Werribee scored a resounding triumph with an 83-point win over Frankston at SkyBus Stadium on Sunday.
Frankston: 1.1 3.3 7.5 9.8 (62)
Werribee: 5.7 10.7 15.11 22.13 (145)
Frankston: B. Mullane 3, J. Pertzel 2, N. Scagliarini 2, C. Rich, T. Elton
Werribee: J. Bennett 6, J. Maishman 4, N. Coughlan 2, A. Hooper 2, J. Porter 2, M. Augerinos, J. Corbett, T. Gribble, J. Sharp, C. Parish, M. Brett
Frankston: J. Batchelor, A. Jarnestrom, C. Rich, B. Mullane, A. Harnett, B. Hillard
Werribee: J. Maishman, S. Collins, J. Bennett, T. Gribble, M. Sodomaco, A. Hooper
Joel Bennett and Max Augerinos turned more than a few heads in their time together at the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup system, so it was fitting that in their first game together for Werribee they should provide the key subplots to the overarching narrative of a resounding victory for the “big W”.
Despite a handy return of four goals from his four outings as 23rd man, Bennett had felt the selection squeeze ahead of what proved to be a heavy home defeat at the hands of Port Melbourne, and the midfielder-come-forward didn’t take long in Sunday’s clash with Frankston to show he wasn’t going to waste the opportunity of a recall.
Werribee fired out of the blocks to have eight of the game’s nine goals to the 17min mark of the second term. Bennett had four of them and had played a key hand in one other. By game’s end, he had a haul of six – the biggest of any Werribee player this year – and had all but assured his second stint at the VFL level would be a more permanent one.
If Bennett’s brief omission from his team’s lineup was a disappointment, Augerinos’ extended stay on the sidelines was a full-blown Greek tragedy. The young midfielder had been arguably the biggest success story of Werribee’s 2017 campaign before rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament for a second time in round 10 last year.
His return to the VFL ranks against the Dolphins almost a year to the day since his injury marked the end of a long, hard road from reconstructive surgery back to state-league football, and it had already been well worth the heartache and the struggle by the time he received a handball and curled through a checkside snap to send his teammates swarming and put his side 46 points clear on the stroke of half time.
These were just two of the individual triumphs for Werribee on what proved to be a day out against the Dolphins at SkyBus Stadium, one that stood in stark contrast to the disappointment of its beating at the hands of the Borough a fortnight earlier.
Joe Maishman put a quiet couple of weeks behind him with another best-on-ground performance and perhaps his best game in the “big W”, collecting 31 disposals through the midfield and booting four goals as his side’s other chief attacking weapon alongside Bennett. Andrew Hooper recaptured his vintage early-season form, kicking two goals and playing a key hand in several others in his perhaps his best game since his round-one blinder against Geelong.
Matthew Brett seized his recall chance with an impressive performance alongside Nick Coughlan and Sam Collins – the latter as dominant as ever down back – as Werribee’s third defensive tall, finishing with 19 disposals and nine marks and pushing forward for a late goal.
Much to the delight of the Werribee Districts faithful, Nick Buykx also returned to the side for his first game since round one and sprang to life late with some daring play in a new role on the wing. Charlie Bance put in a solid performance around the square in his first game for 2018, the call-up providing him with the chance to join second-gamer Cassidy Parish, who initiated a swarm of his own with his maiden VFL goal early in the second term, in the obligatory post-game sports-drink shower for his a long-awaited first VFL victory.
An eye injury to Josh Corbett, who left the field shortly after half time, provided the only real dampener for the visitors in what was their first truly dominant start-to-finish performance of the year.
Werribee has controlled games for periods this season without ever really managing to take them away from its opponents. Even in its emphatic round-three triumph over old enemy Williamstown, it was forced to endure a few nervous moments after half time as the Seagulls threatened to claw back the early advantage.
But after stringing together the first five goals of Sunday's match, the boys in black and gold never looked like losing.
Only once, through captain Blake Mullane shortly after half time, did the home side manage consecutive goals. It was the closest thing to a run of momentum it would enjoy, with Werribee proceeding to kick 12 of the remaining 16 goals for the match, which included another run of five straight late in the final term.
For all the inevitable challenges faced by Frankston in the first year of its return to the VFL ranks, its fleet-footed young side has nonetheless caught a number of teams on the hop through its ability to hurt it opponents on the rebound.
But even as the Dolphins followers began to overcome the early clearance dominance of Tom Gribble (a game-high 33 disposals) and Maishman after half time, Werribee’s defensive pressure proved too strong.
With Collins (23 disposals, 10 marks) and captain Michael Sodomaco leading the way, Werribee’s back six repelled the Frankston charge to goal and moved the ball swiftly off half back, while the forwards went to work locking the ball inside their half of the ground at every opportunity, the final inside-50 count of 72-33 a telling indicator of the visitors' sustained attack.
Werribee will face sterner tests over the coming weeks, beginning with Saturday’s clash against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium; but on the back of the disappointment of Port Melbourne, this was the resounding bounce-back it needed to launch into the second half of 2018.