Essendon VFL has suffered a 51-point loss to the Box Hill Hawks at Windy Hill on Sunday in its return from the COVID-19 lockdown.
Despite the Dons finding their feet in the second half, they were ultimately outskilled by the Hawks, who were able to maintain control of the game and comfortably run away with a 15.12 (102) to 7.9 (51) win.
It was a tough start for the Bombers, who were plagued by skill related errors that resulted in a series of turnovers which enabled the Hawks to garner repeat inside 50s.
The Hawks were able to move down the ground with ease and the Dons' backline struggled to make an impact on Box Hill's strong forward pressure.
Cian McBride took a strong mark in the forward pocket and was eventually able to get the Dons on the scoreboard, but the Hawks were still able to maintain a comfortable 20-point lead going into the second quarter.
The Dons were still struggling with turnovers in the second term, which allowed the Hawks to kick six unanswered goals.
Andrew Phillips continued to be the shining light for the Dons, dominating in the ruck and expertly covering all areas of ground in an attempt to guide the team towards its forward line. These attempts were largely unsuccessful, however, and Box Hill led by 60 points at the main break.
The home side came into the second half showcasing a bit more momentum and finesse. Although the Hawks' defensive pressure remained strong, the Bombers were able to get the ball into their forward 50 with a lot more frequency, particularly thanks to the efforts of Phillips.
McBride was still in form in the third term, with his skills on full display when he was able to chase down a loose ball in the Dons' attacking 50 and kick a dribbling goal.
Martin Gleeson’s experience shone through in the third quarter and he was highly prominent in the midfield in helping to guide the ball down the corridor. After being awarded a 50-metre penalty Gleeson was able to nab the Dons a goal, which saw the home side outscore the Hawks four goals to one going into the final term but still 38 points down.
While the Dons improved forward momentum continued in the fourth quarter, it was too little too late and Box Hill very comfortably took home a 51-point win.
Essendon will look to bounce back against Casey from 12pm at Casey Fields on Sunday, with the round 11 match to be shown live on Channel Seven and 7plus.
Zach Reid returns
Twenty-year-old Zach Reid made a return after a bout of glandular fever which sidelined the young defender for several weeks. Reid made his AFL debut back in April against the Lions, but Sunday’s match against Box Hill was the first time he had played with the VFL team.
VFL assistant and development coach Cam Roberts, who took the coaching reins from Leigh Tudor on Sunday, said it was good to have Reid back after a long-term illness.
“He said….it was physically the best he felt, he just needed to get back into the groove of playing competitive footy,” Roberts said.
New faces debut
A number of new faces made their debut on Sunday, including former Richmond VFL player Sam Durham, who Essendon picked up in the mid-season draft. Durham played an impressive first game, notching up 20 disposals and six marks. Roberts said he was poised and composed throughout the game, and was excellent off halfback.
“He's a really good decision maker with [the] ball in hand, so he was able to generate some good ball movement off half back for us. That was super pleasing,” he said.
No. 75 Max Simpson also made their debut after putting together some good games at Aberfeldie, and after sustaining an ankle injury Roberts said he was pleased to see the young player finally get the opportunity to play with the VFL team.
After having trained well this past week, Roberts was also impressed with Calder Cannons newcomer Ben Morgan.
“Again he’s coming back from a long term injury. His training from this week was excellent and I felt like he slotted in really nicely across half back, so he did really well today,” he said.
Finding some rhythm in the second half
After a tough first half which saw the Bombers cost themselves a lot of opportunities due to poor skill errors, Roberts was positive about the fact that the team was able to reset and recompose after the main break.
“The first half wasn't ideal. You know Box Hill is a good side, but it felt like in that first half we probably cost ourselves opportunities, we turned the footy over a lot,” Roberts said.
“I think eight of their 10 goals in that first half were from our direct turnovers, so it was a negative in one sense but the positive was that it was fixable.
“I think we saw that in the second half we were a bit more composed with the footy, we used our numbers and we allowed the ground to get set up and we just played a much more Essendon brand of footy. That was a really pleasing aspect.”
BOX HILL 4.4 10.8. 11.9. 15.12 (102)
ESSENDON 1.2. 1.2. 5.7 7.9 (51)
Goals: McBride 3, Byrne, Conforti, Gleeson, Smithson
Disposals: Gleeson 30, O’Kearney 28, Durham 20, Phillips 19, Conforti 17