Andrew Hooper’s 100th senior VFL game ended in defeat, but he will cherish the day nevertheless.
Werribee mounted a spirited comeback against a star-studded Footscray at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday, kicking the last eight goals of the game, only to fall short by eight points.
Hooper was disappointed not to sing the club song on his big day, but was still immensely proud of the milestone.
“It’s a great honour to play 100 senior VFL games,” Hooper said.
“I would’ve loved to have played 100 AFL games, but VFL is the next highest standard of football.
“I knew I was close, so I’m grateful for Werribee to take me on with North Ballarat being eliminated from the competition.”
Hooper’s 100 has come at three different clubs.
The electrifying small forward wanted to keep playing at the highest level possible after he was delisted by AFL club Western Bulldogs, where he managed seven games at top level, including debuting and having a big impact in a semi final win over the Sydney Swans at the MCG.
Hooper’s first foray in VFL football came with Williamstown and he then went on to become a fan favourite at North Ballarat before they left the VFL last season.
The 27-year-old was not ready to step back into local football and picked up a contract with Werribee for its first year back as a standalone side.
“What makes travelling [from Ross Creek, just outside of Ballarat] three times a week worth it is the football club and the people around the club,” Hooper said.
“The support we’ve got down there at Werribee is absolutely unbelievable.
“It’s not just the coaches, the support staff and all that, you’ve got the fans who come out each week to support us and they’re absolutely fantastic.”
Hooper is one of the most experienced players on the Werribee list.
He does not have an official leadership tag, but he takes on the role anyway.
“We’ve got a great leadership group, the five or six boys in there, but I find that you don’t have to be captain or vice captain or be in the leadership group to show your leadership,” Hooper said.
“Coming to a new club, I wanted to play football, but also lead by example and try and guide the younger boys.”
Werribee was made to pay the price for switching off in the third quarter against Footscray.
Footscray took advantage, kicking five unanswered goals in 15 minutes for a 58-point lead midway through the third term.
While Werribee showed great spirit on the back of an eight-goal spree of its own, the damage had been done.
Inconsistency from quarter to quarter is a by-product of a young team still finding its feet, but Hooper is confident the trend can be arrested before too long.
“If we can cut out our differences between our good and bad and close that gap, it’s going to go a long way,” he said.
“It’s a young group and when it was put on us [at three-quarter time] of having that last say in the game and putting that last quarter together to see what we can do, we really played to our structure and our plan.
“It shouldn’t take that to get us going, you’ve got to do that from the first quarter.”
Werribee (1-5) has a crucial game away to Sandringham Zebras (2-4) at Trevor Barker Oval on Sunday.