Round 3 Match Preview: Hawks Fly North For Suns Test

The VFL is back in action this weekend following it’s showpiece showdown with the SANFL last Saturday, and the Hawks are out to turn a good start into a great one on the Gold Coast.

Who: Gold Coast Suns
Where: People First Stadium
When: Saturday, 2:30pm
Radio: 3WBC, 94.1FM
TV/Streaming: available to stream via the VFL match centre

Box Hill: played 2, won 2, 1st on the ladder
Gold Coast: played 1, won 0, 17th on the ladder.

 A Little Bit of History

Played: 6 – Box Hill 3, Gold Coast Suns 3

The Hawks and Suns have clashed six times for points in the VFL, with the honours evenly split three-apiece.

The team in brown and gold claimed the first three hit-outs by 56, 72 and 22 points. Interestingly, the first meeting of the sides was way back in 2010, a year before the Suns made their AFL debut.

That day at Southport, Box Hill played their first-ever match-up north of the Victorian border. Lead by a four-goal haul from Beau Dowler and sensational individual performances from the likes of Sam Gibson, Ed Curnow and Matt Suckling, the Hawks overcame a two-goal quarter time deficit to lead at the half, before an eight-goal to two third term went a long way to securing the points.

The two sides next met 11 years later in the midst of the COVID pandemic. In a 2021 season hamstrung by lockdowns and, ultimately, abandoned before a premier could be declared, a cobbled together Suns outfit ventured to Fenjiu Stadium and never seriously threatened a Hawks team coached by Sam Mitchell and lead by six goals from Fergus Greene.

Will Brodie and Rory Atkins were standout performers for the visitors, but the likes of Damian Mascitti (33 disposals and goal), Brayden Kilpatrick (26 disposals and six clearances) and Ed Phillips (24 disposals, one goal, five inside 50s) ensured the Hawks were too strong on the day.

A year later the Suns turned host, welcoming Box Hill to the Gold Coast for what shaped as a season-defining showdown.

The Hawks had gone four-and-three in the first part of the season and desperately needed to put together a strong run of form to frank their finals ambitions.

Trailing the Tigers at three quarter time the week prior, a sensational eight-goal to one final quarter  put Clint Proctor’s side ahead of the ledger for the first time, but getting to five-and-three was imperative given the log jam of sides vying for spots in the eight.

And so the Suns and Hawks decided to play out one of the best games of the year.

They evenly shared 12 goals in a first term the Hawks won by a point. Things tightened up somewhat thereafter, with the Gold Coast leading by two-points at the long break.

Box Hill took the initiative and a 13-point advantage in the third term on the back of a five goal to two effort, before shutting the door with four final quarter goals to run out 22-point winners. 

Fergus Greene and Jackson Callow each booted four goals for the visitors, while Alex Sexton and Chris Burgess did the same for the Suns. 

Ben Cavarra kicked three, including the sealer, while Max Hall made his debut.

A special mention must go to Hugh Beasley, who dislocated his shoulder early in the second term, refused any pain medication (which would’ve ruled him out of the game) as it was put back in place, and returned to the field after half time. It was a truly extraordinary performance from the future skipper.

Sadly, that was the last time the Hawks toppled the Suns.

Three successive Gold Coast victories – including the 2022 Elimination and 2023 Preliminary finals – have squared the sides away at three-all in head-to-head action.

I’d say that leaves things delicately poised. 


2023 So Far

Opening Round and the AAMI State Game might’ve provided plenty of great scenes and storylines, but they’ve somewhat messed with the VFL fixture through five rounds of the AFL season.

Owing to the Suns’ participation in ‘round zero’ their VFL side has played just the one game so far – a 23-point loss to Richmond at home. 

The 2023 VFL premiers were uncharacteristically blunt in attack, managing just seven goals for the day from more disposals, inside 50s, clearances, tackles and marks. 

James Tsitas was busy in knocking up 40 disposals, while Darcy Macpherson, Joel Jeffrey and Oskar Faulkhead each tallied in excess of 30 touches on the day.

While an incredibly small sample size against which to make any kind of judgement, you have to assume a team as strong as the Suns will be better than that one showing. 

The Hawks, meanwhile, have won both their 2024 matches thus far – a feat all the better considering they’re yet to play at home.

An excellent, wire-to-wire victory over Casey in round one was consolidated a fortnight ago down in Geelong where, having trailed for the majority of the contest, Zane Littlejohn’s men finished all over the top of the Cats to claim all four points.

15-points behind at quarter time, 13-points down at the long break and still 12-points in arrears with one the play, the Hawks nearly doubled their score in the final half-an-hour, booting 8.5 to Geelong’s 1.1 to run out 34-point winners. 

Sam Butler was a standout performer on the day with four goals from 17 touches, while fellow small forward Jack O’Sullivan, who was rested for the first half, starred in his second half cameo with three goals from eight disposals. 

Developing forward Calsher Dear’s three majors were pivotal, as was the pop-up sprinkler-like display from Box Hill’s Andreas Stefanakis, who kicked two vitally important goals in the second half. 

Finn Maginness was the highest rated player on the ground by virtue of his 28 disposals, one goal, 10 marks and six clearances, while Cal Porter was named his side’s best player for his smothering tagging job on the Cats’ Mitch Hardie. ‘Ports’ would have 21 touches himself, lay seven tackles and produce nine clearances. 

Selection News

Zane Littlejohn has made four changes to the side which won last time out, regaining 2023 leading goal-kicker Jaylon Thorpe and experienced hand Harry Morrison.

Meanwhile, the Hawks’ match committee has handed a Club debut to running machine Andrew Mathieson and a VFL debut to classy ball user Lane Ward.

One(s) to Watch

It’s impossible to go past ‘Thorpey,’ who will play his first match in the brown and gold since last year’s preliminary final.

The enigmatic, goal-kicking, high-flying human highlight reel is always a welcome addition, because any team is better for him being in it, so it’s fantastic to see Box Hill’s no. 57 back on deck and ready to impact for the first time in 2024.

How To Follow

Match coverage will be provided via our social channels throughout the day, while a radio call will be available via our wonderful community partners 3WBC 94.1FM.

Where To Watch

You can catch the live stream via the VFL’s match centre! The first bounce is scheduled for 2:30pm.

Membership

Membership, as always, is the best way to support the Box Hill Hawks in 2024!

We play our first home game out of Fenjiu Stadium next week! But getting in early will ensure you’re ready to go for the visit of North Melbourne on April 20th. 

You can purchase your 2024 Box Hill Hawks membership via this link.

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