Saturday night won’t be the first time Ben Moloney has faced off against Collingwood, but the Werribee midfielder admits it still feels odd to be lining up against the side he once served as vice-captain.
“The team has changed a little bit, so it’s not as weird now, but it was weird the first time, for sure,” he says, reflecting on his encounter with the Magpies last year as part of Geelong’s VFL side.
“But I’m still good mates with blokes like Jack Hellier and Rupert Wills and Marty Hore. I wouldn’t say it’s awkward, but it is a strange feeling.
“As soon as game day comes, though, it’s a different story.”
Moloney’s VFL journey has now come full circle, having begun in 2010 with a three-season stint at Werribee before four years with the Pies, a single season with the Cats last year, and his return to Avalon Airport Oval this year.
Since pulling on the “big W” again, he has already had the chance to square off against Geelong in this year’s season opener but admits it’s a different feeling facing Collingwood, the club he is most strongly associated with and with which he played 66 VFL games and won the 2015 best and fairest.
It will leave Moloney in the somewhat unusual position of being more familiar with some of his rivals on Saturday night than many of his new teammates, and with former Werribee and now Collingwood AFL-listed defender Brody Mihocek in a similar situation for the opposing camp, the stage could be set for an interesting clash.
“It could be a tense game,” Moloney says with a smile.
“I didn’t really know Brody, but a lot of these boys did and played with him a bit, so it could be an interesting little hit-out on Saturday night, I reckon.”
Having left Avalon Airport Oval at the end of the 2012 season in search of further opportunity, Moloney has – somewhat ironically – returned this year for the same reason.
The 27-year-old certainly hasn’t wasted his chances, becoming an integral part of the Werribee midfield setup through his clearance work and tackling pressure and being named in his side’s best in two of its four games to date.
“I’ve loved it,” Moloney says of his return.
“It’s been very different. It’s got that local-club environment but that professionalism as well.
“There are no shortcuts or cutting corners. You’ve got to toe the line, and if you don’t, you get pulled up on it, which I think is great.
“We’ve got to set a standard in our first year as a standalone club, so I’m really enjoying it.
“I’ve had a great time so far, and hopefully we can start getting some wins on the board and maybe even play finals.”
With his old side playing good footy and currently benefiting from the presence of plenty of big names, Moloney knows the task that lies ahead on Saturday night isn’t an easy one, but he is confident from what he has seen so far that Werribee has the ability to take it up to anyone this year.
“[Collingwood] has got some good AFL-listed players, but so have the teams we’ve played against, and there hasn’t been a game where I’ve been worried about the opposition or that they’re going to smash us,” he says.
“Even against Richmond, I never felt like they were going to smash us early. We were pretty ordinary in the second and third quarters, but we can compete with these teams.
“The Geelong and Casey games we probably should have won. If we capitalise on our opportunities, we win those games and are potentially 3-1, so nothing changes comes the weekend.
“It doesn’t matter who the opposition is.”
All going well, Moloney will not only face off against both Collingwood and Geelong again later this year but will do so in a significant milestone game; and with Werribee having made something of a habit of playing for silverware during the regular season, he has come up with a novel way to mark the occasion.
“If I play every game this year, my 100th is against Geelong; if I miss one, it’s against Collingwood,” he explains.
“I talked to [high-performance manager] Simon Anning, and he reckons we should have a round robin between the three teams and play for the Ben Moloney Cup.
“It’s a bit of fun, but it’d just be good to get a win against these sides. There’s a bit of history there, so obviously it’s always better to win against them.”
Moloney and the rest of the Werribee team face off against Collingwood at 5pm on Saturday at Avalon Airport Oval.