Season Summary: 1912
The Williamstown team of 1912, pictured outside the original pavilion at the Pt Gellibrand ground, which was officially opened in December 1887. Pictured in the middle row holding the ball is the new captain-coach, George 'Jack' Angus, and on his right is vice-captain, Bert Reitman. The player on the far left of the middle row is Ted Alley and to his right is Jack MacDonald.
Further changes to the VFA occurred in 1912 with the amalgamation of the Northcote and Preston clubs and the admittance to the competition of a new entity called the Melbourne City Football Club, which played at the East Melbourne ground for two winless seasons. After several years of unsuccessful on-field performances by both Northcote and Preston, the VFA was keen to see an amalgamation of the two clubs which represented neighbouring northern suburbs of Melbourne. Preston had won only 23 of the 162 matches it had played in the nine seasons since its admittance to the VFA and had failed to live up to its fine junior record. In four seasons, Northcote had fared little better and from 72 games managed just 13 victories and a draw. The new entity was formally known as the Northcote and Preston Football Club but played its games at Northcote, retained Northcote's colours and the team in the VFA was known as Northcote. At the same time, the Association was looking to field a team in the inner city area, a region historically dominated by VFL clubs. This vision was finally realised in 1912 with the advent of Melbourne City, and the two changes kept the size of the competition at ten teams. George 'Mallee' Johnson, the former Carlton triple premiership player of 1906/07/08, was appointed the first captain-coach of Melbourne City but it lost every match in its debut season, and it was soon apparent that it takes more than an inner suburban ground to become a successful football club. The number of players on the field was further reduced to sixteen in this season, four years after reducing the numbers from eighteen to seventeen in 1908.
George 'Jack' Angus from Collingwood was appointed captain-coach for the 1912 season. Angus had played 157 games for the Magpies from 1902-11, was captain of the 1910 premiership side and also played in the 1902-03 pennant-winning teams.
1912 was similarly unsuccessful for Williamstown, and the newly appointed high profile captain-coach, 37yo George 'Jack' Angus from Collingwood, failed to see out the season due to illness suffered after the disastrous 84-point defeat at Brighton in round 15, the Penguin's third consecutive win over 'Town. Angus had played 157 games for the Magpies from 1902-11, was captain of the 1910 premiership side and also played in the 1902-03 pennant-winning teams. Angus passed away in November 16, 1917, at the age of just 42. Bert Reitman stepped up to become captain. Recruits included follower Tom Holmes, centreman Reg Wallis, 'Ginger' Howarth, John 'Jacky' May, Richard 'Plugger' Anderson, Les Primrose, Syd Billings from Preston, J. Robinson, who kicked three goals on debut in round 1, and the Busbridge brothers, Ted and Norm, from Essendon Association. Another new player was Jean Frederick 'Frank' Rigaldi who moved on the next season and eventually played with Carlton and Richmond and was captain-coach of Hawthorn VFA in 1920 before returning to Williamstown in 1926 to lead the Club goalkicking, a gap of some 15 seasons.
Reg Wallis joined Williamstown in 1912 and went on to play 57 games and kick 11 goals up until the end of 1915. He became captain-coach of Williamstown Juniors in 1916 during the war recess until suffering a bad leg injury in round 5 against Footscray Juniors and was replaced by the North Melbourne champion rover, Charlie Hardy. Wallis then went to Footscray in 1918. With pre-war teammate, Ted Alley, he then went to Hawthorn and played 35 games from 1919-21.
The Villagers won the opening two games against Port Melbourne and newcomer Melbourne City but then lost the next seven matches, including a 1-goal defeat at the hands of second-bottom side, Prahran, and a 3-goal loss to the lowly Northcote. A 79-point defeat at Footscray in round 9 had The Villagers in ninth position on the ladder, above only the winless Melbourne City. The team rebounded by downing Port Melbourne again, this time by three points at North Port Oval in round 10. The following week Williamstown kicked their highest-ever score to date of 21.15.141 to Melbourne City's 1.8.14 in round 11 at Williamstown (captain-coach George Angus 5 goals). Consecutive losses to eventual finalists, Essendon Association and Brunswick, were followed by a 3-goal win at Prahran and then the 14-goal drubbing at the hands of sixth-placed Brighton.
At the conclusion of the game against Essendon at Williamstown on July 6, The Argus reported that 'the ground was rushed by hundreds of onlookers, who surrounded the players, and ....... it could be seen that blows were being freely exchanged. The melee was transferred to the steps and ante-room of the pavilion, where two opposing players came into conflict, and, as a result, police court proceedings will follow.' Ted Alley of Williamstown 'was brought in off the field in an insensible condition. It transpired that Alley was endeavouring to protect (an Essendon player) from being attacked by some so-called supporters, and .... he was violently assaulted , receiving several blows on the back of the head.' Essendon subsequently levelled charges against three Williamstown players, Bert Amy for striking, Bert Robinson for striking and Ted Alley for inciting Robinson to strike the famous Essendon player, Dave McNamara.
The Age, July 17, 1912
The Villagers miraculously defeated the ladder-leading North Melbourne by 25 points at Pt Gellibrand in round 16 in the season's best performance and the first victory over the Northeners since 1909. The home-and-away rounds were completed with a one-point win at Northcote and a five-point loss at Williamstown to eventual grand finalist, Footscray. Significant improvement in the second half of the season, which saw 5 victories in the last 9 games, resulted in the Villagers finishing seventh with 7 wins and 11 losses from the 18 home-and-away rounds. In the round 3 game at Essendon on May 11, umpire Kendall awarded 111 free kicks in a fiery game between the 'Dons and Williamstown, which works out to one every 55 seconds approximately. Bert Amy was the season's leading goalkicker with 18, followed by Busbridge with 11 and then Harden, Howarth and May on 10. The team kicked a total of 135 goals and 217 behinds (1027 points) compared to the opponents tally of 156 goals and 179 behinds (1115 points), which was a reasonable performance considering the team experienced seven successive losses from rounds 3-9. Brighton downed Williamstown twice in a season for the first time although one of those victories was by just two points. In the round 15 clash at Brighton Beach Oval, the Penguins score of 16.18.114 was the highest-ever kicked against the Villagers.
Frank Eldridge was in his final season as a player with Williamstown in 1912. Originally from Broken Hill, Eldridge played 52 games and kicked four goals with 'Town from 1909-12.
For the first time since the VFA legalised payments, complaints were noted from some players to the effect that the committee were passing over the locals for outsiders. Former player from 1890-98, John 'Yorky' Dyson (107 games 9 goals), passed away in April at the age of 43 after suffering a blood clot on the brain while fishing at the Stevedore St pier. Dyson also represented the Williamstown Cricket Club in a game against an All-England XI led by Dr. W.G. Grace at Williamstown in January 1892, where he was second-top scorer for the home team with 24 runs and took the only English wicket to fall. Essendon Association's Dave McNamara became the first senior player to post a century of goals in a season with a total of 107, a record that would stand for eighteen seasons. During the year he booted 18 goals in a game against Melbourne City, which was also a record, surpassing the 16 booted by Footscray's Jack Hutchison a few seasons previously. McNamara stood out of football in 1913 due to him purchasing a hotel in St Kilda Road and seeking a transfer to the Saints, a request that was denied by the VFA on three seperate occassions.
South Australia resumed playing the VFL in this season, so the Association went to Broken Hill and defeated a combined team by 12 points, 9.16.70 to 8.10.58. Bert Amy and Fred Harden jnr were the Williamstown representatives.
1912 Skylarks football card
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