Sunday was a test of Werribee’s resolve, and one it passed with flying colours.
The Tigers could easily have put this match in the too-hard basket when midfielder Isaac Conway, the most influential player on the ground, went down with a game-ending shoulder injury in the second term.
But they found a way, running out 63-point winners over Northern Blues at Avalon Airport Oval to keep their finals flame flickering for another week.
Conway was sensational in the first term, collecting 12 possessions to give Werribee a handy 11-point buffer at the first change.
He was back in the thick of it and began racking up the touches in the second quarter before a hard but fair hip-and-shoulder from Bill Gowers sidelined him to the point of no return.
Conway’s day was over as he nursed a sore shoulder, leaving Werribee crying out for a ball-winner. There were no shortage of Tigers putting their hands up, but one stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Tom Gribble has produced some eye catching games for Werribee, but none compare with this 44-disposal game. Every time a pack formed, it was invariably Gribble who emerged, either with a clearing handball or a nice short pass.
Werribee’s midfield profited from their two-headed ruck monster of Braydon Preuss and Majak Daw. Preuss did the bulk of the centre square aerial work, continuing his outstanding form of late.
Daw chipped in when needed in the ruck, but his best work came in attack, with four goals. Daw kicked two early goals in the last term that put the game out of reach of the Blues, and jump-started an incredible 11-goal final quarter for the Tigers. Dane McFarlane was making a late run at best-on-ground, only to be overshadowed by Gribble. McFarlane’s dare and dash off the half-back line was a feature all day for the Tigers.
It was a day full of highs for the Tigers as they piled on 25 goals, including four to Sam Durdin and two each to Fordham, Matt Hanson, Joe Maishman, Ben McKay, Corey Wagner and debutant Josh Corbett.
Veteran Robin Nahas missed out on the bag he so richly deserved, finishing with just one major after coming close on countless occasions. Nahas’ forward pressure and nifty tap-ons to teammates in better positions would not have gone unnoticed.
Having endured a hellish middle part of the season, including a seven-game losing streak and a lengthy injury list, this was a rare chance for Werribee to enjoy a big win.
It was the Tigers’ second win in succession, eclipsing the streak-snapping 11-point win over North Ballarat eight days earlier, which was a little too close for comfort.
It breathes new life into Werribee’s season and leaves the door slightly ajar for a late run at the finals. The Tigers are ninth, one game outside the top eight.
A trip to Box Hill Hawks awaits them on Sunday. The Tigers have already beaten the Hawks this year and managed to do so twice last year.
With the Hawks recent run of bad results – seven straight losses and counting – they’re down in 11th place. It is not a stretch to say the Tigers will go into Box Hill City Oval as favourites to make it three wins in a row.