Round 7 VFL Match Preview: Hawks Look To Bounce Back

The Box Hill Hawks travel to Preston City Oval on Saturday afternoon, keen to atone for a last-start loss and reclaim some winning form ahead of next weekend’s bye.

Who: Northern Bullants
Where: Preston City Oval
When: Saturday 6 May
First bounce: 2:05pm

A Little Bit of History

The Hawks currently enjoy a six-match winning streak over the Northern Blues-turned-Bullants, dating back to a 22-point win at Preston City Oval in round 11 of 2017.

This winning run includes back-to-back 56-point victories – in round 2 of 2021 and round 18 of 2022 – and an average winning margin of 44-points. 

All told the brown and gold have claimed 15 of the past 20 meetings between the sides going back to 2006 – a year which saw the Hawks’ last defeat at Cramer Street.

The most recent clash between the pair was highlighted by a stellar performance from current co-captain Cal Porter. The reigning Col Austen Trophy winner racked up 45 disposals, took 10 marks, laid 10 tackles and won nine clearances in a stunning display.

Forward of centre Ben Cavarra and Fergus Greene kicked five apiece, while then-Eastern Ranges top ager Kai Windsor, playing in his first game of VFL footy, chimed in with two of his own – including his side’s first of the day. 

The Bullants held a slender lead approaching time on of the second quarter, before an 11 goal to four second half – including five unanswered majors in a ten-minute burst late in the last – won the Hawks the day. 

2023 So Far

Box Hill sit fourth on the VFL ladder by virtue of a four-and-one win-loss return through six rounds, while the Bullants occupy 19th position owing to their one-and-four record.

The Hawks’ unbeaten start to 2023 came to an end at Wonthaggi Recreation Reserve last weekend, beaten by an impressive Casey outfit. The reigning premiers proved too strong for long all told, overturning a narrow quarter time deficit to win quarters two, three and four en route to a 30-point victory.

The young Box Hill outfit stayed in the contest all afternoon, drawing to within 16-points early in the final term, before the Demons’ experience again came to the fore.

Otherwise, Zane Littlejohn’s outfit have posted comprehensive wins against Coburg, Collingwood and Geelong, while they outlasted a plucky Swans outfit on their home deck in round one. 

In truth, the Bullants’ record only tells half the story and belies some competitive displays.

While Brodie Hollands’ side struggled in round one against the Tigers and were well beaten last weekend by Southport, the Ants were spirited in a 23-point loss to Essendon and a 28-point defeat to Port in back-to-back weeks.

The breakthrough their hard work warranted arrived in round five, when they ended a run of 17-losses on the bounce with a win over Sydney at Preston City Oval.

As good as four goals up in time on of the third quarter, the hosts were headed by the Bloods at the final change. Northern would keep the visiting Sydneysiders goalless in the last, kick five themselves and run out 27-point winners. 

Selection News

The Hawks welcome back co-captain Hugh Beasley for just his third game of 2023, with his year-to-date curtailed by off-season surgery and a head knock sustained two weeks ago against Coburg. 

Big-bodied utility Mitch Sruk has received the nod as the Club’s 23rd man and will play his fifth VFL game following four in his debut season last year.

Max Ramsden returns following his AFL debut last weekend and, with Max Lynch sidelined and Lloyd Meek recalled by Sam Mitchell, will shoulder the bulk of the brown and gold’s ruck duties.

The 2022 mid-season draft pick has impressed in his four VFL outings this term, taking 19 marks and booting eight goals on the season.

Irishman Fionn O’Hara is another to return to the fold following a spell on the sidelines, with the rugby union convert having missed the Hawks’ last two matches because of concussion.

The hard-running, hard-tackling O’Hara had been in good form prior to the knock, building his confidence with a string of encouraging displays off half-back and the wing. 

Damian Mascitti has been managed for the trip to Coburg and will instead take his place as backs coach, while Ethan Stanley will represent the Young Guns in matches against Vic Metro and Vic Country over the next two weekends.

The AFL-listed duo of Connor MacDonald and Lloyd Meek have been elevated to the senior side for Saturday night’s match against Fremantle in Perth. 

One to Watch

How to best describe Mitch Sruk…

I’m only lost for words because he’s a character in the best sense of the word.

Ultimately, resorting to mentioning his giant calves or something gym related is a touch obvious. More, it doesn’t do the one-time Eastern Ranges player justice. Though it is worth noting he is, as the playing group would say, “a specimen.”

But he’s also a young man who has patiently waited for the opportunity afforded to him this weekend. When building suspense as to who would fill the final spot in our squad for Saturday, Senior Coach Zane Littlejohn introduced ‘Sruky’ as a “favourite” among the locker room. 

By the time the sparkling powerpoint transition revealed his name on the team sheet the meeting burst into raucous cheers. Sruk, for his part, was caught completely off-guard.

Strong in the contest, hard-working and wanting to leave a positive impression, our #80 is one to keep an eye on. 

How To Follow

Hawks fans can keep up-to-date with all the action via our official social media channels.

Curated match commentary will be provided on Twitter, while further coverage will be available across Instagram and Facebook.  

Where To Watch

All VFL matches can be streamed via the AFL app. Coverage of Sunday’s game starts at 2:00pm and can be found in the match hub or via this link.

Further, radio commentary can be found via our community radio partner, 3WBC 94.1FM.

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