VFL Round 6 Match Report: Hawks Fall To First Loss of 2023

Box Hill have been dealt their first loss of 2023, beaten on Sunday afternoon by a mature and well-drilled Casey Demons in Wonthaggi.

With a handful of AFL premiership stars at their disposal, the reigning VFL premiers took control of the game late in the second quarter, before ultimately keeping a plucky Box Hill at bay after half-time.

The Hawks finished the day +80 in total disposals, but -12 in inside 50s; +3 in clearances and +15 in contested ball, but -15 in total marks. In a game of fine margins it was efficiency with ball in hand which decided the fate of this particular four points. 

Senior Coach Zane Littlejohn praised his players’ application post-match, seemingly content that it was method more than mentality which cost his side on the day.

The best performed Hawk was undoubtably ruckman Lloyd Meek, who played the role of facilitator, distributor and organiser to great effect all afternoon. The big ruckman finished the day with 26 disposals, 46 hit-outs and six clearances, but his contributions extended beyond the ruck contest.

Oftentimes sitting a kick behind the play, Meek’s voice rang out around Wonthaggi Recreation Reserve from first siren to last as he set up the field for his midfield and defence. More, when the ball entered his area, he proved a dominant outlet in the air for his teammates to both rely on and feed off of. 

Cal Brown’s fine start to life at City Oval continued, with the hybrid half-back/midfielder racking up 34 touches, four total clearances, four marks and six tackles. His industry and energy was a highlight of the Hawks’ play and the former Magpie was integral in both relieving the pressure valve in defensive 50 and launching his side out of the back half time and again.

Brown’s efforts were supported ably by young pair Connor MacDonald and Cam Mackenzie, who shared 57 disposals between them. MacDonald finished with 29 touches, a game-high 11 score involvements, a team-high five clearances and five inside 50s.

For his part, Mackenzie showed class and poise in his state league debut as he amassed 28 disposals, provided a team-high nine inside 50s and five clearances, with their performances suggesting  Box Hill fans shouldn’t get too used to seeing numbers 31 and 28 in the line-up – at least not in the medium-to-long term.

In defence it was another pair of developing names which impressed, with James Blanck and Denver Grainger-Barrass given assignments to go toe-to-toe with premiership winning pair Ben Brown and Tom McDonald. 

Blanck and Grainger-Barrass more than held their own individually and as part of the broader defensive unit, competing well to keep McDonald and Brown to just three goals between them for the afternoon.

The Demons started the contest slightly the better, controlling territory for most of the opening 15 minutes of play for little reward on the scoreboard. 

Ben Brown’s opener was the best either side could muster until the seventeen minute mark of the first term, when Damian Mascitti’s superb shimmy, step and snap got his side off the mark. 

It was the catalyst for a frantic run to the quarter time break, with Ethan Stanley expertly snapping his first from hard against the behind post and Jack O’Sullivan deftly adding a third from a snap of his own minutes later.

In just five minutes the Hawks had gone from all-hands-to-the-pump defence to all-action offence and earned a handy two-goal break because of it. Tom McDonald pulled one back for Casey in the shadows of quarter time, but Box Hill had good reason to head to the first change heartened.

Casey got their game going early in the second term, kicking three goals in five minutes to wrestle back control on the scoreboard and momentum in the contest, but a trademark running goal from Lachie Bramble gave the Hawks a foothold from which to attack what remained of the half. 

Casey’s Matthew Jefferson re-instated the reigning premiers’ two goal lead, before Emerson Jeka reacted first and best to a hack kick forward to mark and pull his side within a kick with 29 minutes gone. Sadly, it was the Demons who finished things off the better.

Joel Smith and Jake Melksham kicked two late majors to take the wind out of the Hawks’ sails and undo much of the brown and gold’s excellent work late in the quarter. 

Renewed following the break, Jeka kicked his second inside the first minute of the third term, before Melksham, Bailey Laurie and Oliver Sestan goalled to give their side a 28-point lead.

Sam Butler kicked a timely goal to stem the tide, but Melksham’s third quickly – and inconveniently – cancelled it out.

Stanley and Connor MacDonald gave Box Hill a much needed lifeline with back-to-back goals to inch their side to within striking distance in time on of the third, but again the Demons found the quick reply and with it secured a 23-point three-quarter-time lead. 

Jacob Koschitzke started the final term in positive fashion, kicking his two goals for the day either side of Tom McDonald’s second and Jake Melksham’s fourth. It was typical of an afternoon in which Box Hill would gain ground, only to cede it almost immediately. 

Melksham’s fifth in time on concluded the scoring, confirming a five-goal Casey victory.

Box Hill return to action next Saturday afternoon, visiting Preston City Oval to take on the Northern Bullants. 

Box Hill




11.10 76





16.10 106

: Meek, Brown, Blanck, C. MacDonald, Grainger-Barrass, Mackenzie

Goals: Stanley, Koschitzke, Jeka 2, O’Sullivan, Mascitti, C. MacDonald, Butler, Bramble

Disposals: Brown 34, C. MacDonald 29, Mackenzie 28, Meek 24, Long 19, Phillips 17

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