Williamstown FC - History

To view premiership teams click www.williamstown.com.au/premiership-photos

The Williamstown Football Club was formed in 1864. It is the fourth oldest Australian Rules football club in Australia, with only Melbourne (1858), Geelong (1859) and Carlton (1864, the same year) being older. Other clubs in that era to subsequently form were South Yarra, Albert Park, Royal Park, Brunswick, University, Warehouseman’s, Kyneton, Ballarat, Sandridge, Hotham (North Melbourne) and Belfast (Port Fairy).

The first ground used by Williamstown was the Market Reserve, opposite St Mary's Catholic Church, and bounded by Cecil, Cole and Hanmer Streets. This was before the girls school was built alongside South Williamstown State School. It was not a good surface for football and was often criticized by visitors. The ground was shared with another club called Battery United. In 1879, the Williamstown Council granted the Club use of the Gardens (now Fearon) Reserve, then regarded as one of the best grounds in the Colony, but not on a permanent basis because other functions were held there. Williamstown and Battery United amalgamated in 1882 under the Williamstown name. Williamstown's first official match as a senior club in 1884 was played at Fearon Reserve on May 3 against Fitzroy, which had joined the VFA that year. It was Fitzroy's first recorded game, and resulted in a win, 2 goals to Williamstown's none.  

The Victorian Football Association (VFA) was formed on May 7, 1877, and, up until 1884, when admitted as a full senior member of the VFA, the Club had senior/junior status and games were organised on a fairly ad hoc basis between the different Clubs with the result that sometimes Clubs did not play for two or three weeks.

Williamstown's original colours were black and yellow and, when Richmond was admitted to the VFA in 1885, a blue sash was added to the jumper. 

Because of the money from football crowds, in 1886 the Williamstown Cricket Club invited the Football Club to share their ground at Point Gellibrand, an offer which was declined. The Cricket Club then formed their own team, South Williamstown, and was accepted into the VFA immediately. Both Football Clubs had the same vice-presidents and patrons in many instances, but never played each other in the two seasons they both existed because of the arranged matches rather than a drawn fixture, which did not occur until 1888. 

By 1887 there were 18 clubs in the VFA and amalgamations were ordered. Williamstown and South Williamstown combined and adopted the present cricket ground as its playing headquarters. South Williamstown's colours were blue and white, and the now famous Williamstown colours of blue and gold came into existence through the blue of South Williamstown and the gold of the original Williamstown.

Williamstown finished last in their first senior season in the eight-club VFA, winning only two games, losing eight and having three draws from 13 encounters. They showed improvement over the next three seasons, and managed third place in 1888 with thirteen victories and a draw from 19 matches, behind only South Melbourne and Geelong in the 16-team competition. Eight clubs left the VFA in 1896 to form the VFL, leaving only North Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Footscray, Richmond and Williamstown. Brunswick was admitted in 1897 to make a six-club competition.  

Williamstown won its first premiership in 1907 under captain-coach Paddy Noonan. They won 17 of their 20 matches, winning the grand final against West Melbourne, 7.10 to 3.16 at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is now the site of the Jolimont railyards. Top players in that premiership year were Alley, Garbutt, Reitman, the Caldwell brothers, Gibbs and McKay. The leading goalkicker was Bill Lambert. 

Williamstown were successful again in 1921 to take their second flag under captain-coach Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell, a youngster in the 1907 team, defeating Footscray, 8.9 to 5.9 at Fitzroy's Brunswick Street ground. Good players of that season were Jim McAuliffe, who kicked 63 goals, 'Corker' Jamieson, Haughton, Munro, Carpenter and Norm McDonald. 

After making the finals in the next three seasons, Williamstown fell away before finishing third in 1930. It came last in 1938 in one of the worst years in the club’s history and was on the brink of disaster, winning only two games. It had also finished last in 1934 and 35 and near last in 1933, 36 and 37. Secretary Larry Floyd and financial-backer Bill Dooley (great-grandfather of Leigh and Paul) lured Gordon 'Butch' Ogden as captain-coach in 1939 from Melbourne FC, who led the team to the premiership with a nine-point victory over Brunswick at the MCG, 14.20 to 14.11, before a crowd of almost 50,000. Top players in that year were Colin Wilcox, Arthur Cutting, 'Tarzan' Glass, Eddie Deller and champion goalkicker, 'Soapy' Vallence, who kicked 113 goals that season.  

