Westbourne Grammarians weren’t in season-on-the-line territory, but they were close.
With only two wins from their opening seven games, the Warriors needed to find a way against an Aquinas side in a similar predicament in Victorian Amateur Football Association division 3.
The Warriors got the job done, holding on for a brave 12-point win at the Westbourne School Ground on Saturday, getting their season back on track in the process.
They are two wins outside the top four and have renewed hope of challenging for a finals berth.
Warriors coach Justin Johns was delighted.
“It was a big game,” he said. “You could see from the start that both sides wanted it because it makes it hard for the loser and the winner gets back into contention for the top four spot. To get the win was pleasing to say the least.”
After a ferocious opening, Westbourne slowly built a lead across the second and third quarters to hold a healthy 26-point advantage at three-quarter time.
Aquinas refused to go away and caused a few nerves for the Warriors with a fight-back in the last quarter.
“I was a little bit nervous late in the game and being 2-5 does that to you,” Johns said.
“The first half of the last quarter, they got heaps of numbers to the fall of the footy and it made it hard for us to gain control.
“Fortunately, they missed a few chances and to our boys’ credit, the leaders stood up in the last half of the last quarter, which got us some forward 50 entries.”
Apart from the early stages of the last quarter, it was a fairly consistent performance from Westbourne.
The Warriors kicked four goals in each of the first three quarters, three in the last and shared the load with nine individual goalkickers.
Johns was impressed with the brand of football his team displayed in a pressure game.
“We moved the ball really quick and that was something we spoke about doing before the game,” he said.
“We wanted people to walk away from the game and say it was an attractive game of footy.
“We always want to go out and win the game and to kick four goals in just about every quarter is a step in the right direction.”
Michael Culliver was colossal for Westbourne.
The captain led from the front as he always seems to do.
It was not only his influence on game day that caught the eye of Johns.
“He led from the front all week at training, too,” he said. “He was the first person on the track and made sure everyone came out with the right energy to tick off what needed to be ticked off leading into a big game.”
Last year’s captain, Tim Rogers, also led by example, while Chris Hudson kicked three goals and had an important cameo in the ruck.
“Chris threw himself into the ruck in the last 10 minutes of the game and definitely had an influence on the result,” Johns said.
“He didn’t play last week and we fell away across half-forward, but he played at centre half-forward most of the day today and gave us something to kick to.”
Crucial late goals from Kieren Delaney and Daniel Knight secured Westbourne’s win.
The Warriors will be keen to make it two in a row when they face third-placed Canterbury at the Canterbury Sports Ground on Saturday.