Not since 1998 has a victory tasted so sweet for Werribee in the Victorian Football League.
After 21 years and a number of AFL alignments, Werribee has claimed its first finals win as a stand-alone club since it beat Springvale in the 1998 second semi-final.
The boys in the Big W fired a warning to the rest of the competition that it means business from the bottom half of the eight after a 41-point mauling of defending premiers Box Hill Hawks at Adcon Stadium on Sunday.
Werribee midfielder Matt Hanson, playing his first game since returning from a hamstring injury, savoured a rare finals win.
“It’s outstanding for us as a team,” he said. “We’ve battled around for about four years since we’ve made a final [when Werribee was an AFL aligned club].
“We’ve certainly been building and it’s just an unreal feeling to be around the club at the moment and to win our first final.”
Tough defence was the main ingredient for Werribee.
To keep a Box Hill side that averaged 78 points per game in the home-and-away season to just 40 in a final is a phenomenal effort.
Hanson praised his side for its adherence to coach Mark Williams’ game plan.
“I think it’s just a mindset thing,” he said. “We’ve got a very set game plan and we all believe in that.
“The backs did an outstanding job today securing the ball back when it came in.
“Everyone is playing their part at the moment, which is good.”
Nick Coughlan set the tone with his intercept marking and it became contagious among the back six.
Daniel Nielson, Kye Declase and Ryan Hebron all had moments where they detonated a Box Hill scoring chance.
Their aerial strength and one-per centers were complimented by exhilarating rebounding of Michael Sodomaco, Dane McFarlane and Louis Pinnuck.
“I can’t really fault the backline this year,” Hanson said.
If a Werribee player needed any inspiration, they had to look no further than Nielson.
A former North Melbourne player, Nielson demonstrated an incredible will to win at every battle.
His desperation in the one-on-one contests would have been a source of constant frustration for his opponents.
“He’s just one of those guys that will give you absolutely everything for the whole game,” Hanson said.
“He’s really reliable and you’d just hate to play on him as an opponent.”
Football games are largely won and lost in the midfield. This game reflected that with Werribee winning the first, third and fourth quarters on the scoreboard and in the midfield battle.
Only the second quarter, where Box Hill kicked four of its five goals of the match, did Werribee’s midfield lower its colours.
“I think we won three of the four quarters,” Hanson said.
“In the second quarter, they got a fair few forward entries from centre clearances, but I think in general, we did the job inside.
“We got our hands on a fair few contested possessions.”
Dom Brew and Joel Bennett were like chalk and cheese with what they delivered for Werribee, but both had significant roles in the win.
Brew was tenacious in-and-under with 13 disposals and set the tone defensively with an incredible 18 tackles. Bennett was more of a creator and a presenter with 12 disposals, five marks and three goals.
Timm House and Matt Munro kicked two goals apiece, while Angus Clarke was praised for his competitiveness in the ruck.
Werribee will head into its cut-throat semi-final against Essendon at Adcon Stadium on Sunday riding a six-game winning streak.
“Momentum is always a good thing to have,” Hanson said.