By: Daniel Kelly (@Ukurrie)
Photo By: Owen Jones (@digital_beard)
The Northern Bullants couldn’t maintain their fast start against Box Hill during Round 7 of the 2023 VFL Premiership and were defeated 15.18 (108) to 8.3 (51).
The Ants leapt out to a 22-point lead at quarter time, kicking the first four goals at Genis Steel Oval, taking full advantage of the ever-present Preston wind.
But the Hawks fully capitalised with their turn with the breeze, piling on nine goals in the second quarter to take control of the match.
Whilst the Bullants slowed the Hawks momentum after half time, Box Hill still cruised to a 57-point victory.
The Ants welcomed back Finnbar Maley, Matthew Gundry, Ben Hurley, and Sam Hayes to the side. Cam Wild was also a late out which gave Marcus Kane his debut for the club.
Making way were Sean Martin, Zach Morris, Billy Barnes, and Mitch Jorgensen.
Saad El-Hawli, expected to be a weapon off half back when recruited, continued to show his forward capabilities, kicking four goals. Jean-Luc Velissaris, Brandon Ryan, Perry Lewis-Smith, and Nathan Honey added singles.
Velissaris was again the Ants main ball winner (28 disposals), Tyson Young was also busy (23 and six clearances), and Patrick Fairlie, Spencer Johnson, and Matthew King (21, 21, and 20 disposals respectively) were the other key drivers. King took a game high 10 marks.
Sam Butler kicked four goals for the Hawks and Jaylen Thorpe three. Cam Mackenzie (30 disposals) and Callum Porter (29) were the key possession winners for the Box Hill.
However Max Ramsden was pivotal for the Hawks with 22 disposals, 35 hit outs, 11 clearances and topped it all off with two goals.
Perhaps due to the conditions, the Ants possessed the ball less than their average (-40) and certainly less than the Hawks (-73).
Maley was a welcome return in the ruck and the Bullants saw an immediate increase in tap wins. However, as is often the case, this is not always a direct link to clearance wins, with the Ants losing that category comfortably (-25) and down on their season average (-12).
The Battle of Bell Street returns.
After curiously not being scheduled to face each other in 2022, something which felt extra cruel after a one-point epic (won by the Ants) in 2021, two of the VFL’s fiercest rivals resume hostilities.
Former Ant big man Liam Podhajski will be a familiar face after he moved to Piranha Park in 2023, joining his brother at the Lions.
Coburg are winless on the season and have the lowest points for and highest points against totals in the league. But they lie in wait having had the bye during Round 7.
BULLANTS 4.1 5.1 7.1 8.3 (51)
BOX HILL 0.3 9.9 11.15 15.18 (108)
Bullants: El-Hawli 4, Velissaris, Ryan, Lewis-Smith, Honey
Box Hill: Butler 4, Thorpe 3, Ramsden 2, Phillips 2, Stephens, Mackenzie, Koschitzke, Bennetts
Bullants: Velissaris, El-Hawli, King, Johnson
Box Hill: Ramsden, Mackenzie, Porter, Stephens