Werribee has gone down to Essendon by 36 points in its final practice match on Saturday, but not without quite literally making a splash.
At a waterlogged RAMS Arena in Craigieburn, with intermittent downpours keeping things soggy after the threat of lightning delayed the start of play, Werribee produced some of the best contested-ball work of its entire pre-season campaign.
But it was the Bombers who made the most of their opportunities and adapted best to the greasy conditions on the rare occasions where the play opened up.
After an early stalemate largely a product of the elements, Essendon found a breakthrough with a quick-fire run of four goals to none to establish what would prove a crucial 24-point quarter-time buffer.
Werribee responded to the challenge and emerged from the first change an improved side, restricting the Bombers to two behinds and keeping the ball locked inside its forward half for most of the quarter.
But a snap goal from captain Michael Sodomaco, playing his first game since returning from hip surgery, proved to be the only successful conversion from six scoring attempts, the half-time deficit of 15 points a poor reflection of Werribee's second-quarter dominance.
The story after the main break was a similar one, albeit with a more costly outcome; despite Werribee leading the second half inside-50 count 19-13, Matthew Brett provided its only other goal for the match, while Essendon kicked truly and moved the ball cleanly to register an impressive 5.2.
While pleased with the level of intent shown a week out from the season proper getting underway, Werribee coach John Lamont said his side squandered too many chances and failed to sufficiently adjust its game in the wet conditions.
“We were good at times, but at other times, we got a lot of things wrong,” said Lamont.
“We’ve been training for five months and not once in the wet, so you just want guys to adjust.
“Our contested ball and stoppage work was a massive improvement, and some of our ball use in the wet early in the game was good, so those positives we want to build on.
“But we kicked into the man on the mark, we missed tackles, we dropped chest marks, and too often we got a decision-making or a skill-execution thing wrong and it cost us an inside-50.”
Matt Hanson (20 disposals) and Ben Moloney (18 disposals) led the way in the middle and around the contests for Werribee, and the new-look backline of Sam Collins, Nick Coughlan, Harry Boyd, and Louis Pinnuck continued to show it is gelling together well.
Facing the daunting prospect of 135-game AFL veteran Matthew Leuenberger, ruckmen Jack Berry and Nick Nott both handled themselves with aplomb, while Sodomaco and key forward Josh Porter both made encouraging returns from extended absences.
Less positive on an individual front was a concussion to Jack Brauman, who will need to be assessed during the week.
With its practice-match phase now complete, Werribee will gear up for its big VFL season-opening clash against Geelong on Easter Sunday in Torquay.
Werribee: 0.1 1.6 2.7 2.11 (23)
Essendon: 4.1 4.3 7.3 9.5 (59)
Werribee: Michael Sodomaco, Matthew Brett