After two Covid disrupted seasons, the Werribee Bears are finally back playing finals football in 2022.
It's been far from smooth sailing this year with injuries and unavailability taking its toll on the club at certain points during the season.
This is a side that easily could’ve rolled over and thrown in the towel but instead, here they are preparing for a Qualifying Final and a chance to book their spot in the Storm Premiership Grand Final.
With a wealth of experienced talent leading the charge, Werribee’s ability to grind out tough and ‘ugly’ victories has seen them stand out from the crowd this season. In Werribee’s last four matches played, they’ve gone on to win by six-points or less. A stat that underpins just what Bears rugby league is all about.
Werribee Bears captain Tiani Kani was full of praise for her side, crediting their resilience and ability to take on any challenge thrown their way.
“It feels great to take out top spot, especially with the last few seasons that have been cut short,” she said.
“Coming into this season it was all pretty unpredictable for a lot of our team, we started off with eight players coming through and so to go through and finish on top of the ladder is a big achievement for our team and club as a whole,” Kani said.
Werribee will be looking to draw on all of their experience when they take on a young Altona side this Saturday.
Alongside sister Georgina Moana, Kani has been instrumental for the Bears this season, with both girls wealth of experience playing a big factor in the Bears ability to close out close games this season.
Kani said that with plenty of new faces around the squad this season, the opportunity to help new players develop and learn the game has been a rewarding process and something she hopes will help to continue to grow the game down in Victoria.
“For me it’s amazing to have those girls that have never played the sport come take part this season, as in the beginning they lacked a lot of confidence and belief in themselves,” the Bears captain said.
“They’ve gone from being thrown in the deep end of a sport they’d never heard of before to progressing to where they are now so it’s a really proud moment,” she said.
“For all the new players, I’d love to see them come back next year and even trial for the state side if they’re ever interested.”
Werribee have been boosted by the emergence of young talent this year, with the likes of 18-year old Drew-Jade Moana and 19-year old Jade Te Aute both stepping up into the Women’s division.
“They are the two youngest players in our side and to watch them grow in the sport from where they started to where they are now, these girls are going to be the next leading females in rugby league for women down in Melbourne," Kani said.
When they face the Roosters at Casey Fields for their Qualifying Final, Kani believes her side has the quality to get the job done regardless of the adversity they may face on Saturday.
“Coming into this game, we are going to muscle up and run with whatever is thrown our way, it’s all about trusting and believing in our team,” she said.
“I really hope the girls can pull through, for a lot of this team they're experiencing finals for the first time, so I’m excited to see the look of the girls when they finally hit the big stage.”
“We are coming up against a very young and versatile Altona side so I wouldn’t put it past them as they are a really good team,” she said.
“It’s up to us to play our own game as while they are probably a younger and fitter team, we have a lot of experience in our team and that helps to get us over the line, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”