After hitting rock bottom, Footscray can see light at the end of the tunnel.
The Bulldogs finally ended their 13-game Rugby Victoria Dewar Shield losing streak with a thrilling 24-23 win over Endeavour Hills at Henry Turner Reserve on Saturday.
Bulldogs coach Leni Tui was thrilled for his players, half of whom decided to stay at the kennel as others departed, while the other half are youngsters making their way at the top level.
“We had a lot of players walk out on us,” Tui said. “We’re lucky we had a few players hang around and we called on the colts to step up.
“Today they stepped up. We’ve been wanting a win for them and they deserve it.”
Footscray’s victory had an element of luck to it.
Endeavour HIlls had a chance to snatch victory through a penalty goal late, but the kick landed short.
There was no such problems off the kicker’s tee for Footscray’s Yuta Matsumoto, who kicked the game-sealing penalty. The Japanese native also had three conversions for the game and his kicking in general play was also a factor in the Bulldogs win.
“He performed pretty well for us today,” Tui said. “He kicked those important penalties and conversions and just turned those Endeavour Hills big boys around with his kicking.”
Blessing Sehweah scored an early try to keep Footscray in the contest.
Late on, tries to captain Charlie Sale and Sau Ofahengaue allowed the Bulldogs to bridge the deficit. Sale was hugely influential on the result and has been a leader in the face of adversity for the Dogs.
Tui is hoping the win will be a turning point for Footscray.
“It was good to finally get a win,” Tui said. “We’ve had some heavy losses, but we’re moving forward.”
Tui believes Footscray will be better for the pain for of 2019 in the long run.
No matter how low they have been, the Bulldogs’ coaches have been setting standards that will stay with the group for a long time.
“We had some issues with players not turning up to training and I didn’t just allow those players to rock up on game day and expect to walk into our team,” Tui said.
“The discipline didn’t go down well with some of the players who expected just to walk into our team and some of them walked away.
“I’m glad that we changed the culture. Those guys who hung around have sort of dragged the team back.”