It wasn’t pretty, but Casey has maintained its unbeaten run with a gritty seven-point win over Box Hill on Sunday.
It was pristine conditions at Box Hill City Oval, but the Demons had to grit their teeth over four dogged quarters to secure the 10.19 (79) to 11.6 (72) result.
Inaccurate kicking at goals and a contested style of play meant Casey couldn’t open the game up to its preferred free-flowing footy.
In the end, the X-factor and class of certain players got the Demons over the line for a sixth-straight week despite Box Hill laying down a fierce challenge in the final term.
It wasn’t Casey’s best performance, but its class came to the fore when it mattered, leaving coach Mark Corrigan relieved with his side’s ability to adapt.
“The most pleasing aspect was that we were challenged and went behind on the scoreboard and it wasn’t going our way,” Corrigan said.
“That’s when character comes to the fore. For us, it was a great response and another really hard-fought win that continues to build confidence in the group.”
The Hawks got off to a fast start, but the fine skills of Kade Chandler (16 disposals, three goals), who was superb all day, set up captain Mitch White for the Demons’ first goal.
Roan Steele has been a revelation for Casey in 2022 and continued his terrific VFL form when he cut through the middle, took a bounce and drilled through an exciting running goal.
When George Grey got on the end of a terrific Casey team play to slot his first major of the game, the Demons were two goals clear and held the advantage for the rest of the match.
The first quarter was Casey’s highest scoring for the game, with the Hawks using their strength in the middle to make the match a contested slog.
Jimmy Munro relished in the conditions, throwing his weight around and competing for all four quarters in a brutal 23-touch display.
His veteran partner White (15 disposals, two goals) also shone, but Casey found the advantage over the Hawks through its speed.
When it mattered, the likes of Jacob van Rooyen (one goal, six marks) and George Grey (14 touches, two goals) continually won the footy for the Demons, having their best games so far this season.
The likes of Kade Chandler, Andy Moniz-Wakefield, Oskar Baker and Bailey Laurie were the difference, cutting open tight patches of play with a quick turn of foot and some dazzling passes.
Corrigan emphasised the performance of Moniz-Wakefield (17 disposals), whose composure under pressure came to the fore in the final term.
It was perfect conditions for Jimmy Munro today.— Casey Demons (@CaseyDemonsFC) May 1, 2022
Take a look at some highlights from our midfield bull 💪🏼 pic.twitter.com/n1y52Kd8tD
“Players like Andy take great confidence out of that, when the moment comes and he’s clean and executes for us,” Corrigan said.
“We talk about every person’s role includes being able to do the simple things well and that’s what Andy did today when it mattered.
“It’s important to the way we play and it’s important to his development.”
Laurie showed his capabilities in the second term, pouncing on a loose ball to snap a goal that gave Casey a 12-point lead at the half.
In a low-scoring third term, an opening White goal looked to kickstart the Dees, but only an individual bit of brilliance from van Rooyen followed.
Adam Tomlinson, Fraser Rosman and the returning Matt Buntine held firm in defence, taking key Box Hill forwards and negating their impact in the air.
With a 17-point lead heading into the final term, Box Hill stormed back into it, kicking three consecutive goals to snatch a one-point lead halfway through the quarter.
Just when the Hawks looked like overrunning the Dees, Casey found another gear and delivered two goals, both to Chandler.
White created the first major, spoiling a kick in before Chandler leapt onto it and curled through the much-needed goal.
Just minutes later it was Baker (16 touches) leading the charge, spoiling a Box Hill player before finding Chandler for a second goal in as many minutes.
When it mattered, Kade Chandler stood up.— Casey Demons (@CaseyDemonsFC) May 1, 2022
Take a look at his three last quarter goals that helped get us over the line against Box Hill ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/H7J2OXBGjV
But the Hawks refused to lie down, storming through the middle to slam home a goal that reduced the margin to a kick heading into the final few minutes.
Baker rose to the situation yet again, searing a pass onto Chandler’s chest for his third goal of the final term.
Corrigan praised the impact Baker had by foot all day, saying his ability to set up shots at goal in critical moments made him a star player in the win.
“The last three weeks he’s played on the wing and a bit down back, but today he was more on the wing and he shone,” Corrigan said.
“His patterns are fantastic to support our backline and then he’s able to hit up, carry the ball and break lines.
Oskar Baker was a class above today 🔥— Casey Demons (@CaseyDemonsFC) May 1, 2022
Enjoy some of his best work in the clutch final quarter ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/RWGkr5H6pg
“He used the ball really well today – his game just keeps getting better and better.”
The Demons held onto this advantage despite a goal on the siren reducing the margin to seven points, keeping Casey undefeated and on top of the VFL ladder after six rounds.
BOX HILL 2.2 4.4 6.4 11.6 (72)
CASEY 3.7 5.10 7.15 10.19 (79)
GOALS: Chandler 3, Grey, White 2, Laurie, Steele, Van Rooyen
DISPOSALS: Laurie 24, Munro 23, Moniz-Wakefield 17, Baker, Chandler 16, White 15
BEST: Baker, Moniz-Wakefield, Chandler, Laurie, Munro, Bell, Tomlinson, Grey