Williamstown Football Club - History
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Tom Wills, one of the founding-fathers of Australian Rules football, was present at the meeting of May 17, 1859, when the ten original 'Melbourne' rules were drawn up. Wills was captain of Melbourne in 1858-1859, Richmond in 1860 and Geelong in 1867-1868 and 1872-1873. He was a cousin of Henry Harrison. Wills committed suicide on May 2, 1880, aged just 44.
What we now call Australian Rules football was played in Victoria and the other colonies from the 1840's, but in 1858 it came into greater prominence when some cricketers, football enthusiasts and schoolboys played a number of scratch matches on the Richmond Paddock in Melbourne. The Melbourne Football Club was re-formed on May 14, 1859, at the Parade Hotel, East Melbourne, (later named the MCG Hotel) after a scratch match against South Yarra on Richmond Paddock (now known as Yarra Park). Melbourne had been first formed on July 31, 1858, when a code of rules had been written after a scratch match on the Richmond Paddock organised by Jerry Bryant of the Parade Hotel, but these were based on school football rules but made simpler so they were easier to follow and were based to some extent on the book 'Tom Brown's School Days'.
On May 17, 1859, a committee of MCC members including William J. Hammersley (a sports journalist), James B. Thompson (an Argus journalist), Thomas H.Smith (a school headmaster) and Tom W. Wills, met at the same hotel and agreed to authorise Wills' cousin, Henry Harrison, to draw up a set of rules based on rugby but modified to suit local conditions. As a clerical officer at the Customs Department, Harrison was well-equipped for this task and his rules, freely drawn from all codes including rugby and its Gaelic offspring, were adopted unanimously by his colleagues at a subsequent meeting. His new set of ten rules became the code under which most other clubs eventually played and earned Harrison the title of 'The Father of Football'. He was also the tide officer at Customs and lived and worked in Williamstown in 1853. Apart from these gentleman, Bryant was one of Melbourne's early officials and did a lot of work for the advancement of the game, while Tom Jones became a prolific writer of the game for publications such as The Footballer and The Australasian.
The founding committee were of the belief that football was not only a good way for cricketers to stay fit over winter but that organised sport helped instil British values, imported from English public schools, of self-sacrifice for a greater cause (for the team and, by extension, the country), that a healthy mind went hand-in-hand with a healthy body, and that such qualities helped make an athlete a role model that others in society could emulate.
The modern Australian code can be traced back to these original 'Melbourne rules', which quickly became the 'Victorian rules' and, eventually, 'Australian Rules', and made Australian football the oldest codified form of football in the world. It has been argued by some that an indigenous form of football called marn-grook influenced Tom Wills, who incorporated its elements into the 'Melbourne' rules. Wills was the first captain of Melbourne in 1859 and Harrison was a teammate.
The first 'official' recorded game of Australian Rules football is thought to have been a meeting between Scotch College and the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School on 7 August, 1858, at the Richmond Paddock where 40 players on each team battled for three hours under agreed rules which were not written down. As scores were tied at one goal each, the game was resumed two weeks later and, when no goals were scored, the game was adjourned until September 4. Again no goals were scored and the match was declared a draw. Tom Wills umpired the game, which had no marked boundary line and the goals were approximately a mile apart. There is anecdotal evidence that an earlier match took place at St Kilda between Melbourne Grammar and St Kilda Grammar on 5 June, 1858, but this cannot be verified. There was allegedly another game between Melbourne Grammar and a St Kilda team at St Kilda on July 31 that was abandoned due to a dispute over the rules.
The South Yarra and St Kilda clubs (not connected to the current AFL entity) were soon formed, and occasional teams representing East Melbourne, Albert Park, Prahran and University also appeared. Geelong Football Club came into existence on July 18, 1859, at a meeting in the Victoria Hotel on the corner of Moorabool and Malop Streets in Geelong, where Wills amalgamated several small clubs to achieve this and also became its first captain. Harrison took over as captain of Melbourne.
The May 17, 1859, 'Melbourne Rules', later renamed 'Victorian Rules' following the meeting in May, 1860
Richmond appeared on the scene in 1860 but originated out of the cricket club and was not related to the current AFL team and Tom Wills and Henry Harrison both moved across from Melbourne to play with them, with Wills becoming captain of his third club. Wills also captained Melbourne in a game against St Kilda on July 7, while Harrison also played for Melbourne against Geelong later in the year. Both men played for Geelong in later years. Although he was an excellent player, Wills concentrated on the organisastional side of the game and put in a terrific amount of work starting new clubs around Victoria and in adjacent colonies, and the advancement of the game suffered a great blow with his untimely death in 1880. He did not appear to have played any part in the formation of the VFA and nor was he ever a secretary or delegate of any club.
Mark Pennings in his book, 'Origins of Australian Football: Victoria's Early History' writes that 'Booroondara, Collingwood, Williamstown and University were other clubs that emerged' (in 1860). He added that 'there are no reports about matches played by Booroondara or Williamstown'. He also records that 'the first football "council" was held at the Argus Hotel (in Collins Street) on May 28 (1860).' The Argus newspaper confirmed on 29 May, 1860, (see below) that a Williamstown delegate was invited along with eight fellow delegates to the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to reconsider the 'Melbourne' rules, formalise them and to reach an agreement on them. They were renamed the 'Victorian Rules' at the meeting and continued to evolve into the game we all know today. Pennings wrote that 'representatives from Melbourne, St. Kilda, South Yarra, Richmond, Scotch College, University, Williamstown, Collingwood and Booroondara were in attendance'. The Collingwood team was not connected to the current AFL team. The invitation to participate in formulating rule changes for season 1860 would not have been extended to the Williamstown Club if it did not exist or was not regarded as a bona-fide team by the Melbourne Football Club, which called the meeting. Geelong was not present as it went into recess shortly after its inception, until being revived in a gathering at the British Hotel in Corio Street, Geelong, on May 21, 1860, and played its first senior match against Melbourne at Argyle Paddock in Geelong on September 1.
The 'Rules of Football' as drawn up at the meeting at the Argus Hotel on May 28, 1860, where a Williamstown delegate was present
Documented evidence from the Melbourne and Williamstown press of the day suggest that the football club was formed by members of the Williamstown Alliance Cricket Club in order to keep fit during the off-season. The Age reported on Tuesday, 29 May, 1860, (see below) that the Williamstown Football Club was formed on 18 May, 1860, at the first annual general meeting of the Williamstown Alliance Cricket Club, held at the Mechanics Institute in Electra Street. Hugh Ronald Reid was elected the first secretary and treasurer of the football club and also played. Reid was a founding player and also first secretary of the Alliance Cricket Club. (Later, in 1873, Reid was one of the founders and chairman for 27 years of the Melbourne Steamship Company and passed away in March 1910 aged 70). The article went on to state that 'the first match of the season was appointed to take place on the Queen's Birthday', which was a scratch match. The Williamstown Independent newspaper reported on 2 June 1860 (see below) that 'the members of this newly-formed Club enjoyed their first game on Saturday last.' Furthermore, in the Williamstown Chronicle of Saturday, 16 June, 1860, (see below) Williamstown Alliance invited interested locals to meet at their ground, Market Reserve, for football practice. The Williamstown Chronicle also reported on 30 June, 1860, (see below) that the football club was to play a 'friendly' scratch match on Market Reserve that day at 10.30 am.
