By Lance Jenkinson
It has been a tough, and at times uncertain, season for Hoppers Crossing, but it has sealed a berth in the Western Region Football League division 1 finals for a sixth consecutive year.
The Warriors stamped their ticket to the September action with a 51-point win over Sunshine Kangaroos on the road at Kinder Smith Reserve on Saturday.
Warriors coach Steven Kretiuk is proud of the determination from his team this season.
“Midway through the year, a lot of teams wrote us off,” Kretiuk said.
“We’ve got a lot of belief in this group.
“We’ve got a really young group still and it’s very inexperienced in terms of playing senior footy at this level, so to be in the position where we’re at, it’s great for us.
“We’re really excited to be part of the finals series going forward.”
Hoppers Crossing’s depth has been tested this season. The Warriors lost some star power with injuries to Jordan Mead and Chris Endres.
If there is one thing that Kretiuk has not been afraid of since his arrival at Hoppers Crossing, it is promoting youth.
“We’ll continue to build from within and give these guys opportunities,” he said.
“I’m really pleased with what we’ve done without Chris Endres and Jordan Mead.
“They’re arguably our two best users and playmakers.
“Them pulling the pin early in the season and for us to be where we’re at with one game to go and to make the finals, it’s a great achievement by the group.”
Hoppers Crossing savoured its win away to Sunshine.
Historically, the Warriors have struggled to beat the Kangaroos away, and had not done so since 2016 after copping heavy losses at Kinder Smith Reserve in their past two visits.
“Sunshine have really done a number on us a few times at their ground,” Kretiuk said.
“They’ve lost a few players and Adam Contessa is doing the right thing and putting a lot of young guys in.
“Regardless of who they’ve got and who they’ve lost, they’re really good at home.
“We just needed to make sure we came out and made a statement early with our pressure, which we did.”
Hoppers Crossing will host Albion in the final round, mathematically still in the hunt for a top three finish, though it is unlikely with the three sides above them also enjoying favourable last round fixtures.
One of those sides, Werribee Districts, made it four wins from their past five matches with a 107-point victory over Caroline Springs.
Point Cook had a tough day at the office, losing to Spotswood by 119 points.
In division 2, Wyndhamvale comfortably accounted for North Footscray by 97 points, while Point Cook Centrals had the bye.
In division 3, Glen Orden slumped to its third straight loss, beaten away by Sunshine Heights to the tune of 31 points.
Tarneit cruised to a 109-point win over bottom side North Footscray.
In WRFL women’s, minor premiers Manor Lakes finished the home-and-away rounds on a high note with a 58-point mauling of Point Cook Centrals. Werribee Centrals tuned up for the finals with a 126-point win over Tarneit.
Point Cook Centrals and Werribee Centrals will meet in the elimination final at Wootten Road Reserve on Sunday, while Manor Lakes has a safe passage through to week two of the finals.
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