No team ever emerges from a 38-point loss feeling overly thrilled, but Werribee can take a lot more positives from Saturday’s defeat to Richmond at Avalon Airport Oval than the final margin might suggest.
As late as the two-minute mark of the final term, the hosts trailed the boys from Punt Road by 77 points and looked to be staring down the barrel of a three-figure end deficit, having managed just five goals for the game to its opponent’s 16.
But Werribee rallied to force a drastic momentum swing, closing out the match with a run of six straight goals that will give the fledgling standalone side a much-needed confidence boost after an otherwise tough day at the office against perhaps the best side in the competition.
While disappointed that Richmond was able to open up the advantage it did, Werribee senior coach John Lamont gave credit to his side for its late fightback.
“At three-quarter time, the game could have gone a couple of ways; thankfully, it went the way we wanted,” Lamont said.
“Our objective was to win the last quarter and to get more efficient with our tackling, which at times let us down – particularly in quarters two and three.”
“We tackled better, generated 19 inside-50s and kicked 6.6, so we’ve ended the game positively.
“Obviously, everyone understands in those situations that the opposition can potentially relax a little bit; but even allowing for that, our boys played the type of footy we’re asking them to play in that last quarter.”
Lamont also acknowledged the quality of the opposition his side found itself up against.
“Some of [our mistakes] were no doubt as a result of the pressure of Richmond,” he said.
“They’re a good team, and their club is playing with great spirit at AFL and VFL level.
“There are no easy games in the VFL, but we know Richmond is going to be right on the mark. They’ve won their three games pretty comfortably.”
It wasn’t just in the final score that the numbers failed to tell the full story for Werribee.
The home side dominated Richmond in possessions and both contested and uncontested marks and was only narrowly edged 55-59 in the final inside-50 count.
But none of that seemed to translate on the scoreboard, the visitors’ superior tackling pressure and ability to inflict damage on the turnover paying big dividends.
The early signs were promising for Werribee, captain Michael Sodomaco and Joe Maishman capitalising on early opportunities in front of goal as Richmond squandered theirs to take the early lead for their side.
But with Blake Grewar, Mabior Chol, and Tyson Stengle leading the charge inside forward 50, the visitors took control of the game from late in the first quarter.
A Kye Declase set-shot conversion at the 14-minute mark of the second quarter provided the only relief amid a relentless run of 13 Richmond goals, and when Andrew Hooper again found a drought-breaker with a boundary-line snap late in the third, it was met with three more goals in reply.
When Sam Lloyd kicked the first of the last to seemingly steal back any momentum gained from Louis Pinnuck’s mark and goal in the shadows of three-quarter time, it appeared Werribee could be in for further pain.
Instead, the home side turned the game on its head as it ramped up its tackling pressure and tightened up its delivery by foot, key forward Josh Corbett springing to life with two in quick succession to get the ball rolling.
Hooper and Declase then chimed in to each register their second, Ben Moloney came to the party with some soccer skills, and big man Jack Berry showed off his handiwork up forward, pulling in a one-handed screamer and then almost breaking the post for a mark running back with the flight of the ball before putting through the final goal of the game.
At an individual level, Werribee racked up some impressive numbers.
Kurt Aylett quietly went about gathering 31 disposals to lead a midfield charge that had usual suspects Tom Gribble (27), Matt Hanson (26), and Moloney (25) all finding plenty of the footy.
Under siege for much of the day, Sam Collins put in another huge performance in defence with five of his 14 marks contested, while Corbett’s seven final-quarter marks at the other end of the ground took his final tally to four out of 11 marks contested.
Once again, though, the numbers didn’t fully tell the tale.
Neither Jack Henderson nor Dom Brew jumped off the stats sheet, yet they finished as perhaps Werribee’s two most important players.
In his final game as 23rd man, Henderson pressed his case for a spot in the team proper by shutting livewire small forward Shai Bolton completely out of the game, while Brew kept contested-ball-winning beast Anthony Miles to a similarly quiet day.
Now sitting at 1-3 after a tough draw to start the season, Werribee faces another big task when it returns to Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday for a fourth straight home game to take on a formidable-looking Collingwood outfit in a 5pm twilight fixture.
Werribee: 2.2 3.7 5.8 11.14 (80)
Richmond: 3.7 10.9 16.13 17.16 (118)
Werribee: Declase 2, Hooper 2, Corbett 2, Sodomaco, Maishman, Pinnuck, Moloney, Berry
Richmond: Grewar 3, Stengle 3, Col 3, Lloyd 2, Coleman-Jones 2, Silvestro, Wood, Moore, Ellis
Werribee: Henderson, Brew, Aylett, Collins, Moloney, Hanson
Richmond: Menadue, Stengle, Silvestro, Wood, Morris, Garthwaite