By David Nagel
Berwick Football Club has secured one of its proudest home-and-away victories in recent times after the Wickers produced a stunning six-goal final term to score a 10.17 (77) to 9.12 (66) triumph over Balwyn at Balwyn Park on Saturday.
The Wickers – deemed out of their depth in the powerful Eastern Football League Premier Division in some quarters – proved the doubters wrong with a backs-to-the-wall victory against the Tigers, who finished second on the ladder and played in the 2019 preliminary final.
Berwick led by three-points at quarter time but once again failed to capitalise on its opportunities in front of goals. The Wickers kicked 2.6 in the first term and backed that up with a 1.5 second quarter to trail by one point – 3.11 (29) to 4.6 (30) – at the major interval.
The Wickers, who kicked 7.17 (59) to blow their chances in a two-point loss to Noble Park in round one, once again struggled to hit targets in the third, kicking 1.5 to 3.5 to trail by 13 points at three-quarter time.
Midfielders Tom Brennan, Travis Tuck, Trent Thomas and Madi Andrews were having a significant impact on the contest, but it would all prove fruitless if the forwards could not find their range in the final term.
But the likes of Harry Money – who booted four goals and was among the Wickers’ best players – and Jordy Andrews, who kicked two, would find range just in the nick of time with the visitors booting 6.1 to 2.1 in the final term to run out 11-point winners.
Coach Clint Evans was thrilled with his side’s bounce-back performance after a 10-goal loss to Rowville last week.
The return of players like Tuck, Will Arthurson, Riley Heddles and Bailey Asher made a huge difference to the way the Wickers play their footy. Evans could not possibly have been more proud when reflecting on his side’s big win.
“It’s massive for the boys and massive for the club, there was a lot of emotion in the room after the game,” Evans said.
“There’s been a lot going on and nothing much has gone our way. We kicked ourselves out of the game against Noble Park and then were a bit depleted against Rowville.
“It’s just great for the committee, who has put in so much hard work, and for the players, that we finally got some reward.”
Evans said there was a simple one-word recipe for success on the weekend.
“Pressure,” was the coach’s blunt response.
“The smaller ground probably suited the way we wanted to play, but every player bought in to what we wanted to do and I couldn’t be prouder of their efforts.
“We had some extra bulk around the stoppages and structured up really well when it was in our forward half, it was a very competitive and very discipline team performance.”
Evans said bad kicking at goal once again threatened to undermine a dominant possession count.
“We were 3.11 at half time, and then missed some easy shots in the third, but we just stayed composed at three-quarter time because we knew the opportunities would come,” he said.
“Harry (Money) kicked one really early in the last quarter and then we got on a roll and we couldn’t miss from then on.”
The Wickers hit the front mid-way through the last term and wouldn’t be denied, kicking 17 points clear before Balwyn answered with a goal after the siren.
The Wickers celebrated with a rousing rendition of their club song, with captain Luke Shephard joining in from the comfort of his lounge room after undergoing surgery on his achilles on the Thursday prior to the contest.
“It was pretty special,” Evans said.
“The boys obviously have a lot of respect for their captain and it was great to able to share our first win in Eastern with him.
“The big challenge now is to back it up because there are no easy games in this competition.”
The Wickers will be without Jordy Andrews (medial) and Riley Heddles (shoulder) this week, but are hopeful of regaining star duo Jo West and Bryce Rutherford for the big clash against North Ringwood at Edwin Flack Reserve.