Werribee was unable to produce a result to remember for milestone men Ben Moloney, Joe Maishman, and Sam Collins in its clash with Collingwood on Sunday, going down by 58 points in the wet at Victoria Park.
Collingwood: 2.1 6.4 9.8 15.14 (104)
Werribee: 1.2 3.3 5.7 6.10 (46)
Collingwood: J. Smith 3, S. McLarty 2, J. Blair 2, S. Hetherington, M. Chippendale, C. Brown, T. Varcoe, J. Starcevich, N. Murphy, C. Wellings, J. Hellier
Werribee: J. Porter 3, M. Augerinos, K. Declase, J. Maishman
Collingwood: J. Smith, A. Oxley, S. Hetherington, J. Hellier, A. Woodward, M. Lynch
Werribee: K. Aylett, N. Coughlan, D. Brew, J. Berry, J. Porter, T. Gribble
The parade was quite literally being rained on, but the early signs for Werribee’s milestone men looked auspicious nonetheless.
Just moments after leading Werribee onto Victoria Park with baby daughter Isla in his arms and to a rapturous reception from both the black-and-gold faithful and the black-and-white army, Ben Moloney was into the action against old side Collingwood in his 100th VFL game, effecting a turnover with a chase-down and tackle on Alex Woodward.
Minutes later, as the downpour continued unabated, 50-gamer Sam Collins beautifully outbodied Jackson Starcevich and clung to a greasy football with a lunging mark deep in defence, setting the tone for a fierce Werribee resistance against an early Magpie charge.
Then, with the Pies unable to capitalise on their forward-entry dominance through the opening 16 minutes of wet-weather slog, Werribee’s other half-centurion in Joe Maishman seized a rare early scoring opportunity for the visitors to put through the opening goal of the game.
Inclement weather aside, things were going to script for the saulting trio, Werribee having secured an ideal start in its bid to atone for its 58-point round-five loss to a Collingwood outfit that had looked vulnerable in recent weeks.
Sadly for the “big W”, the football gods care little for fairytales; moments later, the Pies had their first through Jack Blair to take a lead they would hold for the rest of the day. By game’s end, the deficit was identical to that of the two sides’ previous encounter, quashing whatever slim finals aspirations remained for Werribee and putting as big a dampener on its celebrations as the first-quarter deluge had on the turf of the “Old Girl”.
Not until Collingwood’s final-quarter blitz of six unanswered goals did their rivals look right out of the contest; but for much of the afternoon, the visitors weren’t able to put themselves right in the contest either.
Back-to-back goals from Josh Porter either side of half time – the first the end result of a brilliant bit of coast-to-coast play, the second from a left-foot snap after deftly roving his own ruck work in the pocket – had Werribee looking its most threatening. They cut the margin to 14 points after the Magpies had threatened to run away with the contest through a four-goal-to-two second term, but they would be the visitors’ only consecutive goals on an afternoon where generating scoring momentum proved difficult.
Through the early torrent, Werribee’s biggest problem had been an inability to convert Jack Berry’s ruck ascendancy over Max Lynch and the impressive clearance work of Dom Brew and second-gamer Keegan Gray into forward entries.
But as Werribee found a way forward as the game wore on and the ground dried out, it was hurt most by its inability to convert its opportunities in front of goal.
With the breeze at its back through the third term, Werribee managed 18 inside-50s to nine, yet it was only through a late goal to Joel Bennett that it found itself as close as 25 points at the final change, the Pies making better use of their chances through the third quarter with three goals to two before ultimately breaking their rivals’ resistance in the final term.
The early conditions paved the way for a contested-ball scrap through the first half, so it was perhaps no surprise to see Kurt Aylett and Dom Brew in the thick of the early action, but their pressure around the stoppages nonetheless reached startling new heights.
By quarter time, Aylett had racked up seven tackles; through the second term, Brew responded with seven of his own. Their collective end total of 38 – 18 and 20 respectively – surely leaves the trivia buffs hard-pressed to find a better tackling combination anywhere in the VFL statistical archives, and with Aylett also racking up 27 disposals and Brew leading his side’s clearances with eight, both made strong cases for best-afield honours across both teams despite the final scoreline.
Gray and Tom Gribble also won plenty of the ball for the visitors to finish with 23 disposals apiece, the former showing impressive composure given his inexperience and seemingly relishing the opportunity to spend more time on the wing after a somewhat more modest output in his debut against Geelong a week earlier.
For three quarters, Werribee’s backline held up magnificently, and no one stood up stronger than Nick Coughlan. His nine disposals and two important intercept marks in the first term established him as the figurehead of his side’s defensive resolve during the first-quarter siege, and his final tallies of 23 disposals and seven marks reflected perhaps his best performance yet in the “big W”.
With three of his side’s six goals, Porter finished with his biggest return for the year and provided handy relief in the ruck for Berry in playing what proved to be his most significant hand since his return to Avalon Airport Oval.
Typically reliable through the midfield and up forward, Moloney finished with 20 disposals and seven tackles in his milestone match. The outcome wasn’t one to remember, but the incredibly magnanimous gesture of his old Collingwood teammates forming a guard of honour as he left the field is one he is unlikely to forget.