Werribee Districts thrives in top test

Werribee District player Andrew Panayi.
Werribee District player Andrew Panayi. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

By Lance Jenkinson

Werribee Districts has conquered one of the toughest away venues in the Western Region Football League division 1.

The Tigers came back from 10 points down at three-quarter time to pip last season’s minor premiers, Altona, by a point in a thriller at JK Grant Reserve on Saturday.

Tigers’ coach Chris Gilham lauded his team’s willingness to scrap for the four points.

“To get away with a win in a tight one was fantastic,” he said.

“We knew it was going to be a big game and a tough challenge to see where we’re at after a pretty easy round one win.

“It doesn’t come much harder than Altona at Altona, so to get the points, we’re rapt.”

Werribee Districts had a soft opening to the season with a 188-point win over a struggling Albion.

So the Tigers were eager to see how they stood up against a premiership contender.

Werribee Districts player Lee Johnston
Werribee Districts player Lee Johnston and Altona player Patrick Rose. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

PHOTO GALLERY: Altona vs Werribee Districts 

“Altona is going to be right there at the end of the year, they’re a first class team and it was a good quality game, so to finish on the right side of it was pleasing,” Gilham said.

There is a freshness about Werribee Districts this season.

The Tigers had a strong recruiting campaign, bringing in some talented youth to ease the workload on veterans who have gone above and beyond in recent years.

A noticeable shift in the Tigers’ thinking could be found late in the Altona game, when Gilham turned to his youngsters.

“The pleasing part in the last 10 to 15 minutes was that we put all our young kids on the ball,” Gilham said.

“Bailey Siwek, Connor Thar and Gavin Donnon were exceptional in the last parts of the quarter on ball. We really trusted those blokes in that stage and they did a great job.

“We can’t have the same three or four in there all year getting battered around. You’ve got to share the load and trust those young fellas can do a job.”

Siwek was the one who stepped up when the game was on the line. All the better that Siwek is a homegrown talent.

“He was a clear standout for us on the ball,” Gilham said. “He had a great game.”

Rhyce Prismall had the enormous task of curtailing Altona prime mover Steven Kennedy and did a stellar job.

“He’s one of our more mature blokes and now playing assistant coach,” Gilham said. “He had a tagging role and did a brilliant job.”

Andrew Panayi was back to his dangerous best with three goals.

“He’s a quality player and he’s always going to hit the scoreboard,” Gilham said.

“In a low-scoring game, to kick three was a handy contribution.”

Werribee Districts’ next test will be an Anzac Day blockbuster against Hoppers Crossing at Soldiers Reserve.

Elsewhere in division 1, Hoppers Crossing pinched a one-point win at the death over
St Albans. With about one minute to go, Brandon Houlihan showed nerves of steel to slot a set-shot goal to give the Warriors their first win of the season.

Point Cook made progress, yet still copped a 50-point loss to Caroline Springs.

In division 2, Wyndhamvale overcame Manor Lakes by 28 points. Point Cook Centrals put up a fight against Yarraville Seddon before going down by six points.

In division 3, Glen Orden continued its super start with a 47-point thrashing of Albanvale on the road. Tarneit was a 39-point winner over Laverton and Wyndham Suns went down by 36 points to Braybrook.