The Sandringham Zebras were defeated by the Box Hill Hawks on Saturday afternoon in the Blue-Ribbon Cup – played to honour the courage and sacrifice of all Victoria Police officers.
Photography: Mark Woods
The Zebras battled hard all day at Box Hill City Oval, but eventually went down by 47 points to the fourth-placed Hawks.
Sandringham Vice-Captain, Darby Hipwell, continued his fine form this season collecting a team-high 25 disposals, to go along with six clearances, five tackles and a goal. Hipwell averages 20 disposals across his 15 matches in 2023.
Other standout performances came from Ben Paton (23 disposals and a team-high six tackles), Oscar Adams (14 disposals and a team-high seven marks) and Leo Connolly (23 disposals and an equal team-high four inside-50s).
The Zebras came out firing in perfect conditions and opened the scoring within two minutes of the first bounce through Matthew Allison. In the lead up to the opening goal, Sam Latreille took a strong mark overhead moving back with the flight of the ball, then looked inboard and found Connolly at centre-half-forward who turned and passed the ball to Allison. The goal umpire didn’t move a muscle as Allison’s set shot from just inside 50 sailed straight through the middle.
Moments later Nick Coffield received a handball from Adams and streamed through the centre of the ground before delivering a long pass for Jake Lohmann to run on to and finish from close range.
The Zebras continued to ride the early momentum as Jack Hayes handballed to Hipwell who swung onto his trusty left boot and snapped truly to make it three of the first four goals for Sandringham.
An Adams intercept mark created another opportunity for Olli Hotton but his set shot sailed narrowly wide – this made it an exceptionally efficient six scores from the Zebras’ first six inside-50s (3.3).
The Zebras’ lively start to the game was embodied by Sandringham Dragon’s product Harvey Johnston as he roved a marking contest and produced an opportunistic dribble kick for his first goal at VFL level. The young forward’s fantastic finish helped Sandringham attain a five-point lead at quarter-time.
Adams and Max Heath set the tone to start the second quarter as both key position players laid strong tackles to win holding the ball free kicks. Heath sent his kick to Hayes in a one-on-one contest and the tall forward outpointed his opponent to take the mark. Hayes went back and slotted his set shot.
Johnston continued to show promise for the Zebras as his deep entry fell to Jack Peris who collected the ball and snapped a goal in one motion. Peris’ finish stopped a run of three goals for the Hawks and reduced the half-time deficit to 16 points.
Sandringham continued to show fight and quality in the third term as Isaac Keeler worked hard to create a contest, then showed cat-like reflexes and athleticism to pounce on the loose ball and dribble the ball home on his left foot.
Sandringham Captain Anthony Seaton, who was playing in his 50th game for the Zebras, affected an intercept at half-forward and shot a quick handball to Noah Gown who sent the ball into the path of Tim Membrey to collect and finish.
A burst of goals saw the Hawks extend their lead, but a late Heath strike from outside 50 on the three-quarter-time siren saw the deficit trimmed to 20 points.
Sandringham kept the hopes of an upset victory alive as Lohmann, despite seemingly being wrapped up in a tackle by a Hawks’ defender, showed great strength to shoot a 20-metre handball to Allison who kicked a goal off the outside of his boot.
Midway through the final quarter Tom Campbell took the ball out of the ruck and his quick kick was juggled by Keeler who managed to hold on to the mark at the second attempt. Keeler went back and kicked his second goal of the game.
After a toughly contested three-and-a-half quarters, the Zebras ran out of juice and ultimately went down by 47 points.
Sandringham will hope to bounce back next Sunday against the Northern Bullants at Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval, with the first bounce at 2:05pm.
Final Score: Sandringham Zebras 11.8 (74) defeated by Box Hill Hawks 17.19 (121)
Goals: I. Keeler (2), M. Allison (2), J. Peris, T. Membrey, J. Lohmann, H. Johnston, D. Hipwell, M. Heath, J. Hayes