Williamstown (the town) was named after King William IV in 1837 and was often referred to as the “village” in 19th century Melbourne. The nickname “The Villagers” stuck with the football club until the late 1930's when Floyd and Dooley decided a more appropriate synonym was needed and adopted the “Seagulls”. Larry Floyd, a former Reserve-grade player with the Seagulls from 1930, was a very good secretary at Williamstown during three terms in that position between 1935 and 1949, and later became secretary of the Carlton Football Club from 1952-55. The grandstand at the Williamstown ground is named in his honour.  He also represented Williamstown in the State Parliament for many years. 

After 1939, Williamstown enjoyed a lot of success, aided by the recruitment of two Collingwood VFL stars in Ron Todd (1940) and Brownlow Medallist Des Fothergill (1941). Todd was a prolific goalkicker, booting 188 in the 1945 premiership season and a career total of 672 at Williamstown, more than any other Seagull. Fothergill won the VFA best and fairest award, the Recorder Cup, and kicked 77 goals during his sole season with the Seagulls before the competition went into recess from 1942-44 due to the Second World War. Maurie Hearn, Dick Harris, Mal Macpherson and Reg Harley were other fine players during the premiership years of 1945 and 1949, the latter being once again coached by 'Butch' Ogden after being runners-up in 1948. 

In the 1950's along came Johnny Martin, Billy Williams, Adrian Dullard, Harry Simpson, Alby Linton, Johnny Walker and the great Gerry Callahan, along with famous coach, Wally Carter, from North Melbourne. Flags in 1954, 55, 56, 58 and 59 almost put Williamstown in the unbeatable class. In 1957 the team was undefeated in the home-and-away round and then inexplicably lost both finals. The teams of the 50's were skilful and well coached by Carter and Callahan and the string of premierships was fair reward for an era of good management and hard work.

Then Williamstown slumped and by the middle of the 60's was headed for Second Division at the end of 1967. The mecurial Max Papley – Best and Fairest at South Melbourne – was appointed Captain and Coach and, after losing the Grand Final in 1968, went on to win promotion to First Division the next season and made the grand final in its first year back, the only club to ever achieve this. Papley was a fine player and an excellent coach who left his mark on Williamstown and the VFA.

Max was followed by Barry Gill (ex-Carlton) and then the Club appointed Ted Whitten as Coach in 1975. Williamstown finished last and it was back to Second Division and farewell to EJ! Mal Allen from the enemy – Port Melbourne – won a Second Division Premiership in 1976 and Willi returned to the First Division for one year. Merv Hobbs (Footscray), Rod Oborne (Collingwood and Richmond) then Hobbs again had little success.

The Board then had the foresight to appoint Terry Wheeler in 1984 and by 1986 he had gathered a group of players together, including AFL legend Barry Round, and was good enough to win Premierships in all three grades in 1986.

More excitement was to follow. After two Grand Final defeats by Coburg in 1988 and 1989, Williamstown had a thrilling, come-from-behind victory in the 1990 grand final, led by captain-coach Barry Round, against Springvale. This Premiership was posssibly the most satisfying of them all, won in the face of tremendous odds. Appearing to finish runners-up for the third consecutive year, the events in the last quarter almost defied belief. Great memories captured in full living colour for everyone to see and re-live.

All football clubs have their good and poor times. It is the measure of good football clubs that strength is gained from adversity. During the middle 1990's Williamstown slipped badly after finishing runner-up to Sandringham in 1992. Success began to desert the club and in 1995 the Club failed to win a game in either the firsts or seconds. The administration had also lost its way and the Club was on the brink of folding and joining many other ex-VFA teams on the scrap heap.

The cycle turned in 1996 with the appointment of new President Greg Swann and General Manager Brendan Curry who appointed Merv Keane (ex Richmond premiership player) as Senior Coach. As in 1939 and 1968, a football team is led by its administration. The revamped Board and staff of the club begun the long and difficult task of establishing a long-term future for this proud club.

The mid 1990′s saw many changes to the competition. Firstly VFA clubs were granted a licence which linked each club with an affiliated TAC Cup Under 18 club – in Williamstown’s case the Western Jets. With the competition and its member clubs struggling to survive financially, a dwindling supporter base and our relevance in the football landscape diminishing, a revamp of the competition was necessary.

