Werribee and old rival Port Melbourne will both be chasing their fourth win of the year when they go head to head at Adcon Stadium on Saturday in the first coaching encounter between Mark Williams and Gary Ayres in 15 years.
Saturday 11 May, 2pm
Adcon Stadium, Port Melbourne
The story so far
At 3-1 to start the year, Werribee is enjoying its best start to a season since 2016 and will arrive at Adcon Stadium riding high after its 58-point round-four win over the Northern Blues and with the benefit of a freshen-up over the bye weekend.
After losses to Williamstown and Richmond to start its year, Port has bounced with three straight wins to sit at 3-2, and the Borough will no doubt be looking to bring the heat early on its home deck after a narrow escape against Coburg last week.
Werribee fans will be eager to forget their side’s last encounter with the Borough, a 78-point home loss in round 10 last year, but will be buoyed by the memory of the previous encounter back in 2017, when the then “Travelling Tigers” produced one of the upsets of the year in downing the eventual premiers by three points at Craigieburn’s RAMS Arena.
The last time the two sides squared off at North Port was back in 2016, and with the resurfacing of Adcon Stadium having recently been completed, it’s unlikely we will see a repeat of the mud-soaked encounter that saw the Borough get home by seven points that dat.
Can “Choco” maintain his good record against “Conan”? It’s fitting that, on Showdown weekend in the AFL, two coaches who squared off so many times in the famous Adelaide vs Port Adelaide clash should meet for the first time in their VFL roles, and Werribee fans will be hoping the head-to-head record between Mark Williams and Gary Ayres is an indicator of things to come. As senior coaches of the Power and Crows respectively, Williams and Ayres came up against each other on nine occasions from 2000 to 2004, “Choco” coming away victorious on seven of those.
Who will the new-look North Port best serve? While few would question Port’s advantage on their home deck, the newly resurfaced and redeveloped Adcon Stadium may well be more to Werribee’s liking than the former incarnation. A firm and even surface will serve the visitors’ desire for quick, clean ball movement and run off half back and through the middle far more than the infamous “gluepot” of old, and the reconfigured dimensions have left a larger ground with more space to work in that should equally suit Werribee’s purpose.
Where to for the first-gamer? A six-goal haul for local side Shepparton has seen Werribee young gun Tom Boyd get the call-up for a debut as 23rd player, but the question remains as to how that form will translate at VFL level or even if he will be used in a similar forward role. With Jake Riccardi and Timm House already holding down key-position roles in front of goal, the Werribee coach staff may look to get creative and take a different approach with their first-gamer.
Who comes back for the “big W”? The return of captain Michael Sodomaco for Werribee is a huge “in” for the visitors and will provide a very welcome injection of speed out of the backline to complement Dane McFarlane, but there could also be a few other notable inclusions for the “big W”. Playing midfield coach Michael Barlow and ruckman Jack Berry are both in the mix to return from jaw injuries, while defender Ben McNamara could also receive a call-up for his first game of the year.
Can Lisle be contained? After a quiet start to the year, two-time Frosty Miller medallist Jordan Lisle has bounced back with seven goals in his last two matches – which included a five-goal haul against North Melbourne – and will likely require close attention from the Werribee defence. Nick Coughlan and Daniel Nielson loom as the likely candidates for the job, and either would make for an intriguing match-up given the AFL experience of all three players.