The Box Hill Hawks produced a scintillating final term on Saturday afternoon to secure a 13th win on the season, jump into third place on the ladder and move to within touching distance of not just a guaranteed finals place but the all-important double chance.
The Club’s 13th win of the year made 2023 Box Hill’s winningest campaign since 2017 with two games still to complete.
Played in front of a packed City Oval and having won the toss, the Hawks made the bold and potentially eyebrow-raising call to kick into the breeze.
For the team kicking to the scoreboard or Whitehorse Road end, the conditions were worth between 3-4 goals, so the home side would need to bunker down and play smart, disciplined footy in a hot first term.
The Zebras started the brighter of the two teams, hitting the scoreboard via the boot of Matthew Allison after just a minute. But despite enjoying the benefit of the swirly breeze, the Hawks settled nicely to control possession and territory for the bulk of the next period.
This positivity was rewarded when Josh Bennetts got the Hawks on the board before goals somewhat against the run of play to Sandringham’s Jacob Lohmann and Darby Hipwell gave the visitors a 10-point lead.
But despite the Zebs enjoying scoreboard supremacy, it was the trailing Hawks who looked the more likely.
Morwell’s Tristen Waack kicked a nice goal to draw his side within a kick and when Denver Grainger-Barras kicked the first of his five goals for the day early in time on, the Hawks had the lead and, crucially, the wind in the next quarter.
The boys just keep on keeping on. pic.twitter.com/vExiqEcSir— Box Hill Hawks (@BoxHillHawks) July 29, 2023
A late Harvey Johnston major handed his side back the advantage, but a five-point deficit in those conditions was an excellent effort.
The second term started in a stilted, stop-start and cagey fashion, before Grainger-Barras’ second re-instated Box Hill’s lead.
When Jack Haynes found the target it looked like Sandy’s turn to play nuisance, but three Hawk goals in three minutes quickly and, maybe, decisively shaped the contest in Box Hill’s favour.
Two classy goals from crafty small forward Jake Arundell bracketed a lovely running finish from Fergus Greene handed the Hawks a game-high 14-point lead.
Jack Peris pulled one back for the Zebras before the Hawks went on the attack in search of an answer. Bennetts and Sam Butler saw half-chances sail narrowly wide, but Grainger-Barras was again in the right place at the right time to kick goal number three and cap an excellent half of footy by the brown and gold.
16 points to the good, Box Hill knew a strong quarter into the wind would set up an excellent chance to claim the points.
But things wouldn’t quite go to plan, at least initially.
Behinds from Grainger-Barras and Josh Morris sandwiched Isaac Keeler’s goal for Sandy and when the experienced Tim Membrey ran onto one out the back, the Zebras had drawn to within seven points.
A trio of minor scores would’ve been equal parts frustrating and encouraging for the Box Hill brass, but having plugged away and maintained a want to attack, the Hawks got their reward.
Tristen Waack, Jacob Koschitzke and Jake Arundell produced the goals which again broke the game open, combining to kick them in a superb five-minute spell either side of time on to skate out to a 27-point lead in the shadows of three-quarter-time.
A late Max Heath goal gave Sandringham an interest, but having kicked nine goals through three quarters they’d need at least four into the wind to upset a confident and in-form Hawks.
Grainger-Barras’ fourth didn’t quite confirm the points, but made things comfortable – and it turned out to be necessary when Allison kicked his second to haul Sandringham back to within four goals.
The man of the hour popped up again to boot goal number five – but again the Zebras quickly cancelled it out.
You’d rather be 22-points up than down, let alone with a little over 10 minutes to play, but the Hawks couldn’t take their position for granted and needed to see the game out.
Ed Phillips capped a superb flowing move with a lovely left-footed snap, Jack Scrimshaw made the points secure shortly after and Phillips bobbed up again with a second excellent finish in little over five minutes to underline an excellent individual and collective performance.
By the time Ned Long put the finishing touches on a six-goal to two final term the Hawks had kicked away to a 47-point lead and claimed a vital four points.
Ed Phillips was named his side’s best player on the back of a 25-touch, two-goal, six-mark, eight-score involvement game. Box Hill’s running man covered the ground superbly, dictated the width of the field time and again and linked defence with attack all afternoon.
As if to illustrate the quality of his performance, Phillips went at 88% disposal efficiency. No player on the ground with 20 or more touches used the ball better.
Thick as thieves off the field, Phillips was joined among the best by Cal Brown. The ex-Magpie continued his excellent form in brown and gold with 27 touches – which included eight inside 50s and eight score involvements.
Reliable with ball in hand and prepared to use his dash out of half-back, Brown proves time and again what he has to offer a prospective AFL home.
Another to excel on the day was Jack Scrimshaw. Hawthorn’s number 14 tallied a game-high 32 touches, took a game-high 14 marks, recorded a game-high 10 score involvements and saw three quarters of his touches hit a teammate. He was assured in possession, calm under pressure and, simply, excellent from first to final siren.
The best key position player on the ground was unquestionably Denver Grainger-Barras. The backman-turned-forward lead all-comers with five goals, presented all day, flew for his marks and, pleasingly, took the chances which fell his way.
His stat line come game’s end read 11 touches, six marks, nine score involvements and 5.2. A tidy day's work.
Big-bodied bruiser Ned Long is another to regularly excel this season. He won a game-high eight clearances (including a game-high five centre clearances) and laid a game-high nine tackles to go with his 24 touches, four inside 50s, three rebound 50s, eight score involvements and a goal.
And, finally among the Hawks’ best players was Emerson Jeka. He won 19 disposals, disposed of the ball at 89% and took eight marks in another impressive and assured display in Box Hill’s back six.
Box Hill will return to competitive action on Saturday 12 August, hosting Footscray at Box Hill City Oval.
|Box Hill||3.4||8.9||11.15||17.19 (121)|
Best: Phillips, Brown, Scrimshaw, Grainger-Barras, Long, Jeka
Disposals: Scrimshaw 31, Brown 27, Phillips 25, Long 25, Morrison 23, Jeka 20, Hall 20
Goals: Grainger-Barras 5, Arundell 3, Waack 2, Phillips 2, Scrimshaw, Long, Koschitzke, Greene, Bennetts