Werribee vs Williamstown: not just a local derby
The stakes are always high when Werribee and Williamstown go head to head, but there's a lot more to this match-up than just local bragging rights.
With the two clubs once again set to lock horns this weekend, take a look at some of the incidents that have added fuel to the fire and helped make the rivalry one of the strongest in the VFL.
The battle for survival
The demise of the VFA ushered in a period of turbulence for the association's remaining clubs. Ahead of the 1996 season, under the new VFL brand, the Victorian State Football League ordered a merger between Williamstown and Werribee in order to form an alignment with TAC Cup club Western Jets. With neither club able to agree to terms, the VSFL opted to retain Williamstown and expel Werribee from the competition despite the latter's status as a powerhouse club of the 1990s.
Thanks to then president Bruce Montgomery and major sponsor Rick Wolany driving a groundswell of community support and the threat of legal action, the VSFL re-instated Werribee's licence, but the club remained as the only team in the new VFL competition without a feeder district league or TAC Cup club until it later formed its current alignment with the Geelong Falcons.
Nothing inflames tensions between warring sides quite like players defecting to join the rival camp, and both Werribee and Williamstown have been on the wrong end of such movement over the years, particularly as far as key forwards are concerned. No doubt the most famous example is that of Joskun "Jack" Aziz, a 1990 Seagulls premiership player who went on to become the star full forward in Werribee's 1993 premiership campaign and win two "Frosty" Miller Medals as the VFA's leading goalkicker while at Chirnside Park; but Williamstown got one back when Scott Clouston left Avalon Airport Oval for Point Gellibrand at the end of the 2013 season in controversial circumstances, ultimately going on to play a key role in the Seagulls' 2015 VFL premiership triumph.
Of course, when all is said and done, the key to any great rivalry is a strong history of fierce on-field contests; and while the ledger comfortably favours the Seagulls - who have 48 wins, 26 losses, and a draw from 75 meetings dating back to 1968 - the Werribee-Williamstown rivalry has certainly had its fair share of epic battles.
Among these are a number of memorable finals encounters, the most recent of which the black-and-gold faithful only wish they could forget. In the 2014 semi-final, Werribee looked set to break an 11-game run of losses to the Seagulls when it led the old enemy by 32 points heading into the final term. But the Seagulls proceeded to pile on 9.5 to a solitary point in the final term to run out 26-point winners, stunning the North Port Oval crowd and leaving Werribee fans heartbroken.
Werribee finally broke the hoodoo with a thrilling two-point win at home in round five the following season, but the Seagulls went on to claim that year's premiership and have been the dominant side since - a trend the home team will be all too eager to reverse come Sunday.