WHERE: North Port Oval, Port Melbourne
WHEN: Saturday, 2:10pm
TV & RADIO: Channel 7 (live), 3WBC
LAST FIVE MEETINGS:
Round 12, 2016: Port Melbourne 10.11 (71) defeated Box Hill 7.13 (55) at North Port Melbourne
Round 8, 2015: Box Hill 17.13 (115) defeated Port Melbourne 8.12 (60) at Box Hill City Oval
Qualifying Final, 2014: Port Melbourne 12.6 (78) defeated by Box Hill 16.6 (102) at North Port Oval
Round 8, 2014: Box Hill 13.14 (92) defeated by Port Melbourne 15.9 (99) at Box Hill City Oval
Round 15, 2013: Box Hill 17.13 (115) defeated Port Melbourne 15.10 (100) at Box Hill City Oval
Box Hill defeated Collingwood by 26 (A)
Port Melbourne lost to Casey by 43 (A)
Box Hill defeated Richmond by 22 (H)
Port Melbourne defeated Footscray by 31 (H)
Box Hill defeated Geelong by 42 (A)
Port Melbourne defeated Essendon by 27 (A)
Box Hill defeated Williamstown by 28 (A)
Port Melbourne defeated Richmond by 30 (H)
Box Hill defeated Coburg by 66 (H)
Port Melbourne defeated Geelong by 52 (A)
Port Melbourne’s last start lost might’ve made this first vs. third rather than a meeting of the top two, but the match-up is no less tantalising. Layers of intrigue abound, as the standalone Borough face up to a rebuilt, albeit injury impacted Box Hill.
The two sides are the standout performers of 2017 thus far and this meeting shapes as a potential preview of later in the year, when the stakes become premierships rather than points.
Ultimately, as exciting as this Saturday’s encounter promises to be, it won’t determine any spoils. It will, however, serve as a measuring stick for two teams keen to see how far they’ve come since disappointingly premature conclusions to their 2016 campaigns.
The clubs have met just five times in four seasons, as detailed above, and the sides we’ll see this weekend bear little resemblance to those that’ll take the field at North Port Oval tomorrow afternoon. Simply, history is an unreliable guide.
1. THE WEEK OFF AND THE START
It’s a long season, so any chance to stop and take stock of the mind and body will be important, but depending which way you look at it the bye has come at an interesting time for both sides.
One, Port, faltered for the first time in round 5, going down to Casey.
The other, Box Hill, continued its perfect start to 2017 with a superb come-from-behind victory away to Collingwood.
Can momentum be put on pause? Is an extra week to stew on the disappointment of four points lost worth the chance to refresh and recharge?
It’s not uncommon for teams or players coming off a spell to look a little sluggish in the early going, so avoiding a slow start will go a long way towards securing the win. As such, the first 10-15 minutes of the match will be absolutely vital. Start well; start strong; start as you mean to go on.
On the week off, not everyone enjoyed a footy-free Saturday afternoon. The VFL’s state squad included seven players who’ll likely line-up on Saturday afternoon, with three from Box Hill and four from Port Melbourne. Unsurprisingly, all are prime movers and key contributors for their respective sides.
Port’s Tom O’Sullivan was judged best afield for the beaten Victorians and will be keen to pick up where he left off, albeit with a different result in mind.
2. AWAY DAYS
As good as they’ve been at Box Hill City Oval, the Hawks have been imperious away from home, winning on each of their four road trips.
As far as building a season goes early wins are like gold dust, but early wins away are that little bit more valuable. It’s simple mathematics, the more matches you play away early in the season, the more you’ve got to come at home.
So far the Hawks have accounted for Footscray, the reigning premier, Williamstown, a perennial VFL powerhouse, Geelong and a fired-up Collingwood on their own patches.
Clearly enemy territory holds no fear for these Hawks, but Port at North Port is arguably the game’s biggest challenge. A parochial home crowd awaits the brown and gold and silencing them should be foremost in their mind.
A hallmark and highlight of the Hawks’ early season form has been an ability to dig in and absorb pressure; and standing their ground when the pressure looks like it might be all too much. Rather than fold in the face of such challenges, Chris Newman’s men have made a habit of rising to them.
Never down and most certainly never out, Box Hill have rallied to overcome deficits against Williamstown, Richmond and Collingwood in recent weeks.
That trio threw their best punch and saw the Hawks wear it, grin and swing right back.
It speaks volumes of the mental and physical toughness of this Box Hill outfit and endorses all the time spent on the track and in the gym during a long and gruelling pre-season to tune both. As a wise man once said, “victory is in the preparation.”
Port Melbourne’s resilience off-field is meritorious, as standalone teams face their own very real struggles. A well publicised membership drive caught the eye in pre-season and has seemingly galvanised the club. Credit to the Borough, they’ve put all those woes to one side and started the season brilliantly.
IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR: Without wanting to throw a blanket over all and sundry, the expectations that come with being the televised match of the day make it a big afternoon for everyone. Throw in the form of the combatants and the stakes and we’ve one exciting match in prospect.
This is a genuine showpiece occasion. It’s a big day for both clubs and the players. Embrace and enjoy it.