Seagulls break premiership drought

Williamstown won its first Peter Jackson VFL premiership since 2003 by overwhelming the Box Hill Hawks with pressure and pace in Sunday’s Legendairy Grand Final in front of a crowd of 12,900 at Etihad Stadium.

Following an even first half, the Seagulls booted 11 goals to two after the main break to triumph by 54 points and run away with their first flag since defeating the Hawks in 2003 and first since becoming a standalone club last year.

Their small and medium forwards were dynamic, with Cameron Lockwood, Dylan Conway and Andrew Gallucci kicking three goals apiece, while Anthony Anastasio and Leigh Masters each booted two.

Like its forwards, Williamstown’s midfield was important in denying Box Hill time and space, with 20-year-old Seagull Michael Gibbons taking home the Norm Goss Medal for his 28-disposal, 11-clearance and one-goal performance.

For the Hawks, James Sicily and Jed Anderson booted two goals apiece, while Jonathan Simpkin and Will Langford found plenty of the ball.

In a meeting of two teams with contrasting styles of play, it was Williamstown’s renowned appetite for the contest that shone through in a free-flowing opening quarter.

The inside work of Adam Marcon (22 disposals, six clearances), Willie Wheeler (18 disposals, six clearances) and captain Ben Jolley (24 disposals) generated 18 inside-50 entries for the term and gave the zippy Seagull forwards plenty of chances to score.

Anastasio, Conway, Lockwood and Gallucci proved too quick for Box Hill’s defenders and all kicked opportunist goals in the first stanza.

The Hawks looked dangerous when able to link up with their trademark precise kicking, but Williamstown’s pressure prevented them from implementing their plan often enough and the Seagulls entered quarter time with a 20-point lead.

That all changed in the second quarter though. Box Hill coach Marco Bello must have reminded the Hawks they were playing for a premiership, as last year’s runners-up emerged from the first break a changed team.

Simpkin (29 disposals, seven clearances, one goal) and Langford (24 disposals, six clearances, six tackles) began taking over in the clinches, while returning big man Jonathan Ceglar (11 disposals, 34 hitouts) imposed himself on the ruck battle with Nick Meese.

If Williamstown’s small forwards were causing trouble up one end, Box Hill’s talls were doing the damage when the Hawks drove the ball inside 50.

Sam Grimley, Sicily and Sam Collins all booted goals in the second term to bring their team back into the game, but several easy, missed set-shot opportunities let the Seagulls off the hook and presented them with a five-point advantage at half time.

Now it was Williamstown coach Andy Collins’ turn to inspire his troops, the Seagulls emerging from the main break and promptly piling on five unanswered goals in 17 minutes to set up victory.

It was the harmony of talls and smalls in their forward line that put the flag beyond Box Hill’s reach. Big Sean Tighe opened the goal feast in the second minute, while the retiring Scott Clouston’s floating pack mark on the edge of the goalsquare was Williamstown’s third for the quarter.

In between, Lockwood booted two more majors and Conway bagged his second for the game, as the smaller brigade continually pressured the Hawks into error and took away their primary weapons of time and space.

The inside grunt of Ed Carr (22 disposals, eight tackles, six clearances) was crucial and Meese (13 disposals, 29 hitouts, nine clearances) began turning the tables on Ceglar with his second efforts and work around the ground, while Clouston (12 disposals, nine marks, seven inside-50s) starred in his final VFL game as a strong marking target.

A Teia Miles goal brought the Hawks back to within 26 points at three-quarter time and a classy Jed Anderson major made the margin 20 after a minute in the final term, but from that point on it was a procession towards glory for the Seagulls.

Box Hill conceded six unanswered goals in a deflating conclusion to its minor premiership-winning season as Williamstown enjoyed an early start to its biggest football party in 12 years.

WILLIAMSTOWN 5.5 7.7 12.10 18.12 (120)
BOX HILL HAWKS 2.3 6.8 7.14 8.18 (66)

Williamstown: Lockwood 3, Conway 3, Gallucci 3, Anastasio 2, Masters 2, Tighe, Clouston, Banner, Gibbons, Carr
Box Hill Hawks: Sicily 2, Anderson 2, Simpkin, Grimley, Collins, Miles

Leading disposals:
Williamstown: Gibbons 28, Banner 26, Jolley 24, Marcon 22, Carr 22
Box Hill Hawks: Simpkin 29, Langford 24, Whitecross 22, O’Rourke 22, Lock 21


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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