The Box Hill Hawks have booked their ticket in the 2019 VFL Finals Series.
Despite trailing by 18-points at the final break, the Hawks slammed home seven goals to one to snatch a memorable victory over Collingwood – in front of thousands gathered at Box Hill City Oval on Saturday.
The day began in celebratory fashion, with the club announcing the Box Hill All Stars team to celebrate the 20-year Box Hill and Hawthorn alignment. Current day stars David Mirra (named Captain of the team) and Andrew Moore collected their commemorative guernseys in front of a rapturous applause from the Box Hill faithful.
With a finals spot on the line for both the Hawthorn VFLW and Box Hill teams, a jam-packed crowd filled out Box Hill City Oval for a tantalising double-header in picture-perfect conditions.
After defeating the VFLW side earlier in the day, the Pies were out to make it two from two.
Collingwood Skipper Alex Woodward gave the visitors the perfect reward for their early ascendency, guiding through a set-shot from a tight angle for the first of the day.
The Magpies would continue their fast start, scoring another 14 points for the term – although eight of those coming directly from behinds – to take a comfortable lead into quarter time.
Despite not making the most of their opportunities, the ‘Pies had the home side feeling the heat.
Playmaker Teia Miles brought the crowd to its feet in the second term, peeling off a superb running goal from beyond the arc to give the Hawks a much-needed boost.
The returning Jaidyn Stephenson was having a profound impact on the contest. After gathering 10 disposals in the opening term, the livewire snapped a classy left foot-goal – reminding the strong Collingwood faithful at the ground what he could be capable of come finals time.
Hawk midfielder James Cousins utilised the strong breeze to launch a raking 70m bomb from the centre square, that cleared all vying opponents to bounce over the goal line.
However, it was all the Hawks could add, failing to gain any ascendency with the breeze, trailing by two goals when the half-time siren sounded.
As the VFL’s two top teams for average disposals, it was Collingwood who was dominating the territorial battle. The visitors controlled the uncontested ball, to continually surge up the corridor with 26-17 inside 50s and leave the Hawks defence found wanting.
Only wayward goalkicking and resistance from Ruckman Marc Pittonet, who was dominating the ruck battle with 25-7 hitouts, was keeping the Hawks in it.
But for all the Hawks hard work to get the game back on even terms, Collingwood’s Max Lynch slotted a skilful set-shot from a tight angle on the three-quarter-time siren.
It was a body blow for the Hawks, now needing 19-points for victory in the final term – having only scored four goals for the match.
Coach Max Bailey gathered his troops and delivered an inspired last-ditch rousing rev up to the group.
The message was clear; there was to be no next week for the loser.
The Hawks were left desperately searching for answers and a spark.
Enter Andrew Moore.
The Premiership Skipper stood tall, reeling in a courageous pack mark in the forward line to open the final term. With ice running through his veins, Moore went back and kicked truly.
It was a Captain’s goal if there ever was one.
With every goal, the crowd at City Oval rose and roared as one in a finals like atmosphere.
When speedster Nathan Boucher snapped a clever major at the 12thminute mark, the Hawks had suddenly hit the front.
Andrew Moore was proving to be the hero the Hawks desperately needed –taking the game by the scruff of its neck in the process.
Moore forced his hands onto a contested ball and snapped his second goal for the term, as his teammates piled on in jubilation.
Rivalries and result were put aside when Collingwood Skipper and former Hawk Alex Woodward went down with a suspected knee injury.
Box Hill players went over to support their former teammate, and the entire crowd rose to their feet in applause, as the highlight-respected ball-winner walked off the ground in the hands of trainers.
Woodward had played an integral part in Collingwood’s performance, gathering 29 disposals and booting the opening goal of the day.
Two late goals to sharpshooter Jackson Ross stretched the margin out to 19-points, sealing a remarkable 37-point turn-around.
The Hawks had stormed home with vengeance, bullying the Magpies by 16-4 in tackles and 20-7 in inside 50s.
The most important stat: seven goals to one.
In winning their seventh game for the season at home, the Box Hill Hawks kept their premiership defence well and truly alive.
Hawk Marc Pittonet was herculean one out in the ruck, collecting 18 disposals and winning 41 hitouts.
James Cousins and Teia Miles were instrumental in the Hawks charge to victory with 27 disposals and a goal apiece.
Defender Kaiden Brand repeatedly repelled Collingwood’s desperate attacks in the final term finishing with 19 disposals and 13 marks, while forward Nathan Mullenger-McHugh received significant praise from Bailey post-match for his two goals and role in competing hard up forward and flying for marks all day.
Box Hill Coach Max Bailey was ecstatic with the victory post-match.
“We are pretty excited,” Bailey said.
“We knew what the case was the last two games. To come through with two really good wins is obviously a good feeling.”
“We get to start again next week, with a new season, so to speak.
“We learned a lot from the first half – they did it a lot better than us, with and against the breeze.
“I thought they were getting through us really easily in the first half. We were able to get our team defence set up well enough after that, with the right intent from each player.
“It wasn’t until the last half of the last quarter that we were able to really get on top.”
Box Hill will play Werribee in the first VFL Elimination Final on Sunday September 1, 2.10pm at Adcon Stadium.
BOX HILL HAWKS 1.0 3.4 4.6 11.10 (76)
COLLINGWOOD VFL 2.8 4.10 6.13 7.15 (57)
Box Hill Hawks: Mullenger-McHugh 2, Ross 2, A Moore 2, Cousins 1, Koschitzke, Boucher, Kilpatrick, Miles
Collingwood: Stephenson 1, Oxley, Tohill, Wilson, Glover, Lynch, Woodward
Box Hill Hawks: Cousins 27, Miles 27, Mirra 23, A Moore 21, Brand 19
Collingwood: Daicos 36, Woodward 29, Broomhead 25, Oxley 25