Nick Coffield is pushing his case for a return to senior football after another strong showing in defence for the Zebras.
Coffield’s 19-disposal, five-tackle performance was complemented by fellow youngster Darragh Joyce (22 disposals, five marks).
Sandringham’s Sam Fox stood out in the wet, with his dual ability to push forward and defend hard seeing him finish with two goals, 18 disposals and best on ground honours for his side.
Fox’s slick efforts along the wing were complemented by Ben Paton (22 disposals) and Bailey Rice; the latter of whom was at his gritty best with eight tackles and 18 touches.
Rice was joined by skipper Brede Seccull as one of Sandringham’s top enforcers, but the visitors’ ascendancy in the tackles (+22) wasn’t enough to swing the result in their favour.
Having made way for the returning Jake Carlisle, Nathan Brown (15 disposals) exhibited true leadership both on and off the field.
“Today may have been tough, but it was a good example of how important this bare, raw, stripped-back football is to your game,” Brown said during Hamill’s post-match address to the playing group.
There’s a lot of structures and all that in modern footy, but it all starts at the contest and if you get that right it goes a long way, no matter what level you’re playing. - Nathan Brown
Brown was particularly strong one-on-one and was solid in his marshalling of the back six.
Ben Long (16 disposals, four tackles) did his best to generate a spark in his second game at half-back, while Oscar Clavarino continued to build upon his form following his return from injury.
Sam Rowe battled hard as the number one ruck, notching up 21 hit-outs and a goal to finish as one of Sandringham’s most persistent and influential players.
Robbie Young started the game like a house on fire with an early major, but was visibly exhausted after being thrown into the midfield late in the game.
Fellow forward Jack Mayo didn’t capitalise on the scoreboard but showed strong signs through his work ethic and presentation at the ball.
The gloomy conditions only enhanced what was a dreary day for Sandringham, but coach Aaron Hamill urged his men to take value from it.
It was a hard lesson learned, with the 37-point loss at Box Hill City Oval costing the Zebras the Blue Ribbon Cup and their place in the top-eight.
Saturday afternoon was a textbook example of stripped-back football in the wet, in which the visitors were beaten comprehensively in the contest.
While the Zebras pieced together a much-improved second half after paring back a 45-point deficit, Box Hill ended the sodden afternoon +108 in total disposals and +40 in contested possessions.
The unfavourable conditions underfoot did little to help Sandringham’s unclean ball use, but the Hawks were a cut above, racking up almost twice as many possessions in the opening half for a seven-goal reward.
“It was a decent slog and it goes to show the fundamentals are king,” Hamill told saints.com.au.
We were minus 40 contested – you’re not going to win many games of footy with that – and we couldn’t control the ball, especially in the first half.”
“The inside 50 count wasn’t all that bad (-9) so we had opportunities, but Box Hill defended really well and they were able to get their hands on the footy a lot more than what we were.”
“We got beaten up as a result. Overall it was disappointing that we weren’t able to generate any phases of the game.”
Box Hill utilised its wingmen to great effect, drawing Sandringham’s forwards too high and allowing them to create an extra around the contest to collapse their opposition’s structure.
Players from both sides were barely recognisable with thick mud caking their guernseys, but the sleekness of James Cousins couldn’t be concealed; his 30 disposals earning him top honours for the Hawks.
Sandringham will have a chance to jump back into the top-eight when they face Richmond next Saturday at Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval.
BOX HILL 3.2 7.6 9.8 12.11 (83)
SANDRINGHAM 1.4 2.5 4.7 6.10 (46)
Box Hill: Hanrahan 3, Mascitti 2, Adduci, Golds, Jones, Lewis, Meadows, Nash, Ross
Sandringham: Fox 2, Owens, Rice, Rowe, Young
Box Hill: Cousins, Hanrahan, Jones, Kilpatrick, Pittonet, Moore
Sandringham: Fox, Paton, Brown, Joyce, Coffield, Seccull, Rice