If ever there was a way to silence the doubters and make the rest of the competition sit up and take notice, Werribee’s pulsating 14-point win over the Northern Blues on Saturday was it.
It might seem strange that there should be any skeptics for the boys from Avalon Airport Oval to contend with given they entered the round nine clash at Ikon Park coming off five consecutive victories, but the nature of their recent contests had left some question marks.
For one thing, their two previous games had seen them barely scrape home against North Ballarat and Richmond. For another, the sixth-placed Tigers were yet to beat a team above them on the ladder and here found themselves up against a red-hot Blues outfit sitting in third courtesy of its own unbeaten run of six.
From the outset, it was clear there would be none of the scrappiness that had defined Werribee’s recent fixtures. A free-flowing opening 12 minutes saw the two teams kick three goals apiece before the home side threatened to blow the game open with four unanswered majors approaching quarter time.
What followed was the Tigers’ best performance of the season. With Andrew Swallow running riot in the middle and Nick Larkey firing up forward with a three-goal quarter, Werribee fought its way back to turn a 28-point deficit early in the second term into a one-point advantage at the main change.
The Blues came out swinging after the long break, and the two sides went goal for goal early before the Tigers again upped the ante, piling on five unanswered goals for a 21-point advantage at three-quarter time.
As good teams do, the Blues refused to lie down and kept coming in the final term, but the Tigers found a response on each occasion to ultimately run out 14-point winners.
Coach John Lamont was thrilled with his charges’ ability to notch such a convincing win against one of the in-form teams of the competition.
“It was a win we needed,” said Lamont. “I think there was a little bit more authority in our win today as opposed to the previous couple of weeks.
“Staying on the winners list is fantastic, and I think our boys would have gained a lot of confidence from today’s game.”
But while Lamont conceded the nature of the performance might force rival clubs to reassess their view of his side’s prospects, he refused to get ahead of himself.
“They might zero in on us a little bit more because six on the trot is pleasing, but we know that we’ve still got a lot of improving, and we want to keep on keeping on.”
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of Werribee’s victory was the evenness of the team effort. Fed by a typically dominant Braydon Preuss (48 hitouts and 18 disposals), Swallow (28 disposals and seven tackles), Matt Hanson (26 disposals, five tackles), and Tom Gribble (31 disposals) were at their prolific best in the middle, but first-gamer Dom Brew (22 disposals, seven tackles) proved equally adept at winning the contested ball and applying defensive pressure.
Up forward, Larkey finished with four for his best game of the year and was ably supported by Majak Daw, whose three-goal haul included one from a scintillating run off half forward, while the recalled Joe Maishman grabbed his opportunity with both hands to also finish with three in just his second senior game this season.
As has been the case all year, Daniel Nielson and Ryley Barrack were stellar in defence, standing up against the early pressure and covering for the loss of Sam Durdin after he suffered a concussion, and Dane McFarlane showed plenty of daring with his run out of the backline to finish as one of his side’s best.
Earlier in the day, Werribee’s development side again came up short in its quest for its first win, going down to the Blues by 46 points.
It was a low-scoring affair early before a run of seven unanswered goals to the home side through the second and third quarters effectively iced the game, but the Tigers rallied to produce four goals in a much more competitive final term.
While a maiden victory continues to elude Werribee, there were again plenty of positives at an individual level.
Fresh from his three-game stint as 23rd man, Louis Pinnuck continued to push his case for outright senior selection with a best-afield performance, while Tom Ellard did his chances of a senior recall no harm with three goals from limited opportunities.
Young guns Isaac Miller and Jake Edwards signaled they may also be in the frame for a 23rd man call-up later in the season, and Jordan Jones and Kyle Galloway both performed solidly in their first games back from injury.
Saturday will see Werribee’s senior outfit looking to turn the tables on Footscray when it travels to Victoria University Whitten Oval for the second time this season, while the development side will square off against Williamstown at Burbank Oval for the third time on Sunday.
2017 Peter Jackson VFL
Northern Blues: 7.6 9.5 12.10 15.13 (103)
Werribee: 4.0 9.6 16.7 18.9 (117)
Northern Blues: K Jaksch 3, N Graham 2, R Palmer 2, J Pickett 2, A Gallucci, H McKay, L Russell, A Phillips,, K LeBois, S Kerridge
Werribee: N Larkey 4, M Daw 3, J Maishman 3, J Williams 2, L Thomas 2, D Nielson, W Fordham, M Augerinos, M Munro
Northern Blues: S White, R Palmer, C O’Shea, N Graham, S Kerridge, J Pickett
Werribee: A Swallow, M Hanson, T Gribble, D Nielson, D McFarlane, N Larkey
2017 AFL Victoria Development League
Northern Blues: 2.4 6.6 9.8 13.12 (90)
Werribee: 1.1 1.4 2.6 6.8 (44)
Northern Blues: B Jordan 2, M Korcheck 2, J Corboy, S Bilger, C Barrett, M Romero, C McCabe, Z Ballard, T Jones, C Adams, T Roos
Werribee: T Ellard 3, S Amarantidis, A Liberatore, I Miller
Northern Blues: T Jones, S Russell, K Declase, C McCabe, Z Ballard, C Adams
Werribee: L Pinnuck, N Laracy, I Miller, B Crofts, J Edwards, J Jones