By Lance Jenkinson
While the rest of the finalists were running rings around inferior opposition, Werribee Districts received a tough pre-finals test from an improving Sunshine Kangaroos in the Western Region Football League division 1.
The Tigers eventually prevailed by 48 points at Soldiers Reserve on Saturday, but gained a sufficient amount of competitive passages from the Kangaroos to make it a worthwhile warm-up game for the finals.
“They’ve had a year where they’ve known they weren’t going to play finals footy from early on, but they keep having a crack,” Tigers coach Chris Gilham said of the opposition team.
“Today they didn’t go away, that’s for sure.
“We always felt like we had the upper hand in the contest and always thought we were going to win, but they definitely didn’t shy away from the contest or throw it in.
“It was a hard-fought victory in the end.”
Werribee Districts had a flaw exposed during the game, which was rectified at half-time.
The Tigers were getting beaten badly at the stoppages and Gilham had to put some measures in place at the long break to improve the situation.
“They probably had control of the stoppages,” Gilham said.
“Especially in the first half, they were all over us A lot of our offensive stuff was coming off the half back.
“We had to knuckle down around the stoppages because if your whole scoring method is out of the back half, you’re going to struggle.
“I brought it up after half-time and we got more control around the ball.
“It gave our forwards a chance to get a score.”
Nayef Hamad and Bailey Siwek provided the solutions for Werribee Districts with their drive through the middle.
Dillon Viojo-Rainbow got more dominant around the stoppages the longer the game wore on.
The Tigers eventually broke the game open with a nine goals to five final quarter.
Oscar Junker was a constant threat in attack for Werribee Districts with four goals, while Chris Molivas added three.
The Tigers will face cross-town rivals Hoppers Crossing in a mouth-watering elimination final at Avalon Airport Oval on Sunday.
Hoppers will enter the game on the back of a 218-point win over wooden spooners Albion.
The qualifying final will be contested by Spotswood and Deer Park at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday, while minor premiers Altona will get a free pass to the second week of the finals.
In division 2, top-ranked Wyndhamvale will face Yarraville Seddon at JR Parsons Reserve on Saturday for the right to move through to the grand final.
Point Cook Centrals has an elimination final date with Parkside at the same venue on Sunday.
In division 3, local rivals Glen Orden and Tarneit will meet in a do-or-die semi-final at Pennell Reserve on Sunday.
Albanvale and Sunshine Heights will meet at the same venue a day earlier to see which team takes the direct path to the season decider.