors for Box Hill – but it would soon be another three that would follow for the Hawks.

Team goals came to Anthony Brolic and Jonathan O’Rourke, followed by a Thomas Maloney snap which made it three in the space of just five minutes.

Goy Lok found a reply for the Demons against the momentum, but the Hawks continued to move into another gear.

The perfect hit-out from Michael Knoll – again dominant in the ruck in the absence of Marc Pittonet – handed Murphy his third goal, and Box Hill a five-goal lead approaching time-on.

Cousins continued to rack up possession, Mirra crashed the contests in forward fifty, and Tim O’Brien was pivotal in countering Casey’s forward attack – all lines firing at optimum, in what may have been Box Hill’s best quarter of football for season 2018.

A piece of individual brilliance from Dylan Moore gave the Hawks their sixth major of the quarter, extracting the ball from a congested pack and slotting the goal; before Jackson Ross added his name to a growing list of goal-kickers to put through a seventh.

A Casey goal to skipper Jack Hutchins sliced the margin to 37 points heading into the final term, but it was the Hawks who were in the box seat.

Murphy and Mirra continued to provide headaches for the Casey defence, the former spotting the latter on the lead as Mirra put through his third of the day; the pair now the afternoon’s leading goal-kickers.

The perfect conditions of the third term were well in the past as the heavens reopened, indicating a return to a low-scoring contested affair.

While the polish of the third term may have dissipated, the work rate remained with the Hawks out-possessing the Demons, yet still managing to lay 16 more tackles than their opponents – a field led by Mitch O’Donnell who finished with an outstanding 19 for the match.

Cousins added a goal to complete his best afield performance, seemingly unaffected by the pouring rain on the long-range set shot.

In defence, debutant Sam Parsons was solid all day, demonstrating composure beyond his years in tough conditions; while Will Hams and Liam Mackie provided able support.

While it was Casey who had the last say, as William Stephenson slotted the final goal of the game (as cruelly, the sun began to shine once more), it was Box Hill 41 points the superior at the final siren.

With just one more round of the home and away season remaining, both the top eight and top four remain unsettled. The Hawks host the third-placed Cats at home next week and while their fate does in part rest in the hands of other results, a win could secure the double chance – but only time will tell.


Box Hill 1.3 4.7 11.9 13.13 (91)
Casey 1.3 2.6 5.8 6.10 (46)

Goals: Murphy, Mirra 3, Jiath, Brolic, O’Rourke, Maloney, Moore, Ross, Cousins

Disposals: Cousins 38, Kilpatrick 30, O’Rourke 25, Jiath 20, Hams 20

Best: Cousins, O’Donnell, Mirra, Jiath, Kilpatrick, Duryea

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