SEASON REVIEW: Round 18 – Finals

Our final month of action for 2017 provided the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. From daring to dream we might go all the way came a crushing reality that our season had ended prematurely. There truly is a fine line between elation and devastation.

Still, it’d be unfair to reduce our campaign to anything less than what it was: sensational. First on the ladder for large parts of the season, second by just half a game in the final wash-up and one win away from contesting a Grand Final.

Sure, the cup and a flag would’ve been nice, but they’re reserved for just one team each and every year – are we a glass half empty kind of club, or a glass half full?

Round Eighteen v Port Melbourne (Home)

Second hosted third in a late-season finals preview, with more than just premiership points on the line so close to September.

On a frustrating day we never really found our rhythm, stymied and stifled by the Borough’s on-the-edge style, which turned the game into a physical and mental war of attrition. It wasn’t just attack and defence being tested, but discipline.

The visitors’ counter-attacking style gave us plenty of open grass to defend – and them to attack, perhaps more importantly – and despite decent spells of time in forward half we couldn’t pierce their stacked rearguard often enough, remaining always within touching distance but just out of reach.

Due to the tight nature of the contest the hammer blow wasn’t dealt until late-on, when Port edged away in time on to record an impressive victory; annoying, but impressive.

As was the case in earlier defeats to Williamstown and Casey, the effort could never be doubted, but when things aren’t going your way it can be tough to change momentum mid-match.

Anthony Brolic was again in his side’s best, accumulating a team-high twenty-seven touches, whilst Mirra, Morrison and Heatherley all performed well in defence.

Box Hill                   1.1   5.5   6.9   8.10 (58)
Port Melbourne       
3.1   7.2   9.3   13.8 (86)

Goals: Stewart 2, Hanrahan, Brolic, O’Rourke, Murphy, Willsmore, L Walker

Best: Brolic, Morrison, Mirra, Stewart, L Walker, Whitecross

Round Nineteen v Northern Blues (Home)

Still needing a win to secure a home final and coming off the disappointment of the previous fortnight we needed a response; we couldn’t possibly go into a finals campaign on the back of three straight losses, after all.

What followed was a fantastic return to form, with an offence firing on all cylinders following recent misfires and a defence that was just as organised and ruthless to deny the Blues throughout the full four quarters.

A fourteen point quarter time lead was less than we deserved after a strong opening period, but it always felt like the bough would break if the pressure could be maintained. Sixteen goals to six thereafter tells the story, with the Hawks making sure they closed the book on the home and away season in the best and most decisive way.

Whilst the win was no doubt welcome, more positive news arrived in the form of Will Hams’ return from an eleven week layoff with concussion. Hams slotted straight back into the line-up following a week at Development level, winning thirty-seven touches in a best on ground display.

It was a busy day for Billy Murphy and Mitch O’Donnell, also, with our numbers three and four tormenting the Northern Blues mids and backs to win season high numbers in possessions (22 for Murphy, 29 for O’Donnell) and have a huge say in the final outcome. Oh, and Billy kicked another four.

As impressive as Murphy was he was ably supported by fellow small Kade Stewart, who also kicked four, and Brayden Kilpatrick, who returned to the match day squad following a week away with two goals from twenty touches.

Meanwhile, Conor Nash and Joseph Fisher popped up as unlikely multiple goal kickers in the absence of the suspended Ty Vickery to suggest they might be of value should goals be needed in a big final.

Box Hill                   3.3    9.6   13.8   19.13 (127)
Northern Blues      
1.1   4.2    6.6      7.8 (50)

Goals: Murphy 4, Stewart 4, Kilpatrick 2, Nash 2, Fisher 2, Warren, Jones, Hanrahan, Moore, Mirra

Best: Hams, Stewart, Murphy, Whitecross, Pittonet, O’Donnell

Qualifying Final v Port Melbourne (Home)

We’d already played one of the matches of the season back in round seven – a memorable draw – and been pit against one another on the same ground just a fortnight prior.

We were always destined for a third meeting and there was no surprise that we were treated to another tremendous tussle between two great and bitter rivals. Fortunately, third time proved a charm for Box Hill against the Borough in season 2017.

Being a final it was far tighter than the match at North Port, with goals at an absolute premium throughout. But it was never going to be a shootout, was it.

Chris Newman and his coaching group seemed to have learned a thing or two from the match two weeks earlier and opened with a volley of high energy, high octane offence than returned half as many goals in one quarter as we’d managed for the whole match when we last met.

Port would’ve been relieved to escape the opening thirty minutes just the two-and-a-bit goals in arrears, likely aware that the Hawks had played the far better football and squandered a couple of handy chances to inflict more damage.

They regrouped after quarter time and slowly set about hauling us back in, something that happened gradually and assuredly, but never decisively. 

Eight points separated the sides at half and three quarter time and things looked dangerous when Toby Pinwill kicked the first of the last to bring Port back within a kick.

In a nerve-jaggling final term Adduci kicked an enormous goal to give us breathing room, before the gap was again closed. Goals to Moore and Whitecross would conclude the scoring and as time ticked by we had the briefest of moments to enjoy and savour the most spectacular of all our 2017 wins.

The week off and a preliminary final berth were just reward for such a magnificent performance.

Moore, O’Donnell, Warren, Willsmore and O’Rourke would all win more of the ball than two weeks prior, their improved output no doubt vital to the change in fortunes come the final siren, whilst Adduci, Miles, Moore and Murphy kicked two each.

The skipper was inspirational, of course, as was his deputy, Max Warren and countless more. Truth be told, it was an outstanding effort from all 23, with everyone dressed in brown and gold doing their jobs to a man.

Box Hill                     4.4   6.8   8.9   11.11 (77)
Port Melbourne        
2.1   5.6   7.7    9.10 (64)

Goals: Adduci 2, Miles 2, Murphy 2, Moore 2, Hanrahan, Willsmore, Whitecross

Best: O’Donnell, Moore, Mirra, O’Rourke, Hams, Heatherley

Preliminary Final v Richmond (Neutral)

Sometimes there’s nothing to say to or about your opponent but, ‘well done.’ On a disappointing day for us it’d be sour of us to suggest or offer any conclusion other than thus: the Tigers were simply the better side.

We looked in trouble early on, as Richmond started about as well as any side would hope to. Eleven shots on goal, near total domination of time in forward half and wave after wave of unrelenting attack put them in pole position following a quarter of football.

Forty points down at the start of the second, it would take something out of this world to win it, but this is a side that wouldn’t dare contemplate giving up let alone do it.

We would rally to win the second quarter and threaten a comeback, but the next goal always seemed to elude us. Whenever we needed one, whenever another goal would make it interesting the Tigers managed to find it.

Trailing by ten goals at three quarter time we needed more than a miracle. Sadly, we’d seen our season wrapped up a week too soon.

Ruckman Marc Pittonet was a standout, rucking one-out against Ivan Maric and Shaun Hampson all day and more than holding his own against both experienced AFL rucks, whilst David Mirra was a shock multiple goal kicker and, typically, one of his side’s best.

The boys would fight the contest out right to the very end, Max Warren’s injury late-on proving our will to play our way and see the season out to the very end hadn’t been diminished by the lopsided scoreboard.

There mightn’t have been next week to atone, but theres always next year.

Box Hill        0.1   4.2   5.3   8.6 (54)
6.5   9.6   15.7   18.11 (119)

Goals: Mirra 2, Hanrahan, Pittonet, Willsmore, Kennedy, Murphy, Stewart

Best: Pittonet, Heatherley, Hams, Hanrahan, Whitecross, Mirra

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