Western Jets have produced one of the shocks of the TAC Cup season, knocking premiership contenders Oakleigh Chargers off top spot.
In a game between the top and bottom sides in the competition, it was the unfancied Jets who came away with a memorable six-point win at Burbank Oval on Saturday.
“The last six weeks we’ve played the top six teams,” Jets coach Torin Baker said.
“It was good to finally crack through for a win.”
Western Jets had to dig deep to get the win.
The undermanned Jets were seven points down at three quarter-time and two rotations short on the bench after injuries to key players Zak Butters (quad) and Nick Stuhldreier (concussion).
One of the Jets’ top onballers, Lachlan Fogarty, was also lame with a corked calf. Fogarty was forced to stay inside forward 50, so the Jets would not go a further rotation down.
“It was nice for the boys to fight it out and get the reward,” Baker said.
“We just had multiple contributors on the day – it was really just an even spread.
“We couldn’t have picked too many players who didn’t play their role on the day.”
When the match was there for the taking, it was the highly touted Cameron Rayner who stepped up for the Western Jets.
Widely tipped to be selected with the first pick in this year’s AFL draft, Rayner showed his class with a long goal on the run at the start of the last quarter to give the Jets momentum.
“It was a big moment in the game, running through the middle of the ground and popping it through from 55 metres out,” Baker said.
“He was the stand out. He had great balance in his game, whether it was the offensive element or defensive, then he added a bit of class.”
Jets backman Luke Hitch worked hard to quell his opponents, usually dangerous small forwards, and provided drive out of defence.
It was a big day for Darren Walters and Matthew Volkanovski, who worked in tandem to nullify the Chargers towering ruckman Ned Reeves. Toby Kopa kicked the game-sealing goal for the Jets in the last quarter.
Aided by a friendly fixture, the Western Jets are still in with a hope of reaching the finals. The Jets play the three sides directly above them on the ladder, starting with Northern Knights at RAMS Arena on Saturday morning.
“Now we play teams just around us and above us, so our season is alive in terms of the final eight,” Baker said.