Spotswood Football Club will be torn on Saturday when two of its former juniors battle it out for a spot in the AFL grand final.
Richmond half-back flanker Bachar Houli and GWS Giants midfielder Callan Ward learned their trade in the green and gold at McLean Reserve before going on to play for Western Jets in the TAC Cup and then getting drafted.
For three hours on Saturday, the former Woodsmen will be adversaries trying to help their clubs through to the biggest stage of all, the MCG on that last Saturday in September.
Houli, 29, was drafted by Essendon with pick 42 in the 2006 national draft, but only played 29 games before moving across to Richmond.
It has been at the Tigers where the penetrating left footer has made a name for himself with the clash against the Giants in the preliminary final on Saturday to be his 143rd game in the yellow and black.
Houli has been embraced by and feels the passion of the famous Tiger Army each time he has set foot on the MCG, but never before has he felt an atmosphere as good as when the Tigers rolled through Geelong in the qualifying final.
“It’s very special when the Tiger Army is out in force,” Houli told
Star Weekly. “There were 95,000 fans [at the qualifying final] and the majority of them were Richmond supporters.
“They’ve been very patient with their support and the fruits are there now.”
Richmond has not featured in a grand final since 1982. The Tigers’ last flag was in 1980. Houli says the key to Richmond’s chances is continuing to maintain its unbreakable team bond.
“You don’t get to where we are without good connection,” Houli said.
“That’s the great thing about our group, we’ve got great connection with all lines.
“The backs, mids and forwards, we all rely on each other, we all work together and when you find teams are gelling together, success comes your way.”
Ward got his start at the Western Bulldogs, playing 60 games from 2008-11.
The 27-year-old was recruited by the Giants in 2012 and installed as co-captain in the expansion club’s inaugural season.
Ward, who has played 131 games for the Giants, is hoping to lead the club to its first ever AFL grand final.
Meanwhile, Kane Lambert, who sparked his career with Williamstown in the Victorian Football League, will be looking to play a big role for Richmond, while Corey Ellis, another Western Jets product, will feature in Richmond’s VFL grand final, should he miss out on selection for the seniors.
The western suburbs, and in particular Spotswood, is proving a great source of talent for AFL clubs to tap into.