VFL Women’s coach Patrick Hill says this Sunday’s clash against 2016 finalists Eastern Devils will be a test for how far his side has come in their first four matches.
“We’ve been pretty happy over the last two weeks, particularly in the St Kilda game to kick five goals against quality opposition and then to come out last match and be pretty dominant.”
While Box Hill are yet to win a game, their week-to-week improvement has seen them leave the bottom of the ladder and jump the Seaford Tigerettes.
After heavy opening defeats to Geelong and the VU Western Spurs, the Hawks pushed 2016 finalists the St Kilda Sharks until the last quarter but have spent the VFLW bye week burning over their Round 4 loss to Cranbourne. After holding the lead for nearly three quarters, Box Hill let their best chance yet of a win slip in the final quarter against the more experienced Eagles. Whilst Hill was disappointed at the missed opportunity, he was impressed by the response showed by his maturing side.
“The last thing we want to do is get into a culture of accepting loss. We can be content with some aspects of our game and we’ve been celebrating milestones and the things we’re achieving but at the same time there’s nothing to celebrate about a loss and we won’t do that at this club.”
The Eastern Devils finished third in 2016. Although they have just one win to their name over the first four matches, their skill and discipline will be a strong factor for Box Hill to contend with, particularly given that the Devils will be hosting the Hawks on their home ground of Mulgrave Reserve.
“We want to be a competitive side. We’re not at the level of the top teams yet but we’re in there fighting,” says Hill.
“We’ve won the clearances every week, we’ve won contested ball every week so they’re the main positives. If you look defensively, we’ve conceded about 250 points less than [relegated 2016 VFLW side] Knox had at the same time last year and we’ve scored 80-odd points and they had scored 37.”
- The key Devils
Hill has identified Devils’ ruck Emma King and defensive lynchpin Meg Hutchins as two of the key match-ups Box Hill will have to win if they are to claim the four points. “Obviously, Emma King’s a star and she’s the best ruck in Australia. We’re going to have to be the best in and around the stoppages. If we’re to win the stoppages for the fifth week in a row it’s probably not going to be from dominating hit-outs so we’re going to have to have some good systems there. Meg Hutchins plays across half back and then goes on the ball as well, she’s a big presence, so she’s one that we’ll be contemplating as well.”
- Defensive pressure
Among Box Hill’s strengths in their first four rounds has been the successful implementation of Hill’s defensive game plan. “Defensively we’re doing really well. We’ve been able to defend and I think we’ve got some pretty good defensive structures. If we can win enough of it and use it properly going forward, we can defend the ground pretty well. We’re probably used to defending out here on a really big ground which is hard to get a press going on and we’re better off on a smaller ground. So I expect us to be good in that area of the game.”
- Winning the ball
After winning the clearances in their first four matches, Hill says the Hawks are ready to become more dangerous with the ball in hand. “If you can win the ball and get your hands on it enough, the next stage in that evolution is to use it and use it better. That’s getting better each week and against Cranbourne was the first time we’ve won possessions and won the uncontested possessions. Instead of panicking and kicking we’re bringing out teammates into the game.”
- Holding our nerve
Hill says his charges will have taken poise and belief from the Cranbourne experience after being a chance to win inside the dying minutes. Should the Hawks be fighting for the win late in the last quarter, their chances will have improved. “There were some things that we identified when we went back and watched the vision and saw the opportunities we had in the early to mid-stages in the last quarter. There were two kicks that were two or three metres away from going through in the last four minutes when our midfield was dominating. If we played that game again it’ll be a different result.”
Photo: Kadek Thatcher Photographer