The Argus, May 29 1860
The Age, May 29 1860
Williamstown Independent, June 2, 1860
Williamstown Chronicle, June 16, 1860
Williamstown Chronicle, June 30, 1860
The annual report of the football club for 1914 refers to it being a 'jubilee' year, meaning the 50th year of existence, which puts its formation as 1864. However, secretaries of football clubs often had to rely on information that was not always accurate. In this instance, there appears to be confusion about the year the Club was re-formed with the actual year of its formation. With the demise of the Williamstown Alliance Cricket Club, which amalgamated with the older Williamstown Cricket Club in 1861, it is possible that the football club merely went into recess until 1864 or that any matches that did occur in this period were simply not reported on by the newspapers of the day. Williamstown's comparative slow advancement in the football world was not in keeping with its importance to Melbourne as a port, but communication and transport were difficult and militated against regular visits by the clubs of the inner suburbs. It was not unusual for the Club to have to make up the season's programme with matches against the local rowing club, bowling club or even the soldiers from Fort Gellibrand. Another issue was the fact that players were not bound to any one club so having the same group of players each week could not be relied upon. Furthermore, the publication entitled 'The Footballer' of 1875 noted that 'at the beginning of 1864, football, which had been growing in favour, received additional impetus from the advent of Emerald Hill, Royal Park and Carlton. Stimulated by the example of these latter, Brunswick, Collingwood (not the current AFL team, which was formed in 1892) and Williamstown followed suit'. There are also references to the fact that Williamstown Football Club was formed in 1870, which is known to be incorrect as the club was reorganised for a second time in that year.
Clubs also began to appear in regional areas, with Sandhurst forming in 1861 (captained by James Thompson, who was one of the MCC committee who drew up the 1859 Melbourne rules) and a Ballarat side in 1862, together with Bendigo, Kangaroo Flat and Maryborough. Royal Park also emerged in May, 1862, along with an Essendon/Flemington combination, followed by Eastern Hill (East Melbourne) in 1863. Richmond disappeared in 1862 while St Kilda disbanded in 1863 due to insufficient numbers to field a side but re-emerged in 1873. The famous Carlton club was formed in July 1864 but did not play a game until 1865, while Emerald Hill became a formalised club in 1864 and later became Albert Park. A Fitzroy team also appeared in 1864 but was a different club to that which joined the Victorian Football Association (VFA) in 1884. Brunswick and West Melbourne were also on the field by 1865, whereas Geelong almost disbanded in this year due to lack of interest and numbers.
William Riggall, pictured here in the Melbourne Leader of August 15 1908, played for 'Town in a game at Williamstown on July 2 1866 against Carlton when he was actually a Blues player. After Carlton's Jim Williams kicked the opening goal, Rigall, who had agreed to play for Williamstown as an emergency, broke his leg after being thrown into the picket fence by Carlton's Frank Hillsden and the game was abandoned. Riggall had also played for Royal Park in 1865.
So, although there is documented proof that a Williamstown team existed in 1860, there appeared to be a period of inactivity which was not uncommon in those early days of our game, where clubs would form one year, go into recess the next and then reappear again at a later stage. Also, due to the relative newness of the sport, the newspapers of the day didn't rate a game of football highly and, subsequently, did not report on them. The next attempt to reform the football club appears to have been in 1864, although there are no records in existence or newspaper articles to testify to that fact, although Pennings wrote in his book that 'Williamstown reappeared after an absence of some years (in 1865)'. The Melbourne Herald reported on July 5, 1865, that the Williamstown Council granted the football club approval to use Market Reserve for the 1865 season. Williamstown played a number of other junior teams in 1865, including games against H.M. Customs, captained by Henry Harrison, on August 5 (result unknown) and a team from the Richmond district called Union, but its first recorded match took place against Carlton at Royal Park on July 15 which resulted in a 2-0 loss (only goals were recorded and the best of three goals decided the winner). In the return match at Williamstown on July 2 1866, after Carlton's Jim Williams kicked the opening goal, William Rigall, a Melbourne and Carlton player who had agreed to play for Williamstown as an emergency, broke his leg after being thrown into the picket fence by Carlton's Frank Hillsden and the game was abandoned. This is generally thought to be the game's first serious injury, and he was attended to by Dr. Edward Figg of Williamstown, who was a vice-president of the Club in 1886.
Riggall had also played for Royal Park in 1865 and Carlton in 1866. The only other recorded game in 1866 was on June 9 when Williamstown played H. M. Customs, or the Melbourne Customs Club, at Market Reserve and the match was a nil-all draw 'after two hours hard work and many severe spills on either side', as reported by The Argus on June 11. John Wigmore, Hunter and Sutton were best for 'Town.
Click on the link below to view one of Bruce Davis' productions on the early days of the Williamstown Football Club
There was an important meeting in the history of the game on May 8, 1866, at the Freemasons Hotel which was chaired by Henry Harrison, when club delegates undertook a revision of the original 'Melbourne' 1859 rules, which were refined and supplemented. Harrison acted as codifier of a final list of thirteen rules, which were signed off by the representatives of Melbourne (Harrison and R.W. Wardill), Carlton (T.P. Power and B. James), Royal Park (J.E. Clarke and Chadwick) and South Yarra (G. O'Mullane and H. Murray). It was a tribute to Harrison that once again his rules were adopted unanimously and clubs were springing up all over Victoria.
Henry Harrison, captain of Richmond (1861), Melbourne (1861 and 1863-1871), and Geelong (1862 & 1868), was the codifier of the revised rules of 1866. He was the first vice-president of the VFA in 1877 and was president of Melbourne from 1897 to 1906. He was also elected to the committee of the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1871 and was vice-president from 1892 until his death in 1929 at the age of 92. He was a cousin of Tom Wills.
After 1866 there again appears to be another period of inactivity or temporary recess by Williamstown with no records of any games played, although in Pennings' book Williamstown is still listed as a minor/junior club for the 1869 season. It is more than likely that the Club would have played a few unrecorded matches during the period 1867-69 around the district against other local teams that were not worthy of reporting because it was often difficult to organise matches in the metropolitan competitions, due to the distance and the poor condition of Market Reserve. This state of affairs were not uncommon around the 1870's and, even if Williamstown played only one or two scratch matches, or none at all, it is entitled to claim a continuity of existence from a much earlier point as there were no other clubs playing in Williamstown at that time.
1867 saw a proliferation of new clubs emerging, including a second Fitzroy team, East Melbourne, Rysleigh (from the South Melbourne district) and Pentridge. South Melbourne also arose out of the amalgamation of Emerald Hill and Albert Park in May but reverted to the Emerald Hill name the following year and then Albert Park in 1869, while Royal Park disbanded. A new entity from North Melbourne arrived on the scene in 1869 to replace Royal Park, along with Albion (from the South Melbourne district), Carlton United, East Brunswick, Northcote and Surrey (from the Richmond area). North would rapidly achieve 'senior' status by 1874.
An important change was made in the rules just before the 1869 season began. A time period was set for matches instead of the team scoring the first two goals being declared the winner. By 1870, there were only four major clubs: Melbourne, Carlton, Albert Park and South Yarra with about two-dozen junior clubs playing in Melbourne's parks at the beginning of the decade. In country Victoria, the major clubs were now Geelong, Ballarat, Sandhurst and Kyneton.
The Williamstown Chronicle reported on April 21, 1870, that so few members attended the annual meeting in respect of the 1869 season, that a club could not be formed. However, the Chronicle reported on May 7, 1870, that 'steps are being taken to reorganise the Williamstown Football Club.' Mr James Arthur Thompson, who played for the Club in the 1860's & 1870's, was instrumental in affecting the reorganisation of the football club once again in 1870, and it was reported in The Argus on May 23 that 'a meeting of the club will be held at the Mechanics Institute on Tuesday next for the purpose of thoroughly organising the club'. The Chronicle stated on May 28 that 'thanks to the exertions of Mr Thompson, a sufficient amount was collected last week to purchase a ball and on Saturday afternoon about a dozen players had a friendly game'. Thompson was also a long-serving member of the Williamstown Cricket Club, and was its secretary in 1888 when he drew up the agreement by which the football club finally agreed to utilise the present cricket ground for all their home games after the merger with South Williamstown.
