Hoppers Crossing has no intention of dwelling on what went wrong in its thrilling three-point win over Spotswood in the Western Region Football League division 1 first-semi final at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday.
The Warriors have no time to look into the rear-view mirror and dissect how they almost let a 30-point lead slip in the final quarter because they want to lap up their achievement of reaching the preliminary final – a feat that would have been considered against the odds before the season.
For Warriors coach Steven Kretiuk and his players, the manner in which they got there is immaterial.
“There’s no use talking about what-ifs and what went wrong or right – we’ve made a prelim and we start again,” Kretiuk said.
He admitted his side was lucky to have had a bit of a buffer going into the last quarter against fast-finishing Spotswood.
Kretiuk wants his young team’s achievements so far to be celebrated.
There would not be too many hands go up if the punters were asked, in their pre-season predictions, if they were tipping the Warriors to make a preliminary final.
Even Kretiuk thought it would be a stretch.
“If we said at the start of the year … that we’d make the prelim, I would’ve laughed at you,” he said. “Especially with some of the recruits that some of the opposition got into their squads.
“A few of our older guys went and we wanted to give some of our younger guys an opportunity. We thought it might cost us in the short term, but they’ve really stepped up.”
The Warriors will meet Altona in the preliminary final at Burbank Oval on Saturday.
The Vikings have all the expectations on them as minor premiers, while Hoppers Crossing can thrive in the underdog role.
A lack of external pressure is what makes Hoppers Crossing such a dangerous proposition in the preliminary final.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Kretiuk said. “We’ll throw everything at Altona, who are a fantastic side. They touched us up a few weeks ago, so we’re going to go bull-at-a-gate and see what happens.”
The Warriors’ willingness to move on from their last 30 minutes against Spotswood is a good thing for their state of mind.
Spotswood coach Anthony Eames reckons there were enough positives for the Warriors in their first three quarters for them to not be scarred by their final term.
“I think they’ll take some positives out of those first three quarters next week if they are challenged by Altona,” Eames said.
Still, there is learning to be had out of that horrible last quarter for Hoppers Crossing, in which it coughed up five goals to a side that had kicked just one in the opening three terms.
Kretiuk does not hide from the fact that his team got smashed in the clearances in that quarter – 12-3 was the count from their statistician – and it’s something they will not only need to look at during training this week.
In a season that Hoppers Crossing has relied on youngsters to step up, it was fitting that rookie Lachie Grant would kick the crucial fourth-quarter goal against Spotswood.
It makes Kretiuk proud when he sees a young player seize the moment.
“We brought in one of our under-19s into the side in Lachie Grant to play as a small forward, because we just missed that presence and awareness around the goals,” the coach said. “He ended up kicking the winning goal.”
Braden Ferrari, Daniel Nielson and Jackson Viola were prominent in the win for Hoppers Crossing.
If Hoppers Crossing can cause an upset over Altona it will return to the grand final for the first time since 2016 and go some way to easing the lingering pain of last year’s preliminary final exit at the hands of Sunshine.