Following the VFA changing its name to the VFL in 1996, the decision to cease the AFL Reserves competition in 1999 opened the possibility of AFL clubs aligning with VFL clubs. The Western Bulldogs decided to split their players between Williamstown and Werribee for the 2000 season. At the completion of the 2000 season the Western Bulldogs decided to go alone with Werribee which opened the door for a Williamstown-Collingwood alliance. It was a perfect partnership with both clubs having a strong working class background, large supporter base and enjoyed success over a long period. Great names like Ron Todd and Des Fothergill had been outstanding players at both Williamstown and Collingwood.

The Williamstown/Collingwood alignment lasted for 7 years (2001-2007) and the highlight was the 2003 Premiership coached by Brad Gotch over Box Hill at Princes Park. During this alignment the Williamstown Football Club, on the back of establishing a strong and successful gaming venue (Seagulls Nest), was able to flourish financially and this was further boosted when Williamstown obtained a gaming and liquor license for a new venue at Caroline Springs called “The Club”. Another significant feature of this alignment was that Collingwood’s 2010 AFL Premiership contained 16 of the 22 players who had graduated to AFL level after beginning their careers with Williamstown in the VFL. Williamstown also had Brownlow Medallists Nathan Buckley, Dane Swan and Shane Woewodin represent the Seagulls during this time.

At the end of the 2007 season, Collingwood chose to field their own stand-alone side in the VFL and Williamstown formed a new alignment with western suburbs neighbours, the Western Bulldogs. This partnership lasted six seasons and over those years a number of players graduated from the Seagulls to the Bulldogs. In 2010 another Brownlow Medallist in Jason Akermanis wore the famous Williamstown jumper in a number of games.

The Williamstown Football Club did not play or train at its Point Gellibrand home in 2011 due to an $8.3 million redevelopment. This saw the Club playing the majority of its home games at Werribee with one-off home games at Torquay, Keilor and Wangaratta.

At the conclusion of the 2013 VFL season, the alignment between Williamstown and the Western Bulldogs ended, allowing the club to return to its traditional standalone structure in 2014.

2014 was also the club’s 150th year anniversary, and to celebrate, a Hall of Fame function was held to celebrate the club’s history and also induct 51 past players, officials and volunteers into the Williamstown FC Hall of Fame. Five past players (Ron Todd, Ray Smith, Gerry Callahan, Barry Round & Ian Rickman) were also elevated to ‘Legend’ status.

In their first season returning to standalone status, Williamstown reached the preliminary final against Box Hill and only narrowly missed out on a grand final appearance.

In 2015 Williamstown won their first premiership since 2003 and their first back as a stand alone club. The Seagulls, coached by Andy Collins, defeated Box Hill by 54 points at the Docklands stadium with Michael Gibbons named best-on-ground. 

Three Williamstown men have been President of the Victorian Football Association – J.J. Liston (he of the Liston Medal and Liston Stakes and the second-longest serving VFA president), John Grieve and Tony Hannebery (former player, 10-year President of WFC and former All-Australian Amateur footballer).

Williamstown has proved a great training ground for coaches as well. Wally Carter and Terry Wheeler both coached VFL/AFL teams after success at Williamstown. This club is a great organisation – like many football clubs it has a great reservoir of committed people who are here only to see the club succeed.

Williamstown Football Club won a premiership in each decade of the 1900s except the second – 1907, 1921, 1939, 1945, 1949, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1969 (Second Division), 1976 (Second Division), 1986 and 1990, followed by two more in 2003 and 2015. Each of these Premierships hold special memories for our club.

Games record holder: Ben Jolley 217

Goals record holder: Ron Todd 672

Longest winning sequence: 20 (1956-57)

Longest losing sequence: 19 (1994-95)

Norm Goss Medallists: Tony Pastore 1986, Barry Round 1990, Adrian Fletcher 2003, Michael Gibbons 2015

J.J. Liston Trophy winners: Charlie Stanbridge (1933), Fred Brooks (1935), Neville Huggins (1936 and 1937), Arthur Cutting (1938 and 1939), Des Fothergill (1941), Johnny Martin (1956), Barry Round (1987), Brett McTaggart (1988), Saade Ghazi (1989), Paul Dooley (1996) and Michael Gibbons (2016 and 2018)

J. (Jack) Field Medal winners: Best and Fairest in Second Division Ian Nankervis (1968) and Colin Boyd (1976) 

To see all williamstown premiership sides please click on the link below
Premiership Photos

To see williamstown football club team of the century click on the link below
Williamstown team of the century

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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