As the six-time defending premier, Deer Park is automatically thrust into the conversation about Western Region Football League division 1 title contention.

For much of this season, though, the Lions have been talked up as contenders more on the back of reputation, rather than output on the park.

That is not all their own doing because they have endured injury struggles with key players in a season in which a number of opposition clubs have taken giant strides forward in terms of star power.

So it has been hard to get a gauge whether the Lions should still be considered the team to beat or just a challenger to Altona, which was confirmed as minor premier on Saturday.

The past two weeks might have provided a better indication of where Deer Park sits, as opposed to how it looked a fortnight ago.

The Lions have broken back into the top three with stirring wins over Werribee Districts and Spotswood – the latter a memorable victory away from home.

Lions coach Marc Bullen admits it was tough going a fortnight ago as they strived not just for a double chance in the finals, but also simply to maintain a finals berth.

Bullen has been impressed with how his players have responded to the immense pressure of the past two games.

The Lions have shown the hunger and quality is still there, sure to ensure sweaty palms in September for Altona and the rest.

“Our backs were against the wall after the loss to Hoppers Crossing a fortnight ago, but the application and the commitment of the playing group since has been first class,” Bullen said.

“We gave ourselves a chance [of a top three finish] last week by beating Werribee Districts, who are another top two contender.

“The boys fight, their will and their effort to get the job done for the club was first class.”

Deer Park produced its most significant win of the year over Spotswood at McLean Reserve on Saturday.

The Lions were at their competitive best in the second half to get over the line, despite stars Shannon Byrnes (calf) and Jack Redpath (arm) sustaining injuries and Chris Stewart (glute) far from 100 per cent.

“When it was there to be won, time and time again a blue and gold jumper was winning the crucial one-on-one battles,” Bullen said.

Scott Greenhough was immense for Deer Park in the ruck, Daniel Cooper had claims for best-on-ground with his defensive acts and Kwame McHarg kicked three majors.

Deer Park’s defence of third spot will begin against St Albans at Kings Park Reserve on Saturday.

In other division 1 games, St Albans was too strong for confirmed wooden spooner Albion, winning by 113 points.

Caroline Springs went down by 63 points to Hoppers Crossing, while Sunshine was no match for minor premiers Altona.

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