The most significant day of the Westbourne Grammarians comeback story was played out on Saturday.
The Warriors were on the brink not so long ago, but fought to stay alive in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
Those bad times must have seemed a world away on Saturday, as the Warriors unfurled premiership flags in both the seniors and reserves, held a jam-packed ladies day function, acknowledged the contribution of officials during umpire appreciation round and dug deep to raise money and awareness for the anti-cancer council.
“It is a big day for the club,” Warriors coach Roger Hand said. “From where we came from a couple of years ago after we split with the Wyndham Suns and we looked like we’d struggle to be around, it is a significant day …for a lot of people who have put in a lot of hard work.”
Westbourne did not disappoint on the field, either.
The Warriors defended their home turf with a snarl, crushing South Melbourne Districts by 101 points.
They kept the Swans to just two goals, while kicking 18 of their own, with four each coming from the boots of Nick Schiano and Ali Eqbal.
Wins for Westbourne at its Sayers Road venue is par for the course these days.
“We haven’t lost a game at Westbourne in nearly two and a half years,” Hand said.
“We pride ourselves on that being a bit of a fortress for us.”
Westbourne celebrated the senior club debuts of four players, including the mature-aged Tony Halliday, soccer player turned footballer Agon Bahtiri and youngsters Aidan Hibbert and Ben Stoios.
In four games this season, the Warriors have had seven senior debutants, which shows the incredible upside to this playing group.
“We make a big deal out of debut games now,” Hand said. “We hand them their jumper on the day and talk a bit about what it means to wear the jumper.
“We talk a bit about their form and let them know that they’ve earned their spot.
“It’s an accomplishment because you train, you work really hard, but there’s nothing like getting that pat on the back to say you’ve made it in.”
Westbourne earned promotion after winning division 4 last season and has adapted well to the new division. The Warriors were handed an incredible tough opening month, having to face two of last year’s finalists.
They met the challenges head-on and with a bit of luck could have beaten Power House and La Trobe University.
“We were 25 points up against Power House and coughed up that game and we were 28 points up against La Trobe before we lost our bench [to injury],” Hand said.
“It’s been good for us because it’s been a challenge to see where we’re at.”
“If you want to keep improving, like we do, and keep wanting to give the kids a better quality of opposition on a regular basis, it’s important that we’re playing as good an opposition as we can all the time.”
Westbourne takes on Canterbury, away on Saturday.