From the Wyndham Star weekly.
Matt Hanson in game 100. (Belinda Vitacca Photography)
Werribee is now one game from a Victorian Football League grand final berth after a first up finals win on Saturday.
Entering the finals as the form team in the competition on the back of 15 straight wins, Werribee faced Box Hill for the first time this season in a qualifying final.
Werribee got out an early lead of 20 points before the Hawks steadied late in the first quarter. Not much separated the two teams after that with Werribee able to maintain its lead throughout on the way to an 11.14 (80)-8.12 (60).
Werribee coach Michael Barlow said it was a nice feeling to win through to the preliminary final for the first time since 2013.
The club at the time was aligned with North Melbourne and it was its third preliminary final in a row without making it any further.
Barlow himself is no stranger to a VFL preliminary final, having been part of Werribee’s team in 2008.
“It’s pretty cool seeing where we have come from and the way it is all coming together,” he said.
“We’ve got into a preliminary final now. We’ll get into it now and write on the white board how the next couple of weeks will look and how to plan it out.”
While Werribee entered the finals with not much finals experience at this level, Barlow said the group of leaders that have been about for a long time really led from the front.
He said the continuity of the group and the coaching group the last few years meant that they understood the important moments as a side, which they did on the weekend.
Barlow said Saturday’s game was one where they couldn’t really get away from Box Hill but did enough early in the first quarter to lead throughout.
“Box Hill is a good side and we knew that they would come for us,” he said. “At the start of the game neither side was dominant but we were able to make the most of our opportunities.
“After 15 minutes we were 20 points up and that was the margin in the end.
“They came from 27 points back to nine points, but our experienced players stood up. It’s really important to do the work early in finals.”
Barlow said they would take plenty of positives out of the game, as well as a number of areas that they still have to work on.
“We couldn’t get a handle on their game,” he said. “Both sides had moments they were good around the ball, the loose ball and really strong aerially.
“There were a few areas that we weren’t at a high level we would have liked. We had to win a little bit differently.
“There’s some good focus areas, two or three areas that we need to improve if we’re going to have a chance to win a preliminary final.
Kye Declase was the only multiple goal kicker for Werribee with three goals. Tom Gribble had 26 disposals, while skipper Nick Coughlan had 25 possessions.
Milestone man Matt Hanson had 21 disposals in his 100th VFL game.
Barlow said their backline led the way, especially early when they set up the match winning lead.
“Nick Coughlan got a lot of intercept marks,” he said. “Kye Declase on a wing was really good on a day where there was no dominant forward, he kicked three goals.
“Dom Brew in the middle did a defensive role and got plenty of the ball. Louis Pinnuck was also in the best three or four.”
Werribee now gets a week off ahead of the preliminary final where it will face either Williamstown or the Brisbane Lions.
For Werribee, a win will put it through to its first grand final since 2005 as the club searches for its second premiership, the other being in 1993.
Barlow said they would get five sessions in before the preliminary final.
“We’ll manage the loads and have more dedicated training,” he said. “We’ll look to have a circuit breaker and we thought about giving them a night off, but they have a thirst to want to be around each other.”