A promising start has Werribee Tigers fans dreaming of a finals appearance in the Victorian Football League this season.
Ten games in, the Tigers are a game clear inside the top eight, but their form has been streaky.
They lost their first two games, won their next six and lost their past two, so the form line is still hard to judge.
With a tough road ahead, can Werribee hang on to its spot in the top eight and bring some September joy to their supporters?
Story so far in 2017 for the Werribee Tigers:
Werribee Tigers have been a roadshow in the Victorian Football League this season.
Under the nickname ‘Travelling Tigers’, Werribee has played 10 games at away grounds, while their Avalon Airport Oval home base is upgraded to a state-of-the-art VFL venue.
The Tigers have accepted the short-term pain for the benefits that will come in the future.
There has not been one negative comment about the travel situation to publicly come out of the mouths of Tigers players, coaches or officials.
At 6-4, the travel does not seem to be having a detrimental effect on the Tigers, but whether it takes its toll towards the end of the season remains to be seen.
Split in alignment
The decision was made by Werribee and North Melbourne to go their separate ways with the announcement coming just two weeks into the season.
From 2018, Werribee will field a standalone side in the VFL, while North Melbourne will get its own team in the state league competition.
Instead of creating a wedge between the players, they banded together and vowed to make the last season a memorable one.
The Tigers reeled off six consecutive wins following the announcement.
Werribee’s trip to Wangaratta looked like it was going to turn into a disaster.
The Tigers went into the game full of confidence after solid wins over Essendon and Casey Demons, but the air had certainly gone out of the tyres by quarter-time when they stared a 41-point deficit in the face.
While the Tigers are prone to slow starts, one quality about this team is their willingness to fight out a game, no matter what the situation.
This was one such game, when the Tigers closed the gap to a manageable 18 points by half-time, then put the foot down to lead by eight at the final change. They returned from ‘the Wang’ with an 11-point win and a season highlight.
The six-game win streak was fun while it lasted for Werribee, but reality has set in over the past two weeks in consecutive losses to bogey side Footscray, who they have lost twice to this season, and Sandringham, who had not registered a win since May 14.
The Sandringham loss on Sunday had a familiar look to it, trail big early and fight back late – only this time the Tigers fell short by six points and they tumbled down to eighth on the ladder as a result.
If Werribee can get back to its winning form against Coburg Lions this Saturday at Piranha Park, the recent losses can be put down to a form dip, but if they lose it will officially be in a slump.
Matt Hanson continues to remind AFL recruiters of his potential.
Hanson, who featured in the Victorian state team, has been the pick of the Werribee-aligned players with his efficient ball use and tackling pressure.
Seldom is there a contested ball situation without Hanson somewhere in the vicinity.
Rebounding defender Ryley Barrack has also worked hard two ways, both in the one-on-one contests and with his drive out of defensive 50.
Captain Michael Sodomaco was playing some fine football in defence before injury struck and cost him a spot in the state game with the Big V.
Of the North Melbourne contingent, big name players Andrew Swallow, Majak Daw and Lindsay Thomas have featured prominently in certain games, but a number of youngsters have stood out, including lightly framed key forward Nick Larkey.
Larkey is Werribee’s leading goalkicker with 21 goals.
Having dominant ruckman Braydon Preuss, who could be a starting ruckman in most AFL sides, in the team has benefited Werribee greatly.
Eight games left means eight more road trips and that’s just in the home-and-away rounds.
If the Tigers are to reach the finals, they will have earned it with games against top three clubs Box Hill Hawks, Port Melbourne and Williamstown still to come.
Of Werribee’s last eight games, only two will be against sides currently sitting outside the top eight, which heightens the importance of Saturday’s must-win game away to one-win Coburg.