The Box Hill Hawks have ridden their finals luck all the way to the 2018 Peter Jackson VFL premiership, winning a tense ‘Love the Game’ Grand Final by 10 points against the Casey Demons at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
The Hawks conceded the game’s first four goals and trailed by 25 points heading into time-on of the opening term but came back to claim their first flag since 2013 with a 10.12 (72) to 8.14 (62) triumph.
* CLICK HERE to watch a replay of the Peter Jackson VFL ‘Love the Game’ Grand Final (when available).
It followed Box Hill’s one-point victory over Williamstown in last week’s preliminary final and a win in extra time against Port Melbourne in the first week of finals when senior coach Chris Newman’s group was literally one second away from being eliminated.
Casey could only manage four majors after quarter time as the Hawks worked their way back into the contest, with Box Hill eventually hitting the lead for the first time – and then keeping it for good – when Kieran Lovell scored a goal 12 minutes into the final stanza.
Senior coach Jade Rawlings’ Demons finished the home-and-away season in second spot on the ladder but ultimately lost their second grand final in three years after also falling at the season’s final hurdle against Footscray in 2016, while the Hawks have become the first team to win the VFL Grand Final from outside the top four (sixth position) since the current finals system was introduced in 2000.
Their renowned team defence came to the fore when it mattered on Sunday, epitomised by former captain and now Hawthorn AFL rookie David Mirra, who won the Norm Goss Medal for the Grand Final’s best player after switching from attack to the back line during the match and recording 18 disposals, eight marks and seven tackles.
Mirra was one of two Hawks on the ground to also play in Box Hill’s 2013 premiership along with Tim O’Brien, who was switched from defence to the forward line against Casey and ended with 14 disposals, five marks and a goal.
Like Mirra, Will Hams (19 disposals, seven marks and five rebound-50s) was influential in intercepting and rebounding opposition forward forays for the Hawks, while Marc Pittonet (14 and 57 hitouts) was the match’s dominant big man against a makeshift Demons ruck division containing an admirable but undersized Tim Smith, and Dylan Moore was the most dangerous small forward with three goals from 15 disposals.
Box Hill skipper Andrew Moore (16 disposals and an important last-term goal), James Cousins (16 and seven clearances) and Brayden Kilpatrick (15 and six tackles) were among their team’s key midfield drivers, who took it up to the likes of Casey hard-nuts Tom Bugg (24 and seven tackles), Corey Wagner (21 and eight inside-50s) and Jay Kennedy-Harris (18 and eight inside-50s).
The Demons were the VFL’s top tackling team throughout the season and won the tackle count 91-62 on Sunday, but the ability of defenders Declan Keilty, Harrison Petty and Bayley Fritsch to capitalise on this work and regularly cut off attacks faded as the Hawks gradually lifted their own intensity and ultimately generate a match-winning 54 inside-50s to 41.
Box Hill still trailed by 22 points when Casey’s Jay Lockhart kicked the opening goal of the second half but piled on seven goals to two from that point to earn Brendan Whitecross a long-awaited premiership medal after missing four AFL flags and the VFL success of five years ago – as well as continue a weekend of disappointment for Demons supporters.
— #PJVFL / #SwisseVFLW (@VFL) September 23, 2018
CASEY DEMONS 4.4 5.9 8.11 8.14 (62)
BOX HILL HAWKS 1.1 3.4 7.8 10.12 (72)
Casey Demons: Lefau, T. Smith, Kennedy-Harris, Machaya, Bugg, Lockhart, Pedersen, Scott
Box Hill Hawks: D. Moore 3, Ross, Lewis, Willsmore, Hanrahan, O’Brien, A. Moore, Lovell
Casey Demons: Bugg 24, C. Wagner 21, Fritsch 20, Vince 19, Kennedy-Harris 18, T. Smith 16, T. Freeman 14, White 14, J. Wagner 13, Lockhart 13
Box Hill Hawks: Hams 19, Mirra 18, O’Donnell 18, Cousins 16, Brolic 16, A. Moore 16, D. Moore 16, Miles 15, Kilpatrick 15, Pittonet 14