Statue of Alfred Thomas Clark in Williamstown Botanical Gardens, the Football Club's first recorded president in 1870 and who would serve 11 years in that role over three terms (1870-71, 1873-1875 and 1882-1887). This statue has been located in the Gardens since 1891, following Clark's death at sea in 1888.
Whilst no records can be found of any games in 1870, the Club must have been in existence due to the reference in the 1875 edition of 'The Footballer' to the 'new edition of Williamstown, which was formed in 1870.' The Australasian newspaper, when reviewing the senior and more important junior clubs at the end of the 1870 season, listed Williamstown amongst 'Other Clubs' and gratuitously added that the brief reference was 'just to show that the existence of the club was not entirely forgotten'. Also, 1870 was the first year that the Club had a recorded president in Alfred Thomas Clark, local MLA for 17 years and founder of the Williamstown Advertiser, and local printer, Duncan McLeod, was the first recorded secretary since Hugh Ronald Reid in 1860. Clark and McLeod held those posts for two seasons until replaced by J.A. Springhall (president) and Charles Piper (secretary) for the 1872 season before Clark and McLeod resumed their roles in 1873. Jack Litchfield then became secretary in 1874 and 1875. The early captains of the team were C. Payne (1870), H. Norman (1871-73) and D. McCallum (1874-75). The Argus of April 6, 1872, reported that, at the annual meeting held in respect of the 1871 season, that 'the colours of the club were also settled, light blue with a white stripe'. This is confirmed in a report in the Chronicle of May 15 1874 that 'it was resolved to adopt a knickerbocker uniform of blue and white'. Also, in the Williamstown Advertiser of May 2, 1925, an article by 'Old Timer' states that the Club's original colours were 'blue jersey, knickers and hose, and a blue cap with a white band running from front to back.' In this article, it was also stated that Jack Litchfield was 'one of the most brainy players that perhaps Williamstown has ever produced. Litchfield was at home when kicking the ball either left or right foot and he often puzzled his opponents when they thought they had him in a corner by the dexterity in which he would get rid of the leather.'
James Arthur Thompson, a native of London, arrived in Williamstown in 1864 and immediately engaged in local sports activities, mainly cricket and Australian Rules football. He played for the Football Club in the 1860's & 70's and organised the meeting in May 1870 that restarted the Club. As Cricket Club secretary in 1888, Thompson was responsible for drawing up the agreement under which the Football Club agreed to use the cricket ground for home games following the merger with South Williamstown. He was a Williamstown resident for 45 years and was president of both the Williamstown Cricket Club and Baseball Club when he passed away suddenly on December 22 1909, aged 62.
The first record of Williamstown winning a game was reported in the Chronicle on 29 July, 1871, when it defeated Wesley College three goals to nil a week earlier. There was also a game against an East Melbourne Second Twenty at Williamstown on August 5 which, it was reported in The Argus of August 7, that 'resulted, after a well-contested game, in a decisive victory for the former' (East Melbourne), two goals to nil. It was also reported in the Williamstown Chronicle of August 12 'the match, which lasted about two hours, was a well-contested one. The playing on both sides was very spirited, and, even though the Williamstonians exerted themselves most manfully, they were unable to get a goal, the superior playing of the East Melbourne team getting them two goals'. The return match against Wesley College was at Fawkner Park on August 26 with Wesley winning one goal to none. There was also another game at Williamstown on September 2 against the Southern Club which, according to The Argus on the following Monday, 'the Williamstown men won, obtaining a goal kicked by A. Weatherall.' Williamstown's last encounter for the season was on September 23 at Fawkner Park against a combined Southern and Wesley team 'which resulted in a decided victory for the united clubs', according to The Age of September 25. Best players for the Villagers were J. Buchanan, J.A. Springhall, W. Tickell, C. Payne and H. Norman. In total 5 games were played in the 1871 season, 2 of which were won and 3 lost. 'Town kicked 4 goals and had 9 goals scored against them. The team finished second on the ladder of 'other juniors'.
From this point in time, the Williamstown Football Club would continue uninterrupted until today except for the recesses in 1916-18, inclusive, in respect of World War One and 1942-44, inclusive, in respect of World War Two and 2020 as a result of the Coronavirus/COVID 19 epidemic. In 1872, the Chronicle reported that, of the ten matches played by the Club that season, four games were won, three were lost and three were drawn. One of the draws was with a strong junior team from Hotham, while they defeated East Melbourne Seconds (twice), South Yarra Seconds and Southern.
It was also reported that, at the annual meeting for the 1872 season, held at the Mechanics Institute on April 1 1873, that 'the committee hopes to be able to start a second twenty, owing to the great interest of members'. In 1873, 9 games were played for one win, 5 draws and 3 losses while 3 goals were scored against 8 by the opposition. The win was against South Yarra, while the draws were against an Albert Park 15, Essendon, Abbotsford and St. Kilda. The defeats were at the hands of North Melbourne (twice), Studley Park and Hawthorn.
In 1874, the Club played 12 matches, six of which were won, three were lost and three drawn. 24 goals were kicked, the most by any of the 'junior' clubs, while the opponents booted 12. One of these matches was on August 1 where it was reported in The Argus two days later that the 'Williamstown Club sent a team to Hawthorn to play the local club, but the game was brought to an abrupt conclusion in consequence of the Williamstown men declining to play any longer with the umpire, who they considered was not impartial.' New captain, D. McCallum, who had replaced Horace Norman in this season, led his men off the field in protest when he failed to have the umpire changed after a bad decision.
In a landmark event in football's development, at a meeting on May 22, 1872, at Garton's Hotel in Swanston Street, club delegates/secretaries amended the 1866 rules including a change of ends after half-time instead of each time a goal was scored and authority for umpires to interpret the rules and call infringements and award free kicks rather than just being an arbiter in disputes between captains. They were also given the power to stop play and throw the ball in the air to clear a scrimmage and to start the second half.
Essendon, Hawthorn and St Kilda (in its second reincarnation) emerged as junior clubs in 1873, but it was only the 'Dons that would go on to become on of the great clubs in football. Neither Hawthorn or St Kilda were connected to the current AFL clubs. This year also saw the demise of South Yarra, which finally disbanded after several mediocre seasons. About 100 clubs were now playing in Victoria, including 70 junior and school teams in Melbourne and about 10 junior clubs in Geelong.
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. St Kilda claimed 'that the surface was covered with lumps of rock' and, following a nil-all draw against 'senior' team Albert Park on June 21, 1873, the South Melbourne Record of the same day described the ground as 'bounded on all sides by dangerous fences, and firmly embedded all over the ground were huge boulders of stone; then the rain that had fallen during the past week has converted it into a perfect swamp, in fact, there were not 10 yards of dry ground in the whole enclosure.' The Argus of June 23 1873 stated that 'the Williamstown ground, which is ..... one of the worst that could be selected for football purposes, as independent of being almost a quagmire, it is covered in different places with large pieces of bluestone which makes it very dangerous to play upon.' The Leader newspaper of 28 June 1873 very similarly described it as 'one of the worst grounds that could be selected for football purposes, as, independent of being a regular quagmire, it is covered in several places with very dangerous obstacles in the shape of large pieces of bluestone.'
Former player of the 1980's, Glen Holder's depiction of the great Ned Kelly during the 1873 season.
Williamstown's longest-serving president, Trevor Monti, has a keen interest in the famous Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, and was adamant that Kelly played 11 games with the Seagulls in 1873 as a 'tough centre half-back with unconventional tactics'. Furthermore, he was on track to winning the Club best & fairest before being reported for head-butting the emergency umpire in his last game and was subsequently suspended for six matches. Kelly was just 17yo when he was imprisoned from June 1873 to January 1874 on the floating prison hulk, Sacramento, which was docked at Pt Gellibrand. He came ashore each day to work on construction of the sea walls and later on the artillery bunkers adjacent to the cricket ground. Kelly was returned to Pentridge after his prison stint at Williamstown and then immediately went back to the family home in Greta in Victoria's northeast upon his release. Trevor Monti wrote the first official summary of the Kelly trial which was published in 1981 and he has maintained an intense interest in the bushranger ever since.
