IN a classic heavyweight clash, Box Hill Hawks survived the Casey Scorpions’ second half surge and prevailed by two points.
The Hawks were perhaps the weekend’s biggest winners. They secured a home final and can avoid meeting Geelong possibly until the Grand Final, as Michael Collins reports.
The game was what you would have expected from two premiership contenders fighting to secure second place, and avoiding Geelong in a qualifying final This match was all about imposing wills and dictating pace.
Bryce Retzlaff’s four goals gave Box Hill the decisive scoring punch but it was Matt Spangher (two goals) who willed the Hawks over the line. While he wasn’t always tidy by foot, he was the Hawks’ energy spark plug, the game’s dominant player and was involved in countless Box Hill scoring chains.
On the other hand, ruckman Max Gawn’s physicality in the air, Neville Jetta’s creativity and speed and James Sellar in defence propelled Casey’s second half surge.
The Scorpions pounced on Box Hill early in the first term, controlling general play with manic defensive intensity and Mark Jamar providing a target in the forward half. Yet, Box Hill worked its way into the game in typical Hawks fashion. After allowing Casey to snag the opening two goals, the Hawks kicked three of the next four by generating its forward forays from halfback.
The second quarter proved to be the opposite of the first term. The Hawks looked like tightening its grip on the game but this time the Scorpions arrested the momentum and forced a scrappy arm-wrestle leading into halftime.
After leading by nine points at the long break, Box Hill lifted a gear and created a 26-point buffer midway through the third quarter. Xavier Ellis was terrific in the clinches and in space.
Yet Casey answered through sheer weight of numbers around the contest and unrelenting tackling. In fact, the Hawks suffered a serious case of identity theft as the Scorpions began to slice them up from halfback.
James Magner’s stirring snap from the boundary line ensured Box Hill’s lead was only eight points at three-quarter-time. All the momentum was with Casey.
But like footy so often is, the last quarter came down to executing in front of goal. The Scorpions kicked 2.7 in the final term, including Dom Barry’s miss from the pocket that would have sealed them the game, a home final and ensured an easier road to the Grand Final.
The Box Hill Hawks hung on for victory in the end, with their reward a home final in their best finish to a season since 2002.