Hoppers Crossing coach Steve Kretiuk admits that Saturday’s upset 10-point win over reigning premier Deer Park was not one the club would have “pencilled in”.
In Kretiuk’s five years as coach of the Warriors it was only the second time they had beaten Deer Park, the powerhouse that has won all five Western Region Football League division 1 premierships in that time.
Although Deer Park was missing a handful of first team regulars, it was still a satisfying win for the Warriors, who were fielding a raw and inexperienced side of their own.
“It’s the first time in my five years we’ve beaten them at their home ground and only the second time in five years that we’ve actually beaten them,” Kretiuk said.
“In saying that, they had a few players out, which probably helped our cause a little bit. But they have a fair bit of depth and having that depth allows them to bring in some pretty handy players.
“It was probably one of the youngest sides we’ve put out on the park in a long time, so we’re rapt to get the win.”
It was a significant result for Hoppers Crossing, which improved to eight wins, joining five teams with the same number.
Sunshine is on the outer, but is starting to make a run in the second half of the season, meaning six teams are staking claims for finals spots and even a top three berth that comes with a double chance.
“It’s a bit of a logjam at the moment between first and sixth,” Kretiuk said.
“It’s important we treat every week like an elimination final because Sunshine are coming up behind us and you can’t take your foot off the accelerator for even one game.”
It was a consistent performance from Hoppers Crossing. The Warriors opened up a nine-point break at quarter-time and kicked three goals a quarter thereafter in a low-scoring game.
Deer Park made a late push with a six-goal final term, but the Warriors were good enough to hold on.
“The boys just found a way, especially through the midfield, to nullify the game in the last five minutes to hold on,” Kretiuk said.
Daniel Strnak had a break-out game for Hoppers Crossing, kicking four important goals and never shirking a contest.
“I think it was a big turning point in his footy career,” Kretiuk said. “In previous years, against some of these more physical sides, he found it hard to impact the game.
“I saw a different Strnak and he didn’t take a backward step to anyone.”
Mathew Ryan played his best game since being dogged by shoulder issues.
The wingman had just returned from an overseas trip that might have been the tonic he needed to freshen up his body.
Kretiuk is calling on his side to attack in-form Caroline Springs with the same vigour when they clash at Hogans Road Reserve on Saturday.
“We spoke about that straight after the game,” he said.
“We’ve got to make sure at home this week that we come to play.”