Member Memories: Operating the scoreboard
The following contribution was sent in by long-time member Geoff van Wyngaarden.
(Vinny Maskell [left] pictured with former scoreboard operator Geoff van Wyngaarden in 2005).
Growing up in Morris Street, opposite the Williamstown football ground, it was always inevitable that I would follow this great club.
My mum’s brother, Aub Green, was a dedicated weekly supporter and I would travel with him on the train to away games from a very early age.
One of my first memories is riding on my bike with my uncle and crossing the Yarra River on the ferry to the 1964 grand final at and against Port Melbourne. Unfortunately we lost that game comfortably. In those years all games were played on a Saturday.
The first game of the season in 1966, myself and friend Peter Nash started doing the scoreboard from the first home game. We just went up there when the game started because no one else was up there.
We spoke to someone at the club and after the game the club secretary, Alec Bell, paid us $1 in total. From then on, I did the scoreboard for the Reserves and Under 19s by myself for $1 per game. I still did the senior games with Peter, sharing the money and each getting a free hotdog from Curly Lee’s Hot Dog Stand on the hill at half time.
(Peter Nash and Geoff van Wyngaarden inside the new structure of the scoreboard when it was being built in 1974).
Over time senior matches started to be played on Sundays. Les Goding who organised the cheer squad and made banners for the club which were displayed on the fence started doing the opposition club names and screwing them into the scoreboard. I still continued to do the scoreboard on the Saturday for the Reserves and Under 19s who played on alternate Saturdays.
In 1968, new captain-coach Max Papley, who came from South Melbourne, brought a new culture to the club. Williamstown became very strong again winning the 1969 Division 2 premiership and making the Division 1 grand final the following year in 1970.
Williamstown started to get televised Channel 10 games. We scoreboard operators decided to become more professional and wear a uniform on the scoreboard - a type of white butchers coat or art smock.
We used to get a bit over-energetic every time a Williamstown player was having a set shot for goal; we would put up the goal before the player had even kicked the ball. This totally confused the TV commentators, Phil Gibbs and Ted Henrys, who would look at the scoreboard after the goal was scored and then add another goal to tell the TV audience.
My friends watching told me that when the commentators realised they had made a mistake they would then say: ”geez those scoreboard operators are quick today”.
(Peter Nash and Geoff van Wyngaarden on the old scoreboard, wearing butchers coats to look more professional for televised games).
We had a little box to keep the numbers in. We used to put up the other games' scores - the letters A, B, C, D represented the clubs' names which were in the footy recorder. We also put up the umpire's number. I would knock on the umpires door before the game started and ask for the umpire's number.
A man who did the ground announcing would bring around the scores from the other games on that day. It was all great fun. The only hassle was the cold wind and the wet rain.
I always went to training on Tuesday and Thursday nights. My parents always had an early tea and I was at training just after 5pm with several other boys who were also regulars.
We would go behind the grandstand goals and kick the balls which went over the fence back to the players.
The ground lighting was pretty poor with about three floodlights on the grandstand. I made it my duty to turn on the floodlights from within the old kitchen which was at the end of the grandstand.
(An old, regular crowd at a Williamstown VFA game).
During the 1974 season we had great news. A cigarette company was going to put up and pay for enclosed scoreboards at some VFA grounds. From memory, Sandringham, Oakleigh and Springvale also got similar scoreboards.
So we got a new scoreboard which was great. Years before I had noticed that the pre-1962 Nugget Company-sponsored scoreboard which had blown down in massive winds behind the goals that year had its numbers stored in the clubrooms. These were much bigger than the numbers for this new scoreboard.
I wasn’t happy about the size of these new numbers. So I took a few of the old 1962 numbers and saw if they would fit this new scoreboard and they just made it. I took all the 50 or so pre-1962 numbers home, my dad repainted them and he came over to the ground and put in new screws for these numbers.
To think that these numbers were used to put up goals in the 1940s when Ron Todd was playing...
He also made a second seeing part with plastic perspex so we could see out. We had a great time in the new scoreboard, even regular girls got invited up.
In 1974 I became team manager of the Under 19s and in 1975 I was Reserves runner which were all Saturday games. I continued to do the scoreboard for the seniors on the Sunday 'till about 1978.
After myself, Jeff Page did the scoreboard, then Noel Portingdale did it for over 20 years and after that Vin Maskell did it. Now it is electronic and operated from within the grandstand.
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