For the first time in 20 years, Werribee has locked in a finals berth as a standalone club, following Saturday’s 25-point victory over the reigning premiers Box Hill in the 10th annual Beyond Blue Cup at Avalon Airport Oval.
In front of a packed house, Werribee combatted the slippery conditions and several Box Hill challenges to record its fourth consecutive win in Michael Barlow’s 50th VFL match.
Werribee: 4.2 7.2 9.9 11.10 (76)
Box Hill: 3.1 4.6 6.7 7.9 (51)
Werribee: K. Declase 2, M. Munro 2, J. Henderson 2, J. Riccardi, N. Coughlan, H. Garoni, R. Kemp, A. Clarke
Box Hill: D. Moore 2, J. Ross 2, T. Miles, N. Mullenger-Mchugh, M. Walker
Werribee: M. Barlow, K. Declase, T. Gribble, J. Henderson, N. Coughlan, D. Brew
Box Hill: M. Pittonet, T. Miles, H. Morrison, M. Walker, D. Mascitti, A. Moore
HOW IT HAPPENED
Sluggish starts were once a worrying trend for Mark Williams’ men, but they’ve well and truly made that a thing of the past, winning a third straight opening quarter. It took the hosts ten minutes to adjust to the slippery conditions, costing them the game’s first inside 90 seconds, however they slammed on the next four, including two to swingman Kye Declase with the aid of the breeze.
Efficiency against the wind in the second term proved vital, as Werribee’s 3.0 to Box Hill’s 1.5 ensured the ‘Big W’ extended their lead to 14 points at the main break.
Waywardness in front of goal plagued the typically accurate Werribee outfit in the third term, with its dominance not evident on the scoreboard as the two teams turned for home.
Twenty points adrift with the wind in the final stanza, was the equation for the Hawks who needed a win to fight off competition for its finals spot from teams below.
Some nervy moments resulted in three Box Hill scores including a goal in the opening five minutes, reducing the deficit to just two straight kicks with ample time remaining.
Werribee’s leaders and the unheralded and versatile Declase stood tall and saw off a bevy of Box Hill forays in a frantic finale. Late goals to Nick Coughlan and Matt Munro sealed the deal, as Werribee ran out 25-point victors.
Michael Barlow put in a monstrous effort in his milestone match, racking up 42 disposals and 14 clearances in a best on ground display, while Tom Gribble played second fiddle for a change, finishing with 32 touches and 10 clearances for the second consecutive week.
Despite missing their rock in defence Dan Nielson, Werribee’s tightknit back six led by Coughlan, Declase, Max Spencer and Ryan Hebron proved impassable once again, capping off a stellar month that has seen them concede just 56.2 points a game.
A highlight of the day was the presence of former Prime Minister and current Beyond Blue Chair and Werribee Football Club patron Julie Gillard, who was a guest at the President’s lunch, and gave a rousing pre-game rev up to the playing group, before presenting the Beyond Blue Cup at the match’s conclusion to skipper Michael Sodomaco.
Michael Barlow: 42 disposals (23 contested), 14 clearances, seven tackles, six inside-50s
Kye Declase: Two goals, 17 disposals @ 82% efficiency, 11 marks, five rebound-50s
Tom Gribble: 32 disposals (15 contested), 10 clearances, seven tackles, six inside-50s
Nick Coughlan: 21 disposals (18 kicks), seven marks, seven rebound-50s, a goal