Box Hill fell just short of second-placed Diamond Creek by seven points in one of the most entertaining, high-scoring matches of the VFLW season.
In a coming-of-age performance, the Hawks twice fought back from a four-goal deficit as their score of 8.3 (51) set a new record for their highest match tally. After fading in their Round 7 clash with the Creekers, Box Hill showed how far they had come by taking it right up to the premiership favourites in the second half. A final quarter goal to Jamie Head with two minutes remaining brought the boilover tantalisingly within reach only for the siren to sound with Box Hill stranded just short of what would have been a historic win.
The Hawks started slowly as the Creekers won the clearances and racked up the forward entry. Box Hill conceded the first three goals of the game and were looking a class below their opponents until captain Mel Kuys stepped up to goal from a free kick halfway through the second quarter. When Tamara Luke beautifully read the ball from a throw-in at the next play to put through her side’s second, the Hawks were alight and turned the tide in the clearances. Emily Gilder, pushed from the forward line to the wing, used her pace to burn holes in Diamond Creek’s defence.
Box Hill maintained their rage into a wild third quarter. Gilder won a free for holding the ball and played on to slam through a goal and tie scores within two minutes of the restart. However, that was the catalyst for Diamond Creek to retake control of the contest as they piled on four goals in five minutes to set up a 24-point lead. The Hawks’ challenge was compounded by the loss of defender Ebony Nixon with a wrist injury.
Unexpectedly, Box Hill rose again in the see-sawing contest. The move of Pip Peschke onto forward/midfielder Chloe Molloy dried up Diamond Creek’s clearance dominance and Emma Mackie’s return to the centre alongside Clare O’Donnell and Kuys saw the Hawks redouble their attack. Emily McIlvena slipped forward to catch the Creek defence unawares and slot her side’s fourth and Julia Crockett-Grills threaded a highlight-reel goal from the pocket to bring the margin back to 20 points at the final change.
All over the ground, the Hawks stood up when it counted in an epic final quarter. Jayde Van Dyk and Grace Dillon turned defence into the first line of the attack while Kristy Stratton played her finest game yet as a marking on-baller. Faced with the chance of a momentous victory against a top-two side, the Hawks held firm down back and charged at the guns on attack.
Goals to Stratton and Brooke Slaney saw the Hawks whittle the margin down to two straight kicks with three minutes remaining. A sensational intercept by Lauren Costello on the half-back flank opened the door for Gilder to bomb the ball deep in the forward line, where Jamie Head crumbed to snap her side’s eighth goal. Box Hill threw everything at Diamond Creek in the last two minutes but were beaten by the clock.
Declaring he “couldn’t have been prouder of the effort today”, coach Patrick Hill lauded his side’s growing strength and skill.
“I think it probably was our best effort,” said Hill. “All our players who came in were terrific. To be challenged by a really good side and to come back was really pleasing.”
Box Hill play Melbourne Uni in Round 13 at Box Hill City Oval next Saturday from 11am.
Photo: Kadek Thatcher Photography