To see more of Trevor Monti's views on Ned Kelly, click on the following link to a clip from Channel 31's Local Footy Show.
There were a number of meetings of interested clubs before the Victorian Football Association (VFA) was formed on May 7, 1877, to promote and extend football throughout the colony and to facilitate inter-colonial contests, but this did not bring about the administrative reforms that were expected, eg secretaries of senior clubs refused to relinquish their right to draw up the season's programme as they were of the view that this was a 'club matter'. In effect, this meant that clubs could control promotion to, and relegation from, the senior grade by the simple process of including a strong junior team in the senior fixtures, and little progress was made over the next few years due to the selfish club interests which prevented such things as paid umpires, points for wins and draws, boundary umpires, independent tribunals for reported players and a properly drawn-up fixture. Mr W.J. Clarke was the first president, with Henry Harrison (Melbourne) and R. Robertson (Carlton) the vice-presidents and Harry Hale Budd (Melbourne) the first secretary and Thomas P. Power (Carlton) the first treasurer. Power was also the editor of The Footballer publication during its short life from 1875-82.
The Challenge Cup and the Junior Challenge Cup were discontinued with the formation of the first controlling body, the VFA. The new competition included seven clubs with senior status (Melbourne, Carlton, Hotham, Albert Park, St Kilda, Geelong and Barwon) and many junior teams, but only the senior teams qualified for the VFA premiership, which was taken out by Carlton. It was in this season that cricket clubs began courting football clubs to share their grounds and football thus began the transition from free public parks to enclosed grounds and admission fees, a move which financed improvements to the grounds and facilities and secured the future of cricket clubs. It also enhanced recruitment.
Williamstown's 1877 annual report revealed that 12 games were played in that season, of which only 2 were won, 8 lost and 2 draws. One of the draws was against senior club, Melbourne, the premier team of 1876, on July 28, while there was also a one-goal defeat at the hands of another senior team at St Kilda on June 9. 'Town defeated a St Kilda team of only 13 players two goals to nil at Williamstown on June 23. 'The Footballer' commented that 'St Kilda, having won on its own ground, sent a ridiculous team to The Vliiage, and there bit the dust for her stupidity.' The only other win for the season was over Hotham United. The loss against South Melbourne on the Gardens Reserve was the first ever sustained there by the Club.
A total of 7 goals were kicked for the year, of which P. Conroy scored 5, and 15 goals were scored by opponents. The team finished eighth on a ladder of 14 teams. The Villagers kicked 16 goals during the previous season, and the decrease in performance was put down to the retirement of several of the Club's better players and the superiority of competing senior clubs such as Carlton and Melbourne. There was also an issue of players simply failing to turn up for games as 'on a great many occasions not more than 10 of the team chosen put in an appearance, the average for the season being about 15 per match'. The Captain, Bob Waycott, and vice-captain, Fred Ulbrick, instituted a fine of one shilling for players who failed to turn up for games without a valid excuse. On a more positive note, it was reported that 'the number of members obtained during the season reached the large number of 109, which is the largest number yet obtained since the formation of the club'. West Melbourne visited Williamstown on September 1, 1877, and The Argus reported two days later that 'West Melbourne complained of the partiality of the crowd, and stated that the team was hooted all the way to the railway station because it beat the local players.'
Essendon and West Melbourne were new senior clubs in the VFA in 1878, while the organisation of fixtures continued to be a problem and only nine games of the 16 proposed by Williamstown in 1878 were played. By way of example, St Kilda's proposed visit to Pt Gellibrand on July 13 was cancelled due to the Saints only having 11 players available while East Melbourne cancelled its scheduled game with Williamstown because the East players preferred to watch the Carlton v. Melbourne game. A notable change to the game occurred in 1879 when behinds were registered for the first time although they still weren't counted in the result and the winner was still the side that kicked the most goals. Williamstown had an indifferent season but did manage to play a game against Melbourne which was lost, 2.0 to 0.1. The Leader of July 22 reported that 'Melbourne had a stroll in the park against juniors Williamstown on the Melbourne Ground (not the MCG). In fact, the home side was so dominant that Williamstown's goal sneaks and one or two forward players had so little to do that, with Melbourne back players, they kept themselves warm by playing leap-frog, while the play was going on at the other end of the ground.'
Williamstown ventured to Geelong for the first time in 1878 and lost six goals to nil on the Argyle Paddock on July 6, and the inaugural VFA premier team, Carlton, also paid a visit to The Village on August 17, drew a crowd of 5,000 to the Gardens Reserve and won by a single goal, 2-1. The other game against a senior team was a one-nil loss at St Kilda on May 25. These were four of the 9 games played during the season, of which only 2 were won, 5 lost and 2 drawn. 'Town finished 7th out of a competition of 15 teams. A total of 7 goals were kicked by the Villagers and had 16 scored against them. The leading goalkicker was J. Rees with three. Captain of the past three seasons, Bob Waycott, departed for Sydney at the end of the year and was replaced by D. Burke with P. Conroy vice-captain. Geelong won their first of seven VFA premierships in this season, ending the dominance of Melbourne and Carlton over Victorian football. Williamstown Juniors also appeared for the first time in this year.
A major change occured in the game in 1879 when behinds were recorded for the first time although they didn't count towards the result of matches and the team that kicked the most goals was still the winner. South Melbourne became a senior club in 1879 while Barwon dropped out and St Kilda, after struggling to field a team for most of the year, disbanded again in early September. The first inter-colonial matches between Victoria and South Australia took place on July 1 and 5, both won easily by the Vics, and the first games were played under electric lights in this season in June and August. This attempt by a University professor to stage an intercolonial match between Victoria and South Australia at the MCG under lights were attended by large crowds but were deemed a fiasco due to the poor quality of the lights.
Geelong won back-to-back premierships and had not lost a game since September 1877, winning 44 consecutive matches. Williamstown played 15 matches in 1879, winning 4, losing 8 and drawing 3. Games were played against senior teams South Melbourne at Albert Park on May 3, losing 2.24 to 0.1, at St Kilda on June 7, losing 3 goals to nil, and at Melbourne (not the MCG) on July 26, losing 4.32 to 0.2. It was reported in the Australasian on August 2 that 'Melbourne scored four goals against juniors Williamstown on July 26 but should have had many more .... but the Williamstown goal umpire, due to some ocular defect, reduced the number of goals awarded as compared with those kicked to about half'. There was also a return match at Gardens (Fearon) Reserve against South Melbourne on August 23, which was lost 3 goals to nil.
An improved total of 19 goals were scored while 23 were kicked against The Villagers. 10 of these came in a match against Heidelberg, which failed to score, in the most decisive score ever posted by 'Town. Leading goalkicker was again P. Conroy with 6. The team finished 10th out of 17 junior teams. Membership was around the 60-70 mark in this season. Another local club, North Williamstown, emerged in 1879 and, although destined to be no more than a junior club, it nevertheless made its mark on local football history by fielding three teams and producing a number of senior players for Williamstown and other clubs. Its home ground was where the current Williamstown High School now is. The first secretary-treasurer was John Christison, the first captain J. Doull and D. Dorgan vice-president. 'The Footballer' publication of 1879 stated that the 'Fishing Village is strong in football, and musters three clubs, Williamstown, North Williamstown and Battery United ..... although there is not much to choose between the last two. Whether from defections from its ranks or indifference, the elder club (Williamstown) has not shown the spirit ..... that characterised its doings when the Junior Challenge Cup was carried off in 1876.'
