Here is my VFL Grand Final Wrap-Up for SportsGalore News Australia.

Geelong 11.12 (78) defeated by Box Hill Hawks 14.15 (99)

Grand Final, Etihad Stadium 2:30pm Sunday 22nd September

2013 has been one of the most successful years for the Victorian Football League for the past decade. The league expanded with the addition of Essendon after their split with Bendigo and will only grow further next year with Richmond and Footscray both following suit. The quality of football has once again lifted and some players can certainly expect to be interviewed by AFL clubs to take the next step and possibly go to the top flight.

Sunday was, however, the only day that mattered for two sides.

Geelong were the favourites. Coached by Matthew Knights and captained by Troy Selwood, the Cats were looking to win their second consecutive VFL premiership. They had been the benchmark side all year, losing only two games all season to Casey and Collingwood, both to the tune of 13 points. They would also be looking to avenge their senior side’s loss to Box Hill’s AFL affiliate Hawthorn in last Friday’s preliminary final, which ended their season. Much like the powerful image their AFL side has already created, the VFL cats were on the verge of a dynasty, having collected the 2007 flag as well as last year.

Apart from the Cats’ two losses, the only side that had really pushed them throughout the year were Box Hill. Coach Damian Carroll had assembled a good side and was looking to improve on their semi-final loss in 2012 to Geelong. The did improve, and finished this in second position with five losses. An impressive win over Werribee in the preliminary final booked their spot in the big dance and despite carrying the underdog tag, the Hawks were confident they could get the job done. The Hawks were aiming for their first premiership since 2001.

The last time these two sides met, the Cats came from eight points down at the final change to take the chocolates by only five points in a tight battle at Simonds Stadium. This game was, however, back in round three and a lot of things had changed since then.

The roof was shut at Etihad Stadium and 15,199 were there to watch these two sides battle it out. Many stayed in their seats after the TAC Cup Grand Final ended with the Eastern Ranges, Box Hill’s U18 Affiliate, smashing the Dandenong Stingrays by a record margin of 112 points. Would it be an omen?

Geelong captain Troy Selwood won the toss and decided to kick to the Lockett end of the stadium. From the first bounce, the game was played at an intense level and was free-flowing. Former Cat Jonathan Simpkin kicked the first goal of the game. It seemed that the Hawks were first to settle down and get into a routine, with Box Hill booting the first three goals. The Cats did hit back and resorted to bombing the ball long into their tall marking options in Josh Walker and Ryan Bathie, which caused the Box Hill defence problems. Geelong kicked the next two goals before both teams traded goals. The Hawks then got on a roll, kicking three straight goals, however the Cats snatched one back as the siren blew.

The style of football in the second term was different to the first quarter. The game suddenly turned defensive and was tightly contested. The pace was still quite fast however, and the intensity didn’t differ. Geelong got on the board first before Box Hill hit straight back. When the Hawks had the opportunity to break the game open, they capitalised and used the wings to their advantage. The Cats then kicked two goals and looked to be closing in. Box Hill kicked the last of the term to cement a 10 point lead at the main break.

Box Hill dominated the third quarter and pretty much sealed their second premiership, kicking three unanswered goals for the term. Their ability to spread and break the game open became far more prominent from previous quarters with the Cats players starting to fatigue. Many of the Geelong fans thought they were getting a rough deal from the umpires, but it was Box Hill’s pressure that was being rewarded. The Cats were not playing to their best and Liston Medalist Mitch Hallahan took advantage of this. Up until this point he was largely quiet but was starting to make an impact.

With the game killed off, Box Hill relaxed a little bit in the final term. It became a seesawing affair as the ball drifted up both ends. Matt Spangher rose as a new cult figure for Hawthorn fans. Screams of ‘Spangher!!’ were heard whenever he went near the ball, and he was rather effective. With Brendan Whitecross suffering a heart-breaking season-ending injury on Friday night, Spangher’s performance certainly didn’t do his chance of replacing him any harm as he starred in the backline. The final quarter seemed to go on forever before the siren eventually blew.

Hawks fans erupted and the chorus of ‘We’re a happy team at Box Hill’ rang through the stadium.

Jonathan Simpkin won the Norm Goss Medal for best on ground ahead of Matt Spangher and Xavier Murphy. Hawks utility Sam Grimley kicked three goals while  fan favourite Michael Osbourne chipped in with two. Josh Walker with four and Ryan Bathie with two were Geelong’s only multiple goalkickers.

As is tradition for this fixture, the largely vocal crowd then took the opportunity to kick on an AFL ground and the surface was soon flooded with footballs. Many surrounded the stage and watched Damien Carroll and acting captain David Mirra hold aloft Box Hill’s second VFL premiership to cap off a fine season.

Leading goalkickers: Josh Walker (GC) 4, Sam Grimley (BH) 3, Ryan Bathie (GC) Xavier Murphy (BH) Jonathan Simpkin (BH) Michael Osbourne (BH) 2.

The Votes: 3. Jonathan Simpkin (BH), 2. Matt Spangher (BH), 1. Derrick Wanganeen (BH).

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