The Northern Bullants were brave but ultimately defeated by the Box Hill Hawks at Preston City Oval in
Round 18 of the 2022 VFL Premiership season. The Hawks piled on a seven goal to three final quarter to
stretch the margin to 56 points but this exaggerated the gap between the two sides on the day.
The final score of 17.13 (115) to 8.11 (59) in favour of the Hawks was thanks mostly to Fergus Greene
joining Chris Burgess from the Gold Coast Suns atop the Frosty Miller Medal leaderboard with five goals,
taking him to 42 for the season. Fellow Hawk Ben Cavarra also contributed five majors and moved up to
third in league for goals, with 33 in total.
Best afield honours were further complicated by Hawk Callum Porter collecting 45 possessions, including
nine clearances and 12 inside 50’s. Daniel Howe collected 31 disposals for the winners and the Phillips
boys – Tom and Ed – tallied 27 and 26 respectively.
For the Bullants, Will Mitchell continued his strong form with 33 disposals, including nine clearances;
Tom Wilson had 25 possessions and a goal, and Billy Murphy 24 touches.
Sunny Brazier who, along with Liam Kolar, replaced Tom Mills and Mutaz El Nour in the team, collected
18 disposals, following on from his recent ball magnet displays for Hurstbridge in the Northern Football
Tynan Smith showed his evident potential, kicking four goals and three contested marks – almost half
the Ants total for the day.
With second gamer John Roumeliotis playing a similar pack crashing style to Smith, albeit more at a
centre half forward position, the Bullants have an intimidating forward 50 emerging for 2023 to support
a more traditional spearhead in Jack Boyd (who also kicked a goal).
Mid-sized forward Jean-Luc Velissaris, benefitting from Smith and Roumeliotis splitting packs, continues
to be dangerous in front of goal with two majors, in addition to the aforementioned singles from Wilson
The Hawks ran out winners across the board in most key stat categories.
They dominated inside 50’s by +26 (62 to 36), disposals by +63, and a clear lead on shots on goal.
Despite Box Hill winning hit outs by +10, the Ants negated this and were equal on clearances – living to
their brand. Contested ball strength – also part of the Ants DNA – was maintained with the Preston side
+9 ahead on hard ball gets.
Whilst there have been weeks where the Bullants struggled to stay competitive throughout the match,
this was not one of those examples.
For long periods in the first three quarters, the Preston side would grind the ball forward but often get
unstuck by an extra tall deployed in defence by the Hawks.
In comparison, when the Hawks scored it was often swift and through the centre which added injury to
morale to the damage on the scoreboard.
Equal after the first quarter and 17 points down at half time, Ben Cavarro took the game out of the Ants
reach early in the third quarter with three poacher’s goals in seven minutes, stretching the margin to 35
points when the Ants were kicking with a three-goal breeze towards the city end.
Liam Podhajski battled all day and followed up his own ruck work relentlessly, and credit is also due to
Sean Martin and Ethan Penrith who contributed to the Ants 45 rebound 50’s – 18 more than the Hawks
– as part of an undersized Bullants defense.
The Ants will also be heartened by Ben Nikolovski who appears comfortable at the VFL level, in addition
to his fellow second gamer Roumeliotis who was responsible for four inside 50s (equal first for the Ants
with Mackenzie Doreian, Brazier, and Podhajski).
After the match, backs coach Paul Dunn felt that some structural changes helped the Ants get a foothold
“We (put) another number behind the ball, and one at the ball,” Dunn said. “(In the first half)…it was
giving us really good opportunities to stay in the game (and) we limited how Box Hill wanted to play.”
Although there is work to be done in how much care the Bullants have with the ball.
“Sometimes…general skill errors allow teams to rebound off us and (create) quality entries. But I give
some credit to our backs…their ability to fight (it) out and bring the ball to ground really made it harder
for Box Hill.”
Billy Murphy, who is enjoying a midfield role, said post-match that the Ants are focussed on reducing the
difference between their best football and when they lose their system.
“I think (closing the gap) is improving as the season goes on,” he said.
“It was a bit of a dogfight (today), (Box Hill) were an elite outfit, they worked hard and went from
stoppage to stoppage and (in the last quarter) they blew it out on workrate.”
The Bullants have three more matches to finish the season, in addition to a bye. Next up is the toughest
assignment in 2022 – a visit to Casey Fields for the unbeaten Demons (Saturday 30 th July 1.05pm).
There is an opportunity to play a role in shaping the finals with a final home game of the season (and a
Ladies Day celebration – details to come) against Richmond on Sunday 7 th August at 2.05pm. Then, after
a bye, the Ants travel to Werribee at a time to be confirmed on Sunday 20 th August.
With both Tigers sides looking to sneak into the final eight, the Bullants have a chance to play the role of
Best: Mitchell, Smith, Murphy, Wilson, Podhajski, Penrith
Goals: Smith 4, Velissaris 2, Boyd, Wilson