Port Melbourne may have wowed Peter Jackson VFL watchers with a new style of play in its 5-0 start to 2017, but what about the competition’s other undefeated team?
The Box Hill Hawks certainly haven’t mirrored aligned club Hawthorn’s below-expectation start to the AFL season, defeating 2016 premier Footscray by two points in Round 1 before knocking off Coburg (66 points), Williamstown (28), Geelong (42) and Richmond (22).
While the Borough is the VFL’s second-ranked team for disposals, marks, uncontested possessions and inside-50s per game – a big deviation from its previous reliance on winning contested ball – the Hawks are doing things a little differently.
Under new senior coach Chris Newman, Box Hill is the third-ranked side for total points scored this year behind Richmond and Footscray, which have both kicked 25 goals or more in wins against North Ballarat.
Hawthorn became known for its potency inside 50 during its premiership years of 2013-15 and the VFL Hawks are proving deadly in front of the big sticks in 2017. They rank only eighth in the competition for inside-50s per game but are scoring a goal every 3.1 times they enter their attacking arc – equal-first with the Bulldogs – and have a goal-scoring accuracy of 72 per cent, over 10 per cent better than the next best team.
Box Hill ranks only mid-table for contested possessions, clearances and disposals per game, but is the second-ranked team for average kicks and the top team for average uncontested marks. New mentor Newman is clearly continuing the Hawks tradition of providing gilt-edged opportunities to forwards by piercing through opposition defences with deliberate, pinpoint disposal.
Some of the prime distributors are Dallas Willsmore (averaging 25 disposals, nine marks and four inside-50s), James Cousins (23, five and three) and Will Hams (22, six and three), while evergreen captain David Mirra (23 disposals and six marks) continues patrolling across half back.
Along with ball-winners like Andrew Moore, Brendan Whitecross and Jonathan O’Rourke, they’re gifting Ty Vickery (11 goals in 2017), Jack Fitzpatrick (10) and Sam Switkowski (six) every chance to hit the scoreboard.
Round 5 keys to victory:
39: The ball lived in Essendon’s forward half in its 61-point win against Geelong, with the Bombers recording a huge 72 inside-50s – 39 more than the Cats. 21 of Essendon’s 23 players recorded at least one forward-50 entry, led by up-and-coming VFL state squad member Nick Hind with eight.
22: One of last year’s premier contested-ball teams Port Melbourne lost the contested possession and clearance counts to Footscray in a 31-point victory, but the Borough is winning more of the ball in space in 2017. It had 22 more uncontested possessions than the Bulldogs, with Eli Templeton racking up a game-high 24.
34: The names Ben Jolley, Michael Gibbons, Adam Marcon and Willie Wheeler have been at the top of Williamstown’s disposal tallies for several years, but after racking up 34 disposals in the Seagulls’ 91-point win against North Ballarat, maybe in-form ball-winner Brett Bewley can be added to that group now.
Round 5 stats leaders:
|Blaine Boekhorst||Northern Blues||20|
|James Cousins||Box Hill Hawks||19|
|Andrew Moore||Box Hill Hawks||19|
|James Harmes||Casey Demons||19|
|Alex Neal-Bullen||Casey Demons||19|
|Jay Kennedy-Harris||Casey Demons||18|
|Eli Templeton||Port Melbourne||18|
|Sam Kerridge||Northern Blues||16|
|Lachlan Cassidy||North Ballarat||16|
|James Harmes||Casey Demons||15|
|Alex Neal-Bullen||Casey Demons||15|
|Eli Templeton||Port Melbourne||15|
|Ben Kennedy||Casey Demons||15|
|Will Hams||Box Hill Hawks||12|
|Sam Kerridge||Northern Blues||11|
|Jed Lamb||Northern Blues||10|
|Louis Herbert||North Ballarat||10|
|Kade Stewart||Box Hill Hawks||10|
|Dallas Willsmore||Box Hill Hawks||9|
|Luke Tynan||Port Melbourne||9|
|Jordan Lisle||Port Melbourne||9|
|Andrew Phillips||Northern Blues||38|
|Matt Korcheck||Northern Blues||26|
|Marc Pittonet||Box Hill Hawks||25|
|Khan Haretuku||Port Melbourne||22|
|Matt Johnston||North Ballarat||13|
|Sam Switkowski||Box Hill Hawks||9|
|Marc Pittonet||Box Hill Hawks||8|
|Kade Stewart||Box Hill Hawks||8|
|Tom Wilson||Northern Blues||8|
|2017 LEADING GOALKICKERS|
|Jordan Lisle||Port Melbourne||3||13|
|Ty Vickery||Box Hill Hawks||2||11|
|Dylan Conway||Port Melbourne||4||11|
|Kristian Jaksch||Northern Blues||5||10|
|Development League||Last Rnd||Total|
|Will Murphy||Box Hill Hawks||3||12|
|Samuel De Soysa||Port Melbourne||1||7|
|Jeremy Gleeson||Port Melbourne||INJ||6|
|Sam Fowler||Northern Blues||INJ||6|