A gruelling road ahead for Hoppers Crossing heightened the importance of a 50-point victory over Altona Vikings in a Western Region Football League division 1 ‘eight-game game’ at Hogans Road Reserve on Saturday.
In the next five rounds, the Warriors will face arch-rivals Werribee Districts back at Hogans Road on Saturday, followed by Caroline Springs and then premiership contenders Sunshine Kangaroos, Deer Park and Spotswood.
It was a must for the Warriors to enter that tough block of matches with confidence stemming from a win.
The Warriors came out with all guns blazing in a seven-goal-to-one opening term and never looked back.
“Both teams were playing for a lot, they were playing for a spot in the five and we were trying to consolidate our spot on the ladder,” Warriors coach Steve Kretiuk said. “It was up for grabs, so we really made an emphasis on getting off to a good start and we certainly did that.
“I thought our first quarter was really good, they sort of wrestled their way back into the game and out-scored us in the second quarter, but we got away again in the second half.”
Hoppers Crossing has found its offensive groove over the past month.
The Warriors posted 100-plus points for a third time in four weeks.
They had nine individual goalkickers, including four to Jordan Staley and two each to Jordan Mead, Nathan Williams and Adam Poland.
Staley, a key forward aligned with Footscray in the VFL, was the game breaker.
Braden Ferrari, the second tall forward target, was similarly influential, even with just one goal to his name, while Jordan Cook was electrifying with his speed.
“We’re starting to get cleaner footy coming forward and we’ve restructured our forward line in certain stages of the game to help our forwards and better utilise what we’ve got down there,” Kretiuk said. “We’ve only been doing it the last four weeks and it’s worked well for us, so we’ll keep going down that path.
“If we can keep manipulating the forward line and everyone is playing their role, it’s going to be very hard for opposition teams to match up on.”
The main focus for Hoppers Crossing was the redemption of the defenders.
The Warriors back six copped a little bit of heat from Kretiuk during the week for their dismal performance in the round prior against St Albans and they responded.
“St Albans scored from 83% of their entries inside 50 last week, which is something we were pretty much embarrassed about,” Kretiuk said. “We put a real emphasis on our defence negating their inside 50 entries, our midfield did put on some real good pressure on, which allowed our guys like [Jackson] Viola, [Daniel] Nielsen and [Daniel] Riosa to cut off some entries for them and get us going back the other way.
“Our defence was outstanding today against a good opposition.”
The word redemption might have to be rolled out again in the Hoppers Crossing club rooms this Saturday.
Fresh in their minds going into a local derby with Werribee Districts is their round three loss when they performed well below expectation.
“We were disappointing against Werribee last time, we didn’t come to play, our attitude was pretty poor and Werribee were outstanding,” Kretiuk said. “We need to make sure we come with our game face on because they’re in some good form and sitting fourth on the ladder now.”