By 1880, the bigger clubs began to accumulate considerable funds received from paying customers at cricket grounds and the resultant increase in inducements to players, including covering the costs of guernseys and boots, job offers and free housing, inexorably moved the game away from its amateur origins. For the next decade and a half the VFA struggled to find an effective way of resisting this growing trend, and the clash between amateur and professional philosophies was a major factor in the formation of the VFL. Theophilus Smith Marshall, who was Carlton's delegate at this time, but later became secretary of the VFA for 12 years from 1885, was one who could see the need for drastic administrative and playing reforms. Despite being a native of Scotland, Marshall had grown up with the game and played in that first match on Richmond Paddock and was a close friend of Henry Harrison. He campaigned for such things as paid umpires, points for wins and draws, boundary umpires, an independent tribunal for trying reported players and a properly drawn-up fixture, things that would be postponed for years. One reform that came into effect in 1880 was to limit the movement of players. This restriction applied to any player other than one who had permanently changed address or whose application for transfer had been rejected three times in succession by his club.
One of the co-founders of the game, Tom Wills, committed suicide in early May at his home. He was the physical force behind the early organisation of the game and was also a very good player who had the 'best player in the colony' title bestowed on him several times. In other developments, Albert Park and South Melbourne finally amalgamated and retained the Park's red and white stripes, while East Melbourne returned to senior ranks after three years and St Kilda reformed but dropped back to junior status after just one game and then disbanded again, sending the second incarnation of St Kilda into history. The first inter-colonial games on South Australian soil also occurred in mid-August. 15 matches were played by Williamstown of which five were won, five lost and five drawn. Only 5 goals were scored for the season as against 10 by the opposition. 'Town only played two matches against senior teams in this season, being Carlton on August 14 (losing 3.27 to 0.3) at Prince's Oval and Melbourne (lost 4-0). E.G. Moss took over the captaincy in 1880 from D. Burke with J. Monteith vice-captain. Membership was 64 in this season.
In 1881 'Town scored their first victory over a senior club when it downed Hotham (North Melbourne) on June 18 at the Gardens (Fearon) Reserve, 1.4 to 0.0, albeit with the advantage of extra men. Former captain, E.G. Moss, was best for the Villagers, while Charlie Laming kicked the only goal. Poor weather forced all senior matches to be abandoned on this day, except for the Hotham game. Hotham had defeated Williamstown 3 goals to nil earlier in the season on May 14 at Royal Park. Brunswick was defeated twice, on one occasion with a score of 9-0. 'Town finished the year 13th out of 15 teams on the junior ladder with 7 wins, 6 draws and 3 losses from the 13 games played. The Villagers kicked 25 goals for the season while 14 goals were booted by the opponents, a feat diminshed by the absence of senior opposition. The team visited Colac during the season and defeated the locals 6-3 while Romsey was visited at the end of the season, quite possibly the first end-of-season trip made by the Club.
Efforts were made in the pre-season of 1880 for Williamstown and Battery United to amalgamate so that a stronger team could be fielded to make a bid for inclusion in the senior grade, but this proved unsuccessful. A merger between the two clubs did eventually occur under the Williamstown name in April 1882 and led to Alfred Thomas Clark resuming the presidency, replacing Cr John Jobson who had served six years in that role but stood down to make the union possible. Jobson continued on as a vice-president during 1882. Duncan McLeod also resumed as secretary/treasurer, taking over from J. Silke. An improved performance resulted from the amalgamation, with 11 wins, 4 draws and 3 defeats the result of the Club's 18 matches. One of the defeats was to senior club, Hotham (North Melbourne), at Gardens (Fearon) Reserve on September 2, 2.3 to 1.8, although the Villagers had extra men. 'Town were also scheduled to meet East Melbourne on July 8 but this match was postponed due to rain. Williamstown successfully demanded a change of umpire in a game against South Yarra at half-time, and when no players from East Melbourne turned up on June 8 a game was played against Moonee Ponds which had found itself in the same situation at a nearby ground. This scratch match was later counted as a competition game. East Melbourne disbanded after its sixth consecutive defeat during which it failed to score a single goal and never appeared again.
The team kicked a total of 38 goals for the season with just 13 goals scored against the Villagers, while J. Page became the first Williamstown player to kick 10 goals in a season. The team finished 6th on the ladder of 14 junior clubs. Membership increased to 136 largely due to secretary/treasurer McLeod canvassing the district extensively, which was more than the minimum of 80 required for VFA senior status, and there was a resultant larger pool of players from which to select a team. Another issue that Williamstown faced in achieving seniority was the lack of a fence around its ground to enable admission to be charged so, at the end of 1882, the Club borrowed 70 pounds from the Commercial Bank of Australia for this purpose.
An early-season clash occurred between VFA officials and secretaries of the stronger clubs over the issue of the private drawing-up of fixtures before the start of the season. The Association were of the view that this was the right of the controlling body but the main clubs, backed by their cricket club landlords, won the battle and once again it became a 'club matter'. Unsuccessful attempts were also made to have matches divided up into four quarters of 30 minutes each instead of two halves of one hour apiece.
Williamstown's progress as a junior club reached its peak in 1883 when it played a 1-all draw against Melbourne in its first visit to the Gardens Reserve on August 25, defeated Essendon 2.5 to 1.8 on September 1 also at the Gardens Reserve, and then beat Brunswick, 4.7 to 1.2, on September 8 also at Gardens Reserve, in a season that saw 20 matches played for 10 wins, 5 losses and 5 draws. Four of the matches were against 'senior' clubs, including the victory over Essendon, but there was also a loss to South Melbourne, 5.7 to 1.5 on May 5, Carlton, 3.9 to 0.6, on May 19 and to Hotham, 1.15 to 1.2 on July 28. It also was reported that Williamstown won its first game at Sandridge (Port Melbourne) in seven years in this season. 42 goals were scored by The Villagers with 27 kicked against them, and Jimmy MacKrell and captain J. Rees led the goalkicking with 8 goals each. The leading goalkicker of the previous year, J. Page, transferred to Carlton in 1883 while teammate, Billy Litchfield, who had played with 'Town since 1877, went to Hotham (North Melbourne). Charles Alexander joined the Villagers during the season but returned to Essendon for 1884. Club secretary, Duncan McLeod, saw the late season run of on-field success as the catalyst for elevation to senior ranks of the VFA. The improved performances, an enthusiastic Club administration, a membership of 205 and a controlling body willing to admit new clubs to the elite group due to the increasing public interest in the game was a fortuitous combination which saw the door open for Williamstown to take its biggest step-up in football history. Also in 1883, the Victorian Junior Football Association (VJFA) commenced after being formed in August of 1882 at a meeting at Young and Jackson's Hotel, and Williamstown's 'Second Twenty' or reserves played in that competition, along with other local teams Osborne, Alberts and Prince Imperial. The long campaign for senior status was at last recognised and full membership of the VFA was granted to both the Williamstown and the newly-formed Fitzroy clubs at the start of the 1884 season. The admission of two new clubs brought the number of seniors back to eight (Carlton, Essendon, Fitzroy, Geelong, Melbourne, Hotham, South Melbourne and Williamstown) but the prestige was offset by the indiscriminate entrance of other clubs to senior grade over the next few seasons. Fifteen clubs were competing by 1886, eighteen in 1887 and sixteen in 1888. This period created more dissatisfaction with VFA control and the older clubs resented the influx of so many newcomers and undoubtedly gave rise to a desire for another controlling body. Attempts to save the VFA by reducing the number of teams by 1888 failed to placate these strong clubs from the inner suburbs and, as we know, eight seceded to form the VFL in 1896.
