Box Hill Hawks clinch premiership

The Box Hill Hawks have shrugged off Geelong to clinch the Peter Jackson VFL premiership, writes David O'Neill

The Hawks muscled their way to a 21-point victory, out pressuring the Cats in front a 15,000-strong crowd at Etihad Stadium.

Three goals to Sam Grimley, a ferocious on-ball brigade and a stingy defence led by Matt Spangher, killed off the Cats’ hopes of back-to-back flags.

Spangher lost out to teammate and former Cat Jonathan Simpkin for the Norm Goss Medal (best-on-ground) but left with a hoard of new fans.

The rugged defender grew as the game wore on with 19 disposals and a host of defensive efforts, earning him a huge roar every time he ventured near the ball.

Angus Litherland and Kyle Cheney were also pivotal in defence, supporting an even spread of midfielders.

Simpkin won 26 disposals and bagged two goals, while Liston medallist Mitch Hallahan (24 & a goal) and Sam Iles (22 & a goal) played crucial roles.

Michael Osborne and Xavier Murphy chimed in with two goals apiece, with the former putting the Hawks 40 points clear at the 17-minute mark of the final term.

The Cats finished with the last three goals of the match but it was too little too late.

Despite staring warm favourites, the Cats never headed the Hawks, failing to get their running game going.

Trent West battle manfully in the ruck to win 44 hit-outs, while Dom Gleeson (23 disposals), Mark Corrigan (20) and Taylor Hunt (21) did their part through the middle.

But with Shane Kersten quiet and Josh Walker silenced by Spangher after a four-goal first half, the Cats never seriously challenged.

In an electric opening term the Hawks bagged seven goals to the Cats’ four, bringing the huge contingent of fans in gold and brown to life.

It was a thrill a minute for those who poured into Etihad with seven goals inside the first 11 minutes.

The Hawks’ multi-pronged attack fired from the get-go, with Grimley, Luke Lowden and Bryce Retzlaff all hitting the scoreboard in the opening onslaught.

At the other end, Ryan Bathie and Walker stood tall with two goals each as Corrigan and Hunt did their best wrestle back the momentum.

After giving up a 17-point lead at the first break, the Cats drew within three points late in the second term when Walked bagged his fourth from outside 50.

But some ill-discipline from the Cats saw a free kick reversed, and 50m penalty awarded to allow the Hawks to steady.

The third term was all Box Hill as they kept the Cats goalless and bulldozed their way to three goals and six behinds, let down only by poor conversion in front to goal.

An unheralded back six, led by Litherland and new cult hero Spangher, acted like a wall across the Hawks' defensive 50 as Geelong’s long bomb game fell apart.

Among the missed opportunities from the Hawks was a touch of class from Osborne, Hallahan and Simpkin, who made their chances count.

Osborne tried three times to take mark of the year but did his best work on the ground as his side powered to a 33-point lead at three quarter time.

Grimley’s third goal in the first minute of the final term made the equation almost impossible for the Cats, and with their wise heads standing firm, the premiership cup was soon in the hands of the Hawks.

Patrons filled the ground after the final siren as the Hawks were awarded their medals, with the loudest cheer clearly reserved for Spangher.


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VFL 2018 Ladder

Peter Jackson VFL 2018
1 Richmond 56
2 Casey Demons 56
3 Geelong 52
4 Williamstown 52
5 Collingwood 48
6 Box Hill Hawks 48
7 Port Melbourne 40
8 Essendon 36
9 Footscray 32
10 North Melbourne 32
11 Werribee 28
12 Northern Blues 24
13 Sandringham 22
14 Frankston 8
15 Coburg 6