It’s been a year of mixed on-field fortunes for Werribee across both the VFL and the AFL Victoria Development League, but there have certainly been more than a few moments to savour. Take a look back at the season that was with this selection of our six favourite performances from the two sides.
Peter Jackson VFL
Round 4 vs Casey Demons
It was just its second win of the season and moved it to 2-2, but Werribee’s hard-fought 13-point victory over 2016 grand finalists Casey gave the first strong indication the Tigers were an outfit to be taken seriously and set the foundation for a golden run over the following weeks. Played in front of a good local crowd at Hoppers Crossing in what might be considered the closest thing to a true home game the “Travelling Tigers” experienced all year, the match proved to be one of Werribee’s more physical encounters of the year and saw it trailing by 14 points at the main break before gradually clawing its way into the lead over the second half. Nick Larkey and Lindsay Thomas both fired up forward with four and three goals respectively, Matt Hanson and skipper Michael Sodomaco produced huge second halves to turn the game in their side’s favour, and Nick Buykx enjoyed a dream debut with 26 disposals playing out of defence and a goal from his first kick in VFL football.
Round 5 vs Collingwood
An 11-point win over a less-fancied Collingwood outfit may not have seemed a particularly notable result for Werribee on paper, but it was the nature of the victory that made this one of the Tigers’ more memorable performances of the year. Whether or not the two-hour trip to Wangaratta took its toll on the team remains unclear, but the Tigers were certainly caught napping early, the Magpies jumping out to a 47-point lead early in the second quarter. Werribee kicked into gear soon after, piling on six of the next eight goals to cut the margin to 18 points by half time before a six-goal-to-one third time had it eight points clear by the final change. Ryley Barrack enjoyed one of his best performances of the year in what proved to be a breakout season in defence, while former Murray Bushranger Louis Pinnuck had the rare opportunity of a VFL debut on his old TAC Cup stomping ground of Norm Minns Oval.
Round 9 vs Northern Blues
It’s somewhat ironic that this round-nine clash at Ikon Park marked the beginning of a downturn in fortunes for both Werribee and the Northern Blues given it showcased both sides at their very best. The free-flowing, high-scoring contest saw the Blues jump out to a 28-point lead early in the second quarter before the Tigers fought their way back to lead by a point at the main break. It set up a classic second-half shootout that ultimately saw Werribee prevail by 14 points to extend its run of wins to six while ending the Blues’ streak at the same number.
Nick Larkey again fired up forward with four goals; Majak Daw and Joe Maishman, the latter in his senior return, booted three each; and the powerful midfield combination of Andrew Swallow, Matt Hanson, and Tom Gribble was joined by debutante Dom Brew, whose impressive start set the tone for an equally impressive season that would see him become one of the competition’s leading tacklers.
Round 15 vs Port Melbourne
With its back to the wall following consecutive heavy losses to Richmond and Box Hill, Werribee needed to produce something special when it took on Port Melbourne at Craigieburn’s RAMS Arena to get its season back on track. It did just that, edging the Borough by three points in a thriller that may well have been its best win of the year.
Trailing by 29 points early in the third quarter, the Tigers stunned their rivals with seven goals to one to lead by three-quarter time before again fighting their way back into the lead in the dying moments after Port regained the ascendancy in the final term. Todd Goldstein put in a huge performance in the ruck to finish with 56 hitouts and 17 disposals, Lindsay Thomas was the pick of the forwards with four goals, Matt Hanson was again at his brilliant best in the middle, and Kurt Aylett ensured his first senior game in more than 12 months was one to remember.
AFL Victoria Development League
Round 10 vs Williamstown
Werribee had been denied a maiden victory against Williamstown in round six when a Jake Owen goal after the siren tied the score at 74 apiece, so it was out for revenge when it again squared off against the Seagulls at Burbank Oval four weeks later. The Tigers looked well on their way when they led by 23 points at three-quarter time, but the old enemy rallied to close within a kick in the dying moments. Remarkably, it looked like a case of what Yogi Berra might call “déjà vu all over again” when Nick Ebinger had the chance to draw the game with a shot after the siren, but the kick drifted wide to leave Werribee hanging on for its first win of the year. Josh Corbett booted three goals for the Tigers in a performance that saw him rewarded with a senior recall the following week, Ethan Petterwood and Harrison King both put in strong performances in the midfield, and Billy Iles was a key contributor down back.
Round 16 vs Box Hill Hawks
You couldn’t dream up a turnaround like this one. Having gone down to Box Hill by 119 points in round 14, Werribee stunned the Hawks just two weeks later to record a fighting 20-point win in the wet at Box Hilly City Oval. The home side reeled in a 19-point quarter-time deficit to lead by a point at half time, and the Tigers looked on the verge of a second-half fadeout. Instead, they responded emphatically, kicking seven goals to three after the main break to record a famous win in what would prove to be their last hurrah before the demise of the Development League at season’s end. Jason Robinson stood tall up forward, kicking two crucial goals when the game was on the line in the third quarter; Jack Williams was rock solid in defence; and Charlie Bance, Harrison King, and Spiros Amarantidis put in strong performance in the middle that ultimately saw them all play senior football in the following weeks.