Box Hill and Footscray played out a thrilling draw on Mothers Day at the MCG.
The seesawing contest proved a hard-fought match until the final siren, with both sides having opportunities late to win the game.
However a late goal to Footscray’s Tom Boyd was the last of the match, as both sides tied at 12.12 (84) in what was a fitting result for the Sunday afternoon curtain raiser.
Jarryd Roughead responded to his demotion to the VFL with a five-star performance.
In his first game for Box Hill in more than seven years, the club great booted five goals, along with 17 disposals, seven marks and multiple goal assists on his way to having a significant influence on the match.
At the other end of the ground, Bulldog Tory Dickson answered his critics after being left out of Western Bulldog’s AFL side, recording three goals, 19 disposals and eight marks.
The match-up looked poised for a battle of strength against athleticism when Roughead lined up on young Footscray defender Reuben William at the opening bounce.
Ominous from the outset, Roughead twice out marked William for two goals within the first 10 minutes and had set up Ryan Schoenmakers for the simplest of goals later in the quarter.
Despite the slow start, Footscray worked into gear throughout the first half.
The Dog’s took control of the contest and got their characteristic handball receive game going as they generated numbers around the ball and streamed forward in packs.
A flood of inside 50s for the Dogs had Box Hill’s defence under fire. When Bailey Dale made the Hawks pay with a long-range set-shot from a tight angle late in the second term, the margin stretched to a game-high 18-points.
But Box Hill came out a different side after half-time, in a third quarter that ultimately proved the turning point of the match.
Immense pressure on the ball carrier forced the Dog’s to go against the run and carry, overlap handball style of play that proved so successful for them – instead being forced to kick more under pressure.
In fact, the Bulldogs recorded an astonishing 55 kicks and just 11 handballs for the third term.
In completely slowing down the Bulldogs ease of ball movement, Box Hill’s defenders Kaiden Brand and David Mirra were able to put in place their defensive mechanisms behind the ball.
It allowed the Hawks to rebound on the run with classy and efficient ball movement into attack.
Better still the Hawks began to capitalise on their chances.
A classy Jackson Ross set shot, his tenth goal for the season, saw Box Hill hit the front mid-way through the third term.
Another clever piece of work from Ross, this time a clearing kick from the boundary, found Roughead unattended just outside the goal square resulting in the veterans fifth goal for the match – and almost half of Box Hill’s score.
The lively Mat Walker began to exert his influence on the contest, as he kicked two classy goals for the term and proved a handful for the Bulldog’s defenders.
In no time, the Hawk’s had turned a two-goal deficit at half-time into an eight-point lead at the final break.
But there was still another chapter to play out.
With a top four spot up for grabs, the final term played out as an all-time classic.
The growing crowd who arrived early for the curtain raiser started to gain voice and rode every disposal and umpiring decision collectively, as the ball got hotter and hotter.
It was clear that whichever team could stay composed and execute under pressure, would ultimately prevail.
Tory Dickson’s third major for the afternoon, a monster set shot from 50m brought the scores level at 70 all.
But the line ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ had never been so relevant than when Box Hill Skipper Andrew Moore took a rousing pack mark in attack, 15 minutes into the term. Moore made no mistake in drilling the set shot, a true captain's goal and with tape hanging off him, celebrated like a scene from ‘Gladiator’ – as the Hawks took a six-point lead.
The final moments of the heart-stopper played out as a series of missed opportunities for both sides.
The final siren sounded to exhausted, wry smiles around the ground.
Footscray’s Bailey Williams dominated the midfield battle with 31 disposals, nine marks, and ten rebound 50s while mid-season draft hopeful Kyle Dunkley made an impression in his VFL debut for Footscray, slotting three goals and gathering 11 disposals.
Box Hill’s Changkuoth Jiath proved a standout in defence, as he mounted his case for senior selection in flying for courageous and athletic intercept marks.
Conor Glass was influential in the midfield clinches with 24 disposals and three tackles, while Marc Pittonet feasted on 27 hitouts, along with 15 disposals and a goal.
Box Hill defender Damian Mascitti reflected on his teammates mixed feelings after the match.
“It’s always very strange after a draw. You don’t really know how to feel. But just chatting amongst the boys then, we’ll take two points over zero,” he said.
“The Bulldogs were getting out the back of us in the first half, so we changed a few defensive things structurally in the third term. Once we started playing our way, we know teams are going to find it hard to beat us.”
Box Hill will take confidence in gaining 24 scoring shots against Footscray, however after only kicking 12. 12. the side will no doubt be searching for a more efficient scoreline when they take on the in-form Richmond next Sunday.
BOX HILL HAWKS 3.1 5.7 10.10 12.12 (84)
FOOTSCRAY BULLDOGS 4.3 7.7 9.8 12.12 (84)
Box Hill Hawks: Roughead 5, Walker 2, Ross 1, Moore, Glass, Pittonet, Schoenmakers
Footscray Bulldogs: Dickson 3, Dunkley 3, Schache 2, Kanakis 1, Dale, Webb, Boyd
Box Hill Hawks: Moore 25, Glass 24, Hanrahan 22, Mirra 21, Meadows 18
Footscray Bulldogs: Williams 31, Webb 23, Vandermeer 22, Prudden 21, Dickson 19