Coming off a bye last weekend, the VFL Dons picked up from where they left off in the 10.11 (71) to 9.7 (61) arm wrestle with the reigning premiers.
Box Hill challenged and tested Essendon throughout the #SocktIt2MND match, requiring a four-quarter performance to come out on top.
And it was the Bombers who did just that.
The game itself saw nine lead changes, including one halfway through the final term, with an Irving Mosquito major putting the Dons narrowly in front.
This was followed by a Jordan Houlahan set shot just two minutes later, making it a 10-point buffer which gave Essendon some breathing space.
With senior coach Dan Jordan choosing to instruct from the interchange bench, it didn’t take long for Mitch Brown to get on the board, slotting one just 41 seconds into the opening term.
Mitch Brown kicked two majors in his return from a wrist injury. (Photo: Ben Johnstone)
Essendon wasted some of its early inside-50 entries, but defended well enough to keep within range.
Luckily, Box Hill was making mistakes of its own, meaning it was essentially a level playing field.
Skipper Aaron Heppell and vice-captains Danny Younan and Heath Hocking made their presences known early, as all three contributed to the quarter in their own ways.
Heppell laid a crunching tackle inside Essendon’s forward-50 which led to a shot on goal, Younan weaved in and out of traffic to set up a goal chance, and Hocking added to the scoreboard.
Despite the 13-point lead, two late Box Hill goals just before the first break meant it was now a single point the difference.
The second term was much the same, barring a lift in intensity around the contest from the Dons, which helped create more scoring opportunities.
Essendon’s forward pressure was immense and looked dangerous when in control of the ball, but Box Hill remained right on its tails and was just two points behind at the main break.
In the third and fourth quarters the Hawks were first to score, snatching the lead in the process, but it was a composed and mature Bombers side that managed to overcome the visitors in the end.
Veteran David Myers led the stats sheet, recording 30 disposals, five tackles and a goal, followed closely behind by experienced defender Matt Dea (22 disposals, 11 marks) and second-gamer Will Snelling (22 disposals, seven tackles, one goal).
Mid-season rookie recruit Will Snelling showed his ball-winning ability again. (Photo: Ben Johnstone)
In his return from injury, Brown finished with two goals before being rested in the last, while Marty Gleeson (21 disposals, nine marks) put together arguably his best performance since fracturing his cheekbone back in round three.
Youngsters Brandon Zerk-Thatcher , Brayden Ham and Jordan Ridley also impressed.
Senior coach Dan Jordan was pleased with the team’s collective efforts to get the job done.
“Box Hill is a quality side and probably had some indifferent results over the last month, but we knew we were going to be up for a challenge today,” he said.
“We asked the boys for a four-quarter effort and I thought they stuck to the task – it was a bit of a grind but they got there in the end so credit to them.
“It was a solid, team effort where everyone contributed in some way – there were a number of roles we asked people to play and they did so really well.
“That selflessness takes some discipline to be able to implement, but in saying that it’s a really important part of a side (that’s looking to win).”
Jordan also congratulated recruit Daniel Guccione for making the most of his debut.
“He’s been an emergency for us nearly every week, so it was great for him to get his opportunity today.
“We just asked him to compete. I think he was thrilled with the experience and to finish with a win in his first game is a good effort from him.”
Next week, Essendon VFL will travel to Adcon Stadium for its round 12 battle with standalone side Port Melbourne.
The first bounce will be at 2:10pm on Sunday, June 23.
Essendon 4.3 6.4 8.7 10.11 (71)
Box Hill 4.2 6.2 8.5 9.7 (61)
Goals: Brown, Lazzaro, Houlahan 2, Hocking, Snelling, Myers, Mosquito
Disposals: Myers 30, Dea, Snelling 22, Gleeson 21, Hartley 20, Long 17
Brooke Varney is in the final year of her Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) degree at RMIT University. As part of their strategic partnership, Essendon Football Club and RMIT University are committed to providing opportunities for students, staff, players and the wider community.