Box Hill secured a 34-point victory over Geelong, with several AFL-listed players producing impressive performances in the Hawks’ second game of the season.

VFL coach Zane Littlejohn found positives and some improvements from Saturday’s game.


“It was a slow start, but I was really impressed with how we responded,” Littlejohn said.

“We finished the game off strongly by kicking eight last-quarter goals, which is great.”

Littlejohn also reviewed each AFL-listed player who featured on the day while also giving a few VFL shout-outs.

Finn Maginness (One goal, 28 disposals, 10 marks, 6 clearances)

“It was a great return for Finn. He was very damaging both offensively and defensively. He played a vital role in connecting us from defensive 50 to inside 50 and he was able to hit the scoreboard himself.”

Seamus Mitchell (24 disposals, five marks)

After a disappointing first quarter from Seamus in his own acknowledgment, I thought he was arguably one of our best defenders for the day. He was really strong in the contest, helped us offensively and had some critical moments and some big contests. Two contested marks and 92 per cent efficiency for a small defender is a great return.”

Jai Serong (22 disposals, five marks)

“Jai Serong was arguably, along with Seamus, our best defender on the day. His offence has gone to a new level and he’s just really reliable now in his role. We had to slide him across to Shannon Neale who has played some AFL and Jai gave away a lot of height and size in that contest but he got the job done well and really helped take Neale out of the game which is full credit to him.”

Josh Bennetts (One goal, 20 disposals, three marks)

“It was a super reliable performance from Josh Bennetts. He spent some time on the wing which is great for his development. He really worked his way into the game which is a credit to his work rate.”

Sam Butler (Four goals, 17 disposals, five marks)

He hit the scoreboard again and built off the back of his pressure. We are just trying to simplify Sam’s game at the moment and the beauty about him is that he has brought into that. We are just trying to showcase what he’s good at, and that’s his work rate, his speed, his pressure and then off the back of that, he is ultimately getting rewarded with the scoreboard. He played some smart and high work-rate footy which is a great return for him.”

Bailey Macdonald (15 disposals, two marks)

It wasn’t Bailey’s best game by any means but he was reliable in the contest. He did give away a few free kicks in one-on-one contests but after quarter-time, he found his mojo again and started getting some good run and carry that we know BMac can give. Ultimately, he just needs to be a little stronger at times with his contest work but for his first full game back for the year he was able to balance out some good offensive and defensive moments, which is great.”

Bodie Ryan (14 disposals, four marks)  

It probably was not Bodie’s strongest game defensively but as we know with these young players coming into an AFL program, that’s probably the one area of their game where the biggest growth is. Offensively, Bodie is quite damaging and threatening. He made some decisions he would like to have back again from the weekend that probably weren’t his best. His offence is quite reliable but he has just got to keep tidying up his team defence.”

Ned Reeves (One goal, 40 hit-outs, 13 disposals, seven clearances)

“Admittedly, it took him until quarter-time to really find his way again back at the level. I know you can think that coming back from the AFL that VFL should be easy but it is a different style of footy to an extent. After quarter-time, Ned really helped us around the footy. From his 13 disposals, half of them resulted in a score with seven score involvements which is a great return from Noodle. He just needs to keep working on putting himself in those dangerous spots. He is a great target for us when we need him but we need to put him where he is going to be dangerous and where he will really challenge the opposition, which he started to find the longer the game went on.”

Jack Gunston (One goal, 13 disposals, five marks)

A lot has been spoken about Gunners coming back and playing his first VFL game since 2012 at Box Hill. First and foremost, I want to talk about his attitude and how well he helped lead this group. He was someone who hadn’t really touched the footy in the first half, but he was the most vocal in the changerooms at half-time. He was instructing and directing the boy while staying really positive, which was fantastic to see. It gave our younger players a lot of confidence that we could still win the game as we were 13 points down at half-time. Jack moved to a wing position in the second half which really got him open and moving again which was great. His leadership and ability to read the momentum of the game was exceptional – it was almost like having another coach. Calsher Dear was the rewarder as he ended up kicking three goals which was arguably his best VFL game he has played so far and that’s because of the work Jack Gunston was able to do with him by just helping him and putting him in the right spots.”

Calsher Dear (Three goals, 13 disposals, five tackles)

“This was arguably Calsher’s best VFL game so far. The last quarter we saw Calsher play was exceptional. He had 13 touches and 11 were contested plus he took two contested marks and kicked three goals which is what you love seeing from a key forward.”

Cooper Stephens (10 disposals, three clearances, two tackles)

“Cooper played the first half and finished with 10 touches. It wasn’t Coops’ best performance by any means but when you have been out for so long it was just really pleasing seeing him get through, hit some bodies and get back to playing some really solid footy. We will keep building him up now for our next game to get more minutes into him.” 

Jack O’Sullivan (Three goals, eight disposals, two tackles) 

What a return from this young man. He only played the second half so he and Cooper were kind of like one player with Cooper playing the first half and Sull playing the second half. He provided heaps of energy and pressure and was looking powerful and agile. The most pleasing thing was getting him through the game and getting some minutes into him. He became really dangerous once that ball hit the ground inside 50. It was a great return from Sull and we are just really pumped that he got through healthy. We will hopefully be able to increase his minutes as we move forward.”

Clay Tucker (10 hit-outs, seven disposals)

“Not huge numbers for Clay with just the seven disposals but six of them resulted in a score which is a great return from our big man who supported Noodle in the ruck. There was a 10-minute patch in the third quarter where Clay Tucker stood up. The Cats wrestled momentum back and we needed someone to step up and he was in the ruck at the time. His follow-up work, his contest work and his centre bounce work were crucial and I want to give him real credit for that. If you look at his stat line, it may not look like a huge impact but that 10-minute impact that he had was really vital. It was great for Tuck’s development as a young ruck and tall forward to see that he can have moments and influence the game. We talk a lot around it might not be your day, but it can be your moment and he definitely had that moment.”

Ethan Phillips (14 disposals, four marks) 

"Ethan had a mixed day where he had some good defensive moments and some moments he would like to have again. He is working really hard at being as consistent as he can with his performance, especially around what is seen to be his weapon - his marking. He did finish with 14 disposals and four marks, but he left a few marks out there." 

And some shout-outs for some VFL-listed players…

Cal Porter (21 disposals, nine clearances, seven tackles)

Cal Porter was huge. He really led from the front as our captain and arguably went up another level this week. We were getting beaten around the footy in the first half and our first quarter in particular, being -10 in clearances, and he just really drove and willed the group to improve. We then went +11 for contested ball in the second and third quarters then +13 in the last quarter and that was off the back of his work.’

Daniel Wood (Eight disposals, four inside 50s)

Woody started as a defender but we then moved him to the forward line to play a bit more of a defence role and he did a really good job. He played on Emerson Jeka and helped nullify Jeka’s influence with ball in hand and made Jeka defend a lot more. Woody only finished with eight disposals but he played a really unselfish role, a role where you are almost trying not to get the footy and make your opponent accountable. We are really proud of what Woody has been able to provide us in terms of his flexibility to start as a defender and move forward.”

Box Hill will not be in action this week however the VFL and SANFL will be going head-to-head in a representative clash on Saturday afternoon at Glenelg, with Littlejohn set to lead the VFL side. Fellow Hawk Cal Brown will serve as vice-captain.

Feature image taken by JM Sacchetta Photography.