Werribee has opened its 2018 account in resounding fashion with a 41-point home win over archrival Williamstown on Sunday.
Building on last week’s impressive start against the Casey Demons, the host side ran rampant early, setting the platform for victory with eight first-quarter goals to take a 37-point lead into the first change.
The inevitable Seagulls response saw the margin cut to 16 points early in the third quarter, but Werribee steadied and again took control of the game to storm home with six of the last seven goals of the match and reclaim the John Pyne Memorial Cup for the first time since 2015.
Senior coach John Lamont was thrilled his new-look standalone side was able to register its first win of the year against a team that has well and truly had Werribee’s measure in recent times.
“In the last two years, we’ve been humbled by Williamstown,” said Lamont.
“They and Port Melbourne are the benchmark clubs in terms of being independent; so in our first year as an independent club, for our guys to play the way they did today and have a strong win at home – the first win in front of the new grandstand – is really pleasing.
“A lot of people are justifiably happy with the result today.”
Werribee took full advantage early of the glorious conditions that greeted it at the redeveloped Avalon Airport Oval, moving the ball cleanly by foot and finding plenty of open space to rack up a whopping 34 uncontested marks in the first term.
Kye Declase led the charge in front of goal with two in the opening five minutes and three to quarter time, though the high-flying Josh Corbett wasn’t to be outdone, registering three of his own before the first change.
With Lachlan Schultz at the helm, Williamstown bounced back with three straight goals after the break to close to within 21 points before a steadier from Nick Nott and a scoring flurry of 1.2 from Andrew Hooper pushed the margin back out to 35 points approaching half time.
A goal on the siren to Jaylon Thorpe gave the Seagulls the momentum heading into the main break, and the Werribee faithful may well have been starting to get nervous when Jack Dorgan and livewire forward Ben Cavarra kicked back-to-back majors after the change to cut the margin to within three goals.
But with Matt Hanson serving up some typical midfield heroics and providing two crucial scoring assists, the home side again wrested back the momentum to restore a six-goal advantage at the final change before a hard-fought if somewhat anti-climactic final term that yielded just one goal.
Hanson was at his brilliant best as Werribee’s standout performer, his huge second half seeing him top the stats sheet for disposals (26), clearances (11), and inside-50s (seven), while Tom Gribble (25 disposals, two goals) was also busy in the middle.
Declase and Corbett finished with four goals each as the pick of the forwards, with Lamont reserving special praise for Declase given he is still adapting to his new role at the other end of the ground.
“He’s been on a real learning curve, as he hasn’t played forward much, so for him to get some reward today is really, really pleasing,” said Lamont.
“We’d like to think that he and Josh Corbett, our resting ruckmen, Hooper, [Matt] Munro, and our resting midfielders give us multiple avenues to goal.”
With six contested marks among his 18 disposals, Sam Collins was typically resolute in defence, ensuring the large Peel Thunder contingent that had turned out in support of their former star had plenty to cheer about.
Nick Nott and returning big man Jack Berry were also among the notable performers, turning out a strong combined ruck effort against seasoned Seagulls campaigner Nick Meese.
In further evidence of the developing depth of the Werribee midfield, Dom Brew and Ethan Petterwood both impressed in their first VFL matches of the year, Brew doing what he does best with a team-high 11 tackles as well as the clinching final-quarter goal.
As well as honouring its late former coach and administrator John Pyne, Werribee used Sunday's game as an opportunity to honour the ANZAC Spirit, with John Hanna of the Werribee RSL providing a pre-game on-field bagpipe performance before the traditional reading of the Ode and playing of the “Last Post”.
Now sitting at 1-2, Werribee has a five-day break with which to freshen up before it takes on 2017 grand finalists Richmond at home on Saturday, April 28.
Werribee: 8.2 10.7 15.7 16.10 (106)
Williamstown: 2.1 6.2 9.7 9.11 (65)
Werribee: Declase 4, Corbett 4, Gribble 2, Moloney, Nott, Hooper, Munro, Maishman, Brew
Williamstown: Schultz 2, Dunnell 2, Norton, Dorgan, Wheeler, Cavarra, Thorpe
Werribee: Hanson, Berry, Nott, Corbett, Declase, Collins
Williamstown: Gibbons, Greiser, Navarra, Wheeler, Tippett, Dunnell