Grand Final loss for Box Hill's Kiwi Hawks
Sunday, September 27 2015 @ 09:46 pm ACST
Contributed by: Michael Christiansen
From the land of the long white cloud, and the playing fields of the South Pacific – not the normal talent pathway but a talent pathway characterised by unusual footy privileges such as national representation. This is the pathway taken by Kurt Heatherley and Shem Tatupu; a pair of New Zealanders, who have reached the cusp of the bigtime – as listed rookies at Hawthorn (Heatherley recently re-signed. Having progressed from taking on Tonga, Nauru or Papua New Guinea they now grace the fields of metropolitan Melbourne representing the Box Hill Hawks in the VFL. And today – they represent the Hawks, the Hawthorn AFL affiliate (feeder club), in the VFL Grand Final against the proud heritage of the stand-alone Williamstown Seagulls.
Kurt Heatherley (34)
Season 2015 has seen Kurt Heatherley solidly plying his trade as a reliable key defender for the Hawks. Running out 19 times Kurt has impressed, making the best list on 5 occasions. Many AFL followers asked “Kurt who?” when the Hawthorn press release proclaimed that Kurt had been re-signed – however with Brian Lake nearing the end the Hawks value the potential that Heatherley is developing. Coming through the international scholarship/rookie list – Kurt was recruited after showing talent for New Zealand in the AFL Oceania/South Pacific contests – initially signed by Hawthorn in 2009. A couple years spent boarding at Caulfield Grammar in Melbourne and playing a handful of TAC matches and training with Hawthorn – Kurt graduated to the VFL in 2014 when he officially joined the Hawthorn football club. Heatherley has been described by AFL talent guru Kevin Sheehan as “a beauty” – and showed impressively at the 2012 AFL draft combine, including a 2.84 second 20m sprint. He stands around 193 cm and at age 20 he has almost completed an apprenticeship that may in part form a blue print for future trans-Tasman recruits.
Shem Tatupu (74)
Teammate Shem Tatupu has notched up 10 senior VFL games in 2015, playing forward he’s bagged 17 goals and provided solid contest patrolling the forward 50. Having kicked multiple goals on 5 occasions his season has been highlighted by 2 bags of 4 against Coburg in round 14 and later against Geelong in round 18. Tatupu has shown he can provide the hit up lead to the wing or push back deep and be dangerous – as well as providing a chop out in the forward 50 ruck contests.
The 2015 VFL Grand Final
Williamstown win the toss and elected to kick to the Coventry end at Etihad stadium – the now traditional venue for the VFL Grand Final although on a fine sunny afternoon with the roof closed it’s hard not to yearn for the open air of Port Melbourne. The Seagulls got off to the better start with the first goal, answered by the Hawks before a string of 3 unanswered goals saw Williamstown kick out to an early lead before a goal each rounded the first term with the Seagulls holding the 3 goal advantage with a 20 point lead at the first break.
Heatherley manning up as per ‘team defence’ had an early ineffective kick on the city side that went out on the full but shortly after marked inside defensive 50 and switched play boundary side. Tatupu lining up forward - generally inside 50 and generally matched up by Peter Faulks (#8) for Williamstown. Nearing the 8 minute mark Tatupu and Heatherley were both on the bench for rotations.
Tatupu returned to the fray and got his first stats involvement with a mark and dish off handball and shortly after taking a ruck contest in the right forward pocket took the ball cleanly in the ruck and dished off a quick handball. The Hawks attempt at goal went across the face to the left forward pocket from which their much needed second goal was scored.
Heatherley found himself contesting strongly and impressing with his positioning and body work; but still found himself outmarked in the Williamstown right forward pocket by the experienced Sam Dunell – however a nearside miss on goal meant that the full price was not paid. Heatherley almost helped get one back shortly after when he held an intercept mark that set up a Box Hill forward movement but the set shot from inside 50 by Grimley went wide. Heatherley effected a couple of spoils, one a clear goal saver – alas the other was unable to clear the area and the Gulls snared their 5th and the last goal for the quarter from the ensuing scrimmage around the 'Gulls goals.
The second quarter saw a Box Hill revival as the game heated up. Heatherley and Tatupu both starting and a miracle left foot snap from the pocket by Anderson. Shortly after Tatupu made his first scoreboard impact with a left foot snap that look on target off the boot but bouncing in the square took a leg break into the post. Tatupu soon after marked strongly inside 50, and taking his set shot from around 40 out on a 45degree angle – got perhaps too close to the man on the mark and with a stutter was still able to clear the line for a behind to the far side. Box Hill continued to attack but were wasteful – working Grimley free for their fourth major and closing the gap to a goal. Trading goals from here and Box Hill went in at the main break trailing by 5 points with the game very much on the line. Tatupu had been on and off with the forward rotations, holding down key forward posts with O’Brien, Grimley and Collins. Heatherley with more time on the ground – but often finding himself standing alongside shorter opponents including Masters, Clousten or Dunell.
The third term – so often described as the premiership quarter pretty well played out that way as Williamstown surged after the long break. Unfortunately as Heatherley spoiled a mark, he went to ground, and was unable to get back onto Dunell who pushed forward and helped set up the first goal of the 3rd term through Masters. By the time Box Hill managed their next score – a behind to move to 6.9.45 – Williamstown had moved to 10.8.68 and on the verge of breaking the game wide open. By this stage Tatupu was more off than on – and when on – often isolated one on one deep forward however the failure of the Hawks to gain effective clearances meant that he was starved of opportunity. Heatherley had a mid quarter break, and returned to be in the thick of the action – however, his tackle was a fraction late to stop the handball out to Conway who slotted the Gulls 11th, and Heatherley found himself vainly trying to pressure the ball carrier as the Gulls surged forward with the easy overlap for their 12th. Finally via a smart banana goal to Miles (#42) from the pocket and the Hawks had their first major for the term and at 28 points down this was the chance to apply some pressure before the final break. Alas 4 consecutive behinds as well as a shot out on the full failed to put any real dent in the margin.
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The last quarter proved largely one way traffic – after a minor diversion as Anderson managed a 2nd spectacular boundary line snap at goal – dribbling along the ground for one of the few Hawks highlights. A glimmer of hope for the Hawks - was there a last quarter fight back as per the second quarter. This had proven the scoring end - for now reason of strong winds or the like, after all, it's Etihad with the roof on top. As it eventuated the Williamstown side responded quickly and in style – unable to miss they slammed through 4 straight to blow the game apart – 44 points up and it was party time on the Williamstown bench.
Tatupu and Heatherley, along with their teammates – were spent by now and when the final siren sounded it was a 54 point margin. The Hawks had lacked fluency moving forward – even experienced playera like Langford had managed to spear passes a fraction high or wide missing the forward targets. Nevertheless – for Kiwi products Tutupu and Heatherley – while their impact was limited today - this experience is another step in their football journeys.
Heatherley Tatupu and teammates lament the loss during the presentations to the victors