Ernie 'Dick' Warren, played 1884-92, 134 games, 52 goals, leading goalscorer 1884 & 1886, captain 1891, one of 6 brothers to play for Williamstown, died in May 1938
Departures from the 1883 playing list included Charles Alexander (back to Essendon) and William 'Fatty' McAlister (Melbourne), while Charles Solomon joined from Sandhurst but moved to South Melbourne before the year was out. Billy Litchfield returned after a year with Hotham (North Melbourne). Williamstown's first official match as a senior club in 1884 featured the team's new outfit of blue jersey and knickerbockers, black and yellow hose and a black cap with a yellow Maltese cross in the centre and was played at Gardens (Fearon) Reserve on May 3 against Fitzroy. It was also Fitzroy's first recorded game, and resulted in a win, 2.14 to Williamstown's 0.3, before a modest crowd of 400. Ted Cherry was the first captain with Alick Alexander his deputy and Dick 'Commotion' James was named best player. The team achieved its first competition points the following week when it drew with Hotham (North Melbourne) at Gardens Reserve, 2.6 to 2.8 (only goals counted at this stage of the game's development, even though behinds were recorded). Jack 'Oily' Clark kicked both goals for Williamstown while Regan was best player. The Club celebrated its first win over a fellow senior side when it lowered Carlton's colours on the Garden Reserve on July 19, 4.11 to 2.12, with Fred Ulbrick named best player and G. Jones, Jack Clark, Jack Kennedy and James Smith also doing well, while H. Reed kicked 2 goals. Two weeks after the victory over Carlton, Williamstown visited Fitzroy for the first time and the seaside team failed to score while the home side kicked 5.12. Berry was best for 'Town. This was the only occassion in the pre-VFL era when the Villagers failed to register even a behind. Despite this setback, 'Town managed a draw with South Melbourne, 1.3 to 1.2, back at Gardens Reserve the next week, its best effort against this strong VFA club, with Kennedy and Ulbrick best for the Villagers. Ulbrick was the sole goalscorer for 'Town. The return clash with Hotham at Arden St. resulted in another draw, 1.16 to 1.5, with W. 'Cockle' Matthews best player and Jack Kennedy the goalkicker.
The biggest boilover of the season occurred on September 27 at the Garden Reserve in the last game of the season when Williamstown downed the previously unbeaten and eventual premier, Geelong, 3.11 to 2.10, with the Pivotonians, as Geelong were then known, scoreless in the first half after 'Town won the crucial toss and kicked with a strong breeze. Jack Kennedy was named best player, while 'Angry' Orr, Jones and Kennedy kicked the goals. It was the only time that Williamstown was to defeat Geelong in the VFA. The team finished last in its first senior season, winning only the two games against Carlton and eventual premier Geelong. There was also three draws and eight defeats. Charlie Laming took over as captain during the season and Fred Ulbrick became vice-captain. 21 goals were scored of which Ernie Warren was the top goalscorer with 7 while Jimmy MacKrell kicked 5. 41 goals were kicked by opposition teams. There were also 7 wins and 3 draws against junior clubs during the season. Junior club, Sandridge, changed its name to Port Melbourne in this year, in line with the change of name of the suburb. Williamstown Juniors was also admitted to the Victorian Junior Football Association in May 1884 and finished third with 14 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses in their first season. A bell was used for the first time in this season to signal the beginning, half-time and end of games by nominated time-keepers rather than the central umpire. The use of a bell became an official VFA practice in 1885 and there were calls for the use of whistles by umpires. Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick appeared on the scene in this season, becoming secretary to the Second Eighteen, Williamstown Juniors, and assistant secretary to the seniors.
Melbourne Punch magazine, May 10, 1888
William Fagg 'Jasper' Jones commenced playing with Williamstown in 1885 and, until he finished up in 1893, appeared 118 times for the Villagers and kicked 27 goals. He was made captain in 1888-89 after the merger with South Williamstown. He also played one season with Carlton in 1887, completing 18 games for just one goal and also played one game for Victoria. He became a VFA central umpire in 1894 and passed away on March 9, 1947, aged 84.
A new secretary joined the VFA in 1885 named Theophilus Smith Marshall, a former Royal Park, Albert Park and Carlton player. As a traditionalist, Marshall was to have a significant impact on the game over the 12 years he was in the post, as he strove to eradicate all forms of professionalism and force on club delegates the need for the administrative reforms he had advocated for years as Carlton's delegate. In the same year, the number of VFA senior teams was increased to ten with the admission of new incarnations of Richmond and University. Due to Richmond's admittance, the new club added a blue sash to the jumper to avoid a clash with Williamstown's black and yellow colours. This club had no connection with the earlier Richmond team which was really a cricket club side. Field and goal umpires also began to be paid from this season.
1884 inaugural captain, Ted Cherry, departed for Hotham (North Melbourne) in the off-season while new players included local William H. 'Barkly Bill' Jones from Melbourne, who had played previously with Williamstown Juniors and Battery United, A. Scrivenger from West Geelong, Thomas Taylor from the Geelong area while George Hall crossed from Fitzroy during the year. Jones was appointed vice-captain to support skipper, Charlie Laming. The season began promisingly with wins over newcomers Richmond, 1.17 to 0.5, and University, 4.8 to 1.4. This was followed up with another victory over Carlton, 7.5 to 3.4, on June 6. All these games were at Gardens Reserve. 'Town kicked its first-ever goal against Fitzroy in its third attempt when it visited Brunswick St on June 13 but went down again, 1.10 to 4.3. Williamstown supporters felt the loss was perhaps due to an overly generous attitude towards the home team. The Villagers arrived ready to play but not all of the 'Roy's team had turned up. Williamstown captain, Charlie Laming, agreed to delay the start of the game by 30 minutes, by which time Fitzroy had a full contingent, won the toss and kicked with the wind in the first half and had the better of the daylight. The Williamstown Chronicle reported on June 20 that 'the "ground" consisted of a chain of water holes on one wing, a mud-bank on the other wing, and a swamp in the centre.' The first victory over Melbourne at the MCG occurred on July 4, 2.1 to 1.8, and Williamstown then inflicted Richmond's fourth successive loss at Punt Road the following week, 3.10 to 1.1. The Williamstown Chronicle reported on July 18 that 'the ground was not roped off and this allowed the crowd to encroach upon the arena, and sometimes the ball was sent amongst the spectators, and barrackers and players mingled in the scrimmages'. At South Melbourne on August 1, Williamstown held the reigning premier goalless in the first half but eventually lost 6.10 to 1.6 in front of a crowd of 9,000. The next week at home, 'Town had ample opportunities to win against Fitzroy but poor kicking at goal proved costly and were defeated, 3.6 to 2.19. The Villagers also enjoyed their first win against Essendon on September 5 at home, 4.17 to 0.1. This defeat ended the 'Don's premiership aspirations after they had booted 9 goals against the Villagers earlier in the year. After winning the toss, Williamstown kicked with the breeze and soon had two goals on the board from 'Barkly Bill' Jones. Fred Ulbrick and James Smith added further goals before half-time to give 'Town 4 goals from 17 scoring shots to Essendon's nil. In a lacklustre second half, Essendon managed just one behind with the wind to four behinds by Williamstown to ensure a comfortable victory for the seasiders. 'Town repeated the earlier victory over Melbourne in the return clash at Gardens Reserve on September 12, winning comfortably 4.13 to 2.8. The Sportsman reported on September 16 that, in a vain attempt to protect their half-time lead, Melbourne resorted to kicking the ball out of bounds whenever the chance arose. In response, 'the language of some of the local supporters was of the most disgusting character, and their injunctions to the (Melbourne) players as to the disposal of the visiting team were of such a sanguinary and blood-curdling nature that, if carried out, would necessitate the employment of extra executioners to mete out well-deserved punishment.' Williamstown finished seventh in 1885 with 7 wins and 3 draws from 16 matches, kicking 48 goals and having 50 kicked against them, in a much-improved performance in their second year as a senior club. There was also a win and a loss to junior clubs and two victories over Ballarat. South Melbourne scored 100 goals in this season, the first team ever to achieve this feat.
