Hoppers Crossing has declared itself as Wyndham’s frontrunner for the Western Region Football League division 1 premiership with victory in a fiery Wyndham derby against Werribee Districts.
The 30-point win was a gutsy showing by the Warriors, who were down a rotation from early in the first quarter after Mitch Palma injured his back.
Warriors coach Steven Kretiuk described his side’s effort as “character building”.
“We were down one rotation pretty much all day,” he said.
“It was pretty close, and then in the third quarter we sort of broke it open a bit – got ourselves a margin and managed to hang on towards the end.”
It was a spicy clash between long-time rivals.
There were scuffles and niggles at times, but Kretiuk said they did little to add to the occasion.
“There were a couple of fireworks throughout the day,” he said.
“I said to the guys, ‘This rivalry has always been built up over the years, but we’ve got to move on from this and be better as a club’.
“It’s good to have rivalries, but if it’s going to get our minds off the actual purpose of the game and the fundamentals we have to tick off to win a game of footy, there’s no use having them.
“Regardless of who we’re playing, we’ve got to play each game on its merits.”
After only a kick separated the sides at half-time, Hoppers Crossing banged on seven unanswered goals in the third quarter to take a 45-point lead into the last change.
The Warriors took their foot off the pedal in the fourth – something Kretiuk partly blamed on his players getting sidetracked by activities other than chasing the football.
“I think the last quarter, when there were spot fires here and there, that’s when they got on top and we’ve got to be better than that,” Kretiuk said.
“When a club tries to ruffle our feathers, we’ve just got to walk away and get on with the job.”
A bit of fune-tuning was needed at the half-time break for Hoppers Crossing to hit the high notes in the third quarter.
The Warriors produced a scintillating 30 minutes of football on the back of a lift in defensive intensity.
“We wanted to make sure we came out after half-time and made a statement with our tackling pressure – and we certainly did that,” Kretiuk said.
“We were hunting the ball in packs, we were getting plus-ones at the contest … it allowed us to get some good inside-50s and keep them goal-less in the third quarter.”
Onballers Mathew Ryan, Reece Miles and Matthew Smith were superb at the coalface for Hoppers Crossing.
Braden Ferrari’s tight-checking limited dangerous Tigers forward Chris Molivas to two goals.
Forward Daniel Riosa kept presenting on the lead, while Matthew Turner jagged four goals against his old club.
The Warriors are two games clear on top of the ladder heading into the bye, which Kretiuk said had “come at a good time for us”.
“We’ve got a few sore guys and we’ll freshen them up physically and mentally,” he said.
Werribee Districts will host Spotswood in a tantalising third-versus-fourth match-up at Soldiers Reserve on Saturday.