Excitement was aplenty at Avalon Airport Oval on Saturday, as Werribee took to the field for the first time in more than 600 days.
After no Victorian Football League action last year due to COVID-19, players and spectators alike were eagerly awaiting the bounce of the ball against Collingwood in the new look competition.
Werribee put in a determined performance, but was left to pay for poor execution in the 10.9 (69)- 9.8 (62) loss.
It was the Magpies who jumped out of the gates early and led by two goals at the first break, with the margin the same at half time.
Werribee started to get on top in the third quarter to bring the margin back to a point at the last break.
A lapse from Werribee early in the last quarter proved costly and would ultimately decide the game, with the Magpies able to hold on.
Werribee coach Michael Barlow said they were made to pay for not playing a full 120 minutes.
“It was a slow start from us, and in the last quarter when we revved up and we thought we were ready to go, we lapsed for five or six minutes and gave Collingwood a couple [of goals].
“They held the lead and we were scrapping and clawing to get back into it. We had our chances.
“The pressure is what playing an AFL-aligned club provides, we knew that was coming and there were some key moments where we lapsed.
“There were some poorer decisions than we would have liked and we let Collingwood back into the game, off our own doing essentially.”
Barlow said those poor decisions and execution were something they would work on at training throughout the week.
Despite the loss, Barlow saw plenty of positives to come out of the game against a side which had plenty of AFL experience.
“We had our chances, which was pleasing. We walked away with a real opportunity to win,” he said.
“In all the KPI’s, we put a lot of green up [ticked a lot of boxes].
“When you put a lot of green up at the end of the day a lot has gone right, execution and key decisions we will have to address and look at and we’ll get better playing games.
“Our midfielders stood up and got the ball… We won the clearances and the contested ball, it was just a bit of polish in the end and grabbing onto some opportunities.
“A lot of our guys essentially haven’t played footy for over 600 days.”
Matthew Hanson was the most prolific for Werribee, with 28 disposals, while Tom Gribble contributed 27.
Former Geelong and Port Adelaide player Wylie Buzza kicked four goals on debut for Werribee.
He was one of eight players to pull on the Werribee jumper for the first time.
Barlow said Buzza looked likely every time the ball was in the air.
Among the eight players making their debut for Werribee, were three making their VFL debut.
“Jay Dahlhaus had some moments,” Barlow said.
“Lucas Rocci is just a competitor who hates to lose and Jesse Clark got given a really good job against an experienced 10 year AFL player and got the result, his side of the ledger.
“That was pleasing.”
Louis Pinnuck said it was good to finally get back on the field in front of their fans. He said the guys were pretty frustrated and disappointed about the loss.
“They had 16 or 1 listed blokes playing,” he said. “When push comes to shove they had a bit more polish than us.
“In the midfield in the first half, it was a really contested game and not much open footy at all.
“We turned the ball over a fair bit coming outside 50 which didn’t help at all. We’ll work on our skills during the week, work on that polish.”
Werribee’s task doesn’t get any easier this week, as it faces Williamstown underlights on Saturday night at Avalon Airport Oval.
Barlow said they would look to have more of a hardened edge to the team this week.
Now we want to go our and break my duck as a coach and break our duck as a group.