By Lance Jenkinson
Werribee Districts upped the ante at the coalface to knock Deer Park off top spot in a 22-point win in the Western Region Football League division 1 at Soldiers Reserve on Saturday.
It keeps the Tigers in the running for a double chance heading into the final round and ends Deer Park’s push for an incredible sixth consecutive minor premiership.
Tigers coach Chris Gilham saw the belief in his team grow on the back of the victory.
“It’s a huge win for our footy club to beat such a powerhouse in Deer Park,” Gilham said.
“To do it in such a big game, us going for a top-three spot and them going for top spot, there was heaps on the line and to get a result was massive.
“It’s massive for our confidence.”
Of all the teams locked in for September, it just felt like Werribee Districts was the one with the biggest point to prove.
Maybe it was because the Tigers had struggled to put away some of the also-rans until late in matches, which meant they did not have the sky-high percentage of the other sides in the finals.
Their big scalps, however, stack up with the best of them.
“We’ve beaten Deer Park now, we’ve beaten Altona, Hoppers Crossing, so we’ve beaten all the other teams in the top four,” Gilham said.
“It gives us belief that our best is good enough, we’re not making the numbers up.
“If we get the job done against Spotty [in the final round], we’re a chance of finishing in the top three and getting a double chance and having a crack at it.”
The Werribee Districts midfield was at its pressuring best on Saturday, forcing Deer Park into errors. The Tigers had to win the clearance battle due to Deer Park’s plethora of stars forward of centre.
“I just thought our pressure around the ball was massive,” Gilham said.
“We’re playing a team that has got a huge forward line, so if they get quality ball through the middle, they’re just going to open you up.
“Our pressure, our tackle count and our ability to stick tackles against some big powerful boys was first class.”
The Tigers held Deer Park to 40 points –albeit with a bit of help from the Lions, who kicked a wayward 4.16, though Werribee Districts’ return of 8.14 was not much better.
Each time Deer Park got a run on, Werribee Districts had all the answers.
“It was everyone contributing to the defence, an old-fashioned team effort,” Gilham said.
“Deer Park were fantastic too, they kept coming and would have their 10-15 minutes of dominance and then we’d fight back.
“To our credit, we hung in there while we were under the pump and got the win.”
Chris Molivas and Mark Pozzuto were Werribee Districts only multiple goalkickers with two each. Molivas was the Tigers most dangerous forward, while Pozzuto’s work in the midfield was superb.
Shaun McGuinness did a fine job on Deer Park danger man Jase Perkins, while Nathan Black was always willing to put his body in front of a pack for an intercept mark.
Matt Dean put his head over the ball in his typical fashion.
If Werribee Districts can beat Spotswood on Saturday, they will need Hoppers Crossing or Deer Park to lose to finish in the top three, which comes with the finals double chance.
Hoppers Crossing, which moved up to second with a 134-point win over Albion, will battle with ladder leader Altona at J.K. Grant Reserve on Saturday for the right to the minor premiership and bye in week one of the finals.