VFL Match Report: Hawks Fall To Suns

The Box Hill Hawks fell to a first loss of the 2024 VFL season on Saturday, defeated by the Gold Coast Suns at People’s First Stadium. 

The reigning premiers’ outfit was an imposing and experienced cohort boasting 1,357 games of senior AFL exposure, while the Hawks’ line-up represented 497 total senior matches – 244 of which belong to Jack Gunston. And that discrepancy told throughout a first half dominated by the hosts.

Beaten in their one and only hit-out of the season thus far, The Suns wasted little time in flexing their muscle, with Nick Francis and Levi Casbolt kicking the opening two goals of the match inside two minutes.

In a powerful display of control and territory the Gold Coast would go on to kick eight majors and hold the Hawks goalless through to the long break.

So limited were Box Hill’s opportunities in a first half played for the most part in their back 50, the best they could manage from their rare forays forward were minor scores to Ed Phillips, Calsher Dear and Josh Bennetts. 

But it was the other end of the field were all the action and a large portion of the credit must go. Anchored by Jai Serong, who was named the Hawks’ best, the brown and gold’s rearguard action must be commended for repelling attack after attack in a trying first hour. 

Encouragingly, despite conceding the first goal after the re-start the young Hawks responded to win both the third and fourth quarters, but any hope of staging the greatest of great escapes was always a long shot.

Jack O’Sullivan kicked truly after nine minutes of the third term to get his team on the board, before Andreas Stefanakis added a six-pointer of his own to cap a better quarter for the visitors – both in the contest and on the scoreboard. 

The two sides traded goals in a back-and-forth final quarter, as Gunston kicked two, O’Sullivan added a second of his own and Josh Bennetts saw his hard work rewarded with a well-deserved major late on. 

In truth, while the slow start had given the Hawks a mountain to climb, Zane Littlejohn would take heart from his side’s recovery after half-time.

Well beaten in the contest, on the spread and on the scoreboard to that point, Box Hill were able to neutralise and, in some cases, get their nose ahead in most key areas come game’s end.

Despite losing Ned Reeves before half time, the Hawks finished all square on 37 clearances apiece with The Suns, +1 in tackles and just -11 in inside 50s come the final siren – a statistic which was frightening lopsided through quarters one and two.

As mentioned above, Jai Serong was the standout player on an often trying day for the defence. The Gippsland Power product finished the the afternoon with 15 touches and five marks, but it was his preparedness to stay in the contest which caught the eye. 

Harry Morrison was another to impress. The Hawthorn no. 1 wound up being the highest rated Box Hill player on the ground on account of his 21 touches, seven tackles, five clearances and three inside 50s. Morrison’s experience was invaluable while his side were on the back foot and his ability to both relieve and absorb pressure a stand-out aspect of his performance.

Jack Gunston’s 17 disposals and team-high nine marks netted him 2.2 on the day – a return which was just reward for a good attitude and excellent work-rate.

Another to work hard all afternoon was the captain, Cal Porter, who tallied an extraordinary 15 tackles – seven more than any other player on the ground. It’s a figure which, in isolation, tells us so much about ‘Ports’ the player. Hard working, gritty and always up for a scrap. Four of his 12 disposals were clearances, too, giving us a great picture of where he was all day: in the thick of the contest.

Cal Brown continued his fine run of form to start 2024, too. Having won the Frank Johnson Medal as the VFL’s best player in their loss to the SANFL a week earlier, ‘Browny’ racked up a team-high 28 touches, laid four tackles, had four clearances and two inside 50s. 

Like Morrison he was an invaluable calming presence in a back half under pressure; and a willing ball carrier when the team needed to chain out of defence and take ground.

Lastly among the Hawks’ best was Josh Bennetts, who worked tirelessly all afternoon ahead of the ball and, as needs be, in a high press as The Suns laid siege to Box Hill’s goal. The former Eastern Ranges talent had 22 touches all told, took four marks, produced two clearances and kicked a late goal. 

Box Hill are next in action this coming Saturday in a VFL/VFLW double at Fenjiu Stadium (Box Hill City Oval).

Box Hill

0.2

0.3

2.6

6.9 45

Gold Coast

5.2

8.7

9.9

13.10 88


Best:
Serong, Morrison, Gunston, Porter, Brown, Bennetts

Goals: O’Sullivan, Gunston 2, Stefanakis, Bennetts

Disposals: C Brown 28, Bennetts 22, Stephens 21, Morrison 21, Hall 20

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