VFL Match Report: Hawks Overcome Ants

The Box Hill Hawks have returned to the winners’ list, overcoming a slow start and challenging conditions to score a 57-point win over the Northern Bullants on Saturday.

The victory was the perfect way for the Club to atone for last week’s first defeat on the season and leaves Zane Littlejohn’s men sitting in third place on the ladder with a game in hand on a number of rivals below.

Played in cool and blustery conditions at Preston City Oval, the visiting Box Hill lost the toss and kicked into what, at ground level, appeared a benign breeze. As the match wore on it was revealed the wind, blowing to the Cramer Street or scoreboard end, was more than a zephyr and worth between three-and-five goals a quarter.

As if to illustrate how tricky the early going was, it took 14-and-a-half minutes for the first goal of the contest to arrive from the boot of the Bullants’ Saad El-Hawli.

To this point Box Hill had done well to negate their hosts despite their territorial advantage, while carving out a handful of scoring opportunities for themselves. But the Ants kicked another three unanswered goals in a tick over 10 minutes to turn a good start into a great one.

Come the quarter time huddle the message from the coaching group was simple: regroup, reset and start again.

With the wind at their backs the Hawks went berserk.

At stoppage it was the trio of Cooper Stephens, Cal Porter and Max Ramsden who willed the ball forward – they’d finish the day with 32 clearances between them – while Sam Butler broke the game open inside 50 and could count himself unlucky to finish the second quarter with only three goals.

First year player Cam Mackenzie showed his class around the ball on his way to a game high 30 disposals, and if he wasn’t winning the ball he was applying plenty of pressure around it to finish with a game-high eight tackles. 

Come the end of the quarter the brown and gold had turned a four goal deficit into a better than five goal lead by virtue of a relentless assault on the contest and Northern’s goal. 

From Sam Butler’s first at the three minute mark to the dominant Max Ramsden’s second after 27 minutes, the Hawks piled on eight goals without reply and 53 unanswered points all told to turn the game on its head.

On Ramsden, the big man was the unquestionably best man on the ground. With Lloyd Meek elevated to the senior side and Max Lynch unfortunately still in concussion protocols, the youngster shouldered the burden of being sole ruck superbly.

He finished with 22 touches, a game-high 25 hit-outs, an equal game-high 11 clearances, two goals, five marks and three inside 50s. 

The teams would trade goals to finish the half but the Hawks had made an almighty statement.

Once play resumed El-Hawli kicked goals three and four for the afternoon to inch the Ants to within touching distance, but having limited the damage into the breeze, goals to Ed Phillips and Jaylon Thorpe ensured the visitors extended their lead into the last change.

Come the last term Butler put an exclamation point on a fine individual outing with a fourth goal, before the hard-working Koschitzke saw a mountain of unrewarded work forward of centre and as a chop out ruck rewarded with a goal of his own.

Cooper Stephens was another to bring his straw to the water and jag a late major to go with his 10 clearances and 26 touches, while co-captain Cal Porter rounded out another stellar display to finish the day with 29 touches, five inside 50s, five marks, an equal game-high 11 clearances and seven tackles. 

Having beaten the Bullants by 56-points in each of the sides previous two meetings, the Hawks had gone one point better this time around and concluded proceedings +73 in total disposals, +25 in clearance and +11 in inside 50s to underscore an impressive and even team performance.

The Hawks have a bye next weekend, but will return to action against 2022 runners-up Southport at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday 20 May at 12:05pm.

Box Hill

0.3

9.9

11.15

15.18 108

Northern Bullants

4.1

5.1

7.1

8.3 51


Best:
Ramsden, Mackenzie, Butler, Stephens, Porter, Brown

Goals:
Butler 4, Thorpe 3, Ramsden, Phillips 2, Stephens, Mackenzie, Koschitzke, Bennetts

Disposals: Mackenzie 30, Porter 29, Stephens 26, Brown 26, Ramsden 22, Long 21

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