Werribee Districts got the pick-me-up it desperately needed in the Western Region Football League division 1.
The Tigers’ hold on a top-three spot and the all-important finals’ double chance was on shaky ground heading into the penultimate round after poor recent form.
A timely 38-point victory over local rivals Hoppers Crossing in the Wyndham derby at Soldiers Reserve on Saturday put the Tigers at ease, securing that third spot and a much-needed confidence boost.
“We’ve been battling a little bit,” Tigers’ captain Matt Dean told Star Weekly.
“Against Deer Park, we got rolled by more than 10 goals and they out-played us, then we turned up after the bye and played St Albans and had a shocker.
“We had to wait the whole week to try and rectify that, so it was good to get a win on the board in the end.”
There was no down-playing the importance of the double chance for Werribee Districts.
Last year’s runners up wanted to avoid running the gauntlet of cut-throat games that will confront the sides below them.
The premiership race has tightened up significantly this season with the sides in the middle of the ladder on the improve and the sides at the top as vulnerable as they have been since Deer Park started its three-peat premiership journey in 2013.
“To give yourself the best chance of winning and making the grand final, you don’t want to be outside of the top three,” Dean said.
“You start playing cut-throat football from the first week of the finals and it can be pretty taxing on the body as well as the mind.”
It is above the shoulders where Werribee Districts reaped the most out of their win over second-placed Hoppers Crossing.
The local sides will meet in week one of the finals and the Tigers did not want to go into that match having not tasted success against either of the top two.
“We had to eventually take one of the big scalps,” Dean said.
“If you want to compete in the finals, these are the games that you need to perform in.”
Werribee Districts piled on eight goals to two in the last quarter for a runaway win.
It was perhaps the Tigers most complete team performance of the year.
Andrew Panayi broke the game open for Werribee Districts, while Nathan Black displayed tremendous versatility.
Bol Kolang’s ability to share the honours with reigning Priest Medal winner Wayde Skipper went some way to Werribee Districts claiming the four points.
“He’s a barometer for us Bol, if he performs well, generally we play pretty well,” Dean said.
Werribee Districts will round out the home-and-away season on the road at Spotswood on Saturday, while Hoppers Crossing has the bye before the finals.
Wyndhamvale was delivered the wooden spoon by Deer Park, which wrapped up the minor premiership with a 201-point win at John McLeod Oval.
The Falcons will play their last game under 2015 division 2 premiership-winning coach Troy Beamond against Sunshine Kangaroos at home this Saturday.