The Australasian newspaper named vice-captain 'Barkly Bill' Jones and Jack 'Oily' Clark among the best followers in the colony and Alf 'Ginger' Worroll as one of the best defenders. Captain Charlie Laming was named amongst the best centre players and newcomer, Thomas Taylor, who kicked 14 goals in senior games and 19 in all matches, as one of the best forwards. According to The Sportsman, the other good player was Jimmy MacKrell. The Club's 'Second Twenty', Williamstown Juniors, took out the VJFA premiership by going through the season undefeated, with five draws and two walkovers/forfeits. The team kicked 54 goals and conceded only 16.
Three Williamstown captains, from left, Jack Worrell 1886, William 'Jasper' Jones 1888-89 & M.J. 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick 1887
Because of the money from football crowds, in 1886 the Williamstown Cricket Club invited the Football Club to share their ground at Point Gellibrand, in an effort to emulate the inner suburban cricket clubs by gaining revenue from its ground during the winter. The offer was declined due to the lack of a guarantee about the ground's tenure. The Cricket Club then formed their own team, South Williamstown, which was created one Saturday afternoon on March 27 by 200 prospective members who met at the cricket ground under the chairmanship of Cr Walter Clarke, who became the first president at a meeting held at the Mechanics Institute the following Monday. Four patrons and 21 vice-presidents were also elected, many of whom occupied similar positions with Williamstown. Application was made to the VFA the same evening as the initial Saturday meeting and was accepted subject to the requisite number of financial members being obtained over the weekend, with the Williamstown Football Club delegate, W.H. 'Barkly Bill' Jones, who would become South Williamstown's captain, supporting the application. Strangely, the two teams 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. It was realised that neither club would achieve success whilst competing with each other for officials, players and finance, and so Williamstown made strenuous efforts to have the newcomers amalgamate, as happened with Battery United back in 1882, but wouldn't agree to the Cricket Club's conditions of tenure of the cricket ground, where it was proposed for the combine to play. The new team finished tenth with just four defeats, but they didn't play Geelong, South Melbourne, Carlton, Hotham, Essendon or any of the Ballarat teams.
The VFA was on an expansionist path in 1886 and almost doubled the number of clubs when it admitted Port Melbourne, Footscray, St Kilda (the third incarnation to represent the area), Prahran (an amalgam of junior clubs South Yarra, Hawksburn and Southern Cross) and South Williamstown, which was led by Williamstown's vice-captain of 1885, W.H. 'Barkly Bill' Jones, who had a falling out with the Club's secretary of the time, Duncan McLeod, and bolstered by many players from Williamstown Juniors. So alarmed were the inner suburban group of clubs at this influx of new teams that immediate steps were taken to tighten up the qualifications. All future applicants must have an enclosed ground, pay a fee of 10 pounds, have at least 80 financial members and not come from a municipality already represented in the VFA. This had the desired effect for not only were the number of clubs reduced over the next few years but Collingwood in 1892 was the only other club to be admitted before the breakaway in 1896.
Also in 1886 came the abandonment of games being divided into two halves in favour of four 25-minute quarters, which was much fairer in terms of wind and light advantage. Also, a bell was to be rung at 3pm notifying sides to be ready to play at 3.10pm, with a timekeeper from each competing club tasked with ringing the bell to signal the end of each quarter. The practice of waving two flags for a goal and one for a behind was adopted later in the season after Essendon secretary J. Graham had witnessed this when his club toured Tasmania in June. Central umpires were using whistles by June, and there was also talk of having boundary umpires. In response to secret payments to players, the VFA confirmed the strict prohibition of professionalism, with any player found guilty of accepting money to be banned for 12 months.
Drawing of a football game, from the Williamstown Chronicle, 23 June, 1888
Players from 1885 who departed in the off-season included 13 players who went over to South Williamstown, with 1885 vice-captain, 'Barkly Bill' Jones, 1884 vice-captain, Alick Alexander, and Hugh Currie being the biggest losses. Recruits included Gilbert 'Gib' Currie and D. Jones from Williamstown Juniors and J. Parkes from South Adelaide. The Villagers, under the captaincy of both Jack Worrell and Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick, enjoyed a similar season to the previous year with an equal number of wins and losses in premiership matches. 'Town made a bright start, beating Fitzroy for the first time at Gardens Reserve 2.3 to 1.11 on May 1 but flew the Club flag at half-mast while the players wore black armbands in tribute to vice-president, Dr Edward G. Figg, whose son, Dr J. Carnegie Figg, passed away on the morning of the match. They then downed Essendon at East Melbourne 6.10 to 2.13 before meeting eventual premier Geelong at Gardens Reserve and losing badly 10.14 to 0.8 before a crowd of 3,000. They bounced back the next week to defeat the visiting St Kilda 11.7 to 1.0, with Ernie Warren kicking 6 majors, the most goals kicked in game by a Williamstown player in the pre-VFL era. This was 'Town's highest-ever score in the VFA to date, the Club's greatest-ever winning margin and the first time the team had kicked more than 10 goals in a match. It would remain the Villagers' highest score and largest winning margin in the pre-VFL era.
In 1886, Williamstown ventured to Port Melbourne for a VFA game for the first time on July 10. The result was a 3-goal defeat, perhaps due to the fact that most of the team came over on the 'Gem' steamer which broke down, delaying the start of the game until after 3.30 pm and ending in the dark.
Williamstown hosted a team from New South Wales on the Queen's Birthday weekend before a record crowd of 6,000 and won easily, 6.15 to 0.7. M.J. 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick captained the team in the absence of usual skipper, Jack Worrell. Another victory followed at Punt Road against Richmond, 5.15 to 4.12, which elevated 'Town to fourth place on the ladder. Defeats at South Melbourne, by 2 goals despite a best-on-ground effort from Jasper Jones, and at North Melbourne by 4 goals and at home against Carlton by 2 goals and Melbourne by 1 goal saw the team drop to sixth by the end of June. Williamstown defeated the touring South Adelaide team, 4.6 to 1.7, at Gardens Reserve before embarking on the first visit to Port Melbourne for a VFA game on July 10. The result was a 3-goal defeat, perhaps due to the fact that most of the team came over on the 'Gem' steamer which broke down, delaying the start of the game until after 3.30 pm and ending in the dark. Port also won the return clash at Williamstown on July 31 by 4 goals. Victory over Footscray at Gardens Reserve, 4.17 to 3.2, before a crowd of 3,000 was followed by a draw at Fitzroy before a big victory over University, 6.11 to 1.8. Losses away to Carlton by 2 goals and Geelong by 6 goals was followed by a win over Richmond by 2 goals at Gardens Reserve which saw Williamstown in 8th position at the end of August. An easy 6-goal victory at home against Essendon, which could not muster a full complement of 20 players, and another win at St Kilda gave hopes of a finals berth before defeats at home at the hands of Hotham (North Melbourne) and South Melbourne. The 'Towners' Jack Kennedy had his finger so badly broken in the game against South that it was amputated. The season concluded on October 2 with a win over Melbourne, 4.9 to 3.13, leaving Williamstown in 8th place on the ladder with 11 wins, 11 losses and 1 draw with Fitzroy from their 23 matches. The team kicked 78 goals to 83 scored by opponents.
According to the Australasian newspaper, Alf 'Ginger' Worroll was regarded as one of the best followers in the colony, while 1885 captain Charlie Laming and William Fagg 'Jasper' Jones were named amongst the best forwards despite Ernie Warren finishing equal second on the VFA goalkicking list with a total of 24, including 6 in the game against St Kilda early in the season. The Club had in excess of 400 members in this year. From the records available, it would appear that Jack Kennedy became the first Williamstown player to play 50 games in the VFA when he reached that mark in the round 22 clash with Hotham (North Melbourne) at Garden's Reserve on September 18. Alf Worroll reached the same total the week after in the clash with South Melbourne where Kennedy broke his finger, ending his season. Premier, Geelong, kicked 151 goals in this season of which Phil 'Shilly' McShane booted 59 majors to set new VFA records. St Kilda became the first club to have 100 goals scored against them.
Hotham (North Melbourne) bad boy, Joe Tankard, came to Williamstown in 1887 but stayed only one season, pictured here on a Celebrities Series football card of 1887-89.
In 1887, the Villagers lost vice-captain and arguably their best player of the 19th century, William Fagg 'Jasper' Jones, who transferred to Carlton, as well as Charlie Laming who went to South Melbourne and Alf 'Ginger' Worroll and W.G. Sinclair who moved to Essendon and W. Wyatt went to Port Melbourne. The Fribbs brothers crossed to South Williamstown during the year, along with five other players. They did recruit three fine players from Hotham (North Melbourne) in Joe Tankard, Tom 'Dutchy' Peters and Eddie Williams who had been let go due to their 'disorderly behaviour on and off the field' in 1886, although Tankard had represented the VFA in a game against NSW and was adjudged best-on-ground during 1886. Tankard had been arrested and fined 5 shillings in September 1885 for fighting in Royal Park and in September of 1886 was again arrested and gaoled along with four other young men for allegedly committing an 'outrage' on a woman in Royal Park. The woman disappeared shortly after the alleged incident and was still missing by the time the case came before the courts and the five accused were discharged. Then, in October of 1887, the mayor of North Melbourne reported Tankard to the police for drunken brawling in public, for which he was fined and spent 14 days in gaol. On a more positive note, Tankard was widely attributed with introducing the high, or finger-tip, mark to the game as chest marks were normally taken at the time. Other recruits were 5 players from South Williamstown, including former player Hugh Currie, who would become vice-captain, Guest from Tasmania as well as Boyd and Jimmy Reid from South Melbourne. In March, the Club suggested that an amalgamation with South Williamstown would be in order due to the latter's lack of success, even though it had won 6, lost 3 with 5 draws from its 14 senior games in its debut season and was undefeated until round 8. One of South Williamstown's victories in 1886 was a 10-goal win over St Kilda as well as draws with eventual 4th-placed Port Melbourne and 5th-placed Fitzroy. This may have been more to do with Williamstown's desire to move to the cricket ground where admission could be charged in an attempt to solve its financial problems which was not possible at Gardens Reserve. Williamstown, captained in this season by Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick and D. McDonald, remained in the middle bracket of clubs, with regulation wins against lower teams such as Footscray (which failed to score at all in the game at Gardens Reserve on June 18, and could muster only 1.1 to 4.5 in the return game at Western Oval on August 6), University (which Williamstown defeated 5.26 to 3.8 at Gardens Reserve on August 27, and 8.9 to 1.7 in the return game), St Kilda (4.11 to 2.5 at Gardens Reserve on September 17) and Prahran (8 goals to NIL at Gardens Reserve on July 16). This winning margin over the Two Blues was the Club's equal second-largest in the pre-VFL era.
However, the Villagers continued to struggle against the more powerful South Melbourne team, which won 3.7 to 0.2 at South's ground on July 30 and 6.13 to 2.9 in the return game at Gardens Reserve on August 20, and Geelong, which won 5.15 to 0.3 at Corio Oval on May 14. 'Town also lost to Port Melbourne twice, once again, by 4 goals in the season opener at North Port and by 3 goals in the return game at Gardens Reserve on May 28. The Villagers did manage to narrowly down Melbourne at the Gardens Reserve on May 21, despite leading by 3 goals at three-quarter time, and beat Richmond by the same margin at home on June 4. The Tigers reversed the result in the return match and secured its first-ever win over Williamstown at Punt Road on July 23, 5.16 to 1.2. A draw was also played against Hotham at Gardens Reserve, in one of the best games of the season, with brothers Hugh and 'Gib' Currie best for the Villagers. Williamstown did not play eventual premier, Carlton, or fourth-placed Fitzroy. By season's end Williamstown finished in 6th position in the 18-team competition with 9 wins, 8 losses and two draws from their 19 games, a commendable result and the best since joining the senior grade, considering the small population and competition for players from South Williamstown. The team kicked 67 goals and had 76 goals kicked against them.
Best players during the year were 'Gib' Currie, 'Dinah' Griffin, Bobby Gibbs, captain 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick along with the Hotham bad boys. One of these, Eddie Williams, also topped the goalkicking with 13. The three Ballarat sides in the competition, South Ballarat, Ballarat Imperial and Ballarat, took the number of clubs to 18 which made the VFA rather unwieldy and was causing division between the strong and weak clubs. Williamstown drew with Imperials, 5 goals each at Gardens Reserve on the Queen's Birthday holiday but were soundly beaten in the return match at Ballarat's City Oval, 6.14 to 1.0, on June 11. The Villagers did beat Ballarat easily, 6.1 to 1.5, at Gardens Reserve on June 25 and similarly lost the return game at City Oval, 12.23 to 1.1, on September 3. South Williamstown did not do so well in its second VFA season and finished fourteenth winning only four matches, drawing two and losing thirteen. 'Barkly Bill' Jones was captain again, and 42 goals were kicked to 86 scored against them. One of these losses was by 10 goals to Melbourne, 13.11 to 3.8, at Williamstown on May 28, and in the game at Fitzroy on July 9 South Williamstown only managed to score one behind to the 'Roys' 4.9. Williamstown's membership increased slightly to 218 in this season. The origin of the modern 'ball up' appears to have emerged in this season when umpires were confronted with a crowded bunch of players around the ball with no free kick apparent to either side.
Controversial administrator, Duncan McLeod, who was primarily responsible for the Club's elevation to senior ranks, stepped down as secretary at the annual meeting earlier in the year after he objected to the proposal to split the role of secretary/treasurer into separate offices. There were also complaints that he allotted too few duties to the assistant secretary. He agreed to act as treasurer and assistant secretary as a concession after long debate in his final season of football administration. Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick, who was also captain of the team, stepped up to take on the secretarial duties after having been in the same role with Williamstown Juniors. He also acted as the Club's VFA delegate.
A South Williamstown members ticket from 1887
Two amalgamations came about by order of the VFA in 1888, which was determined to reduce the number of teams in the cumbersome competition which was causing divisions between the strong and weak clubs. Prahran combined with St Kilda and the two Williamstown teams merged. This was followed by the withdrawal of University and the dumping of the three Ballarat teams in 1889, which trimmed the ranks to a more manageable 12 teams. A second Prahran club would re-emerge in 1899. Soon after the end of the 1887 season, the two secretaries of the Williamstown clubs, 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick and J. McAlister, came to agreement on an amalgamation in February 1888 and then conferred with the cricket club secretary, James Arthur Thompson, on terms for use of the cricket ground. A special meeting of the Williamstown Club on February 11 accepted both the conditions for the merger with South Williamstown and the terms of the cricket club for use of its ground. This ended 12 years of insecure tender of the Gardens Reserve, where many fine games had been played, with the victory over the undefeated Geelong in 1884 being the greatest of them all. Another development in 1888 was the adoption by the VFA of the 'ladder' based on four points for a win, two for a draw and a percentage system that had been devised by the Association secretary Theo S. Marshall in 1887.
The only known photograph of the South Williamstown team, taken in 1887 after the club's charity match against Carlton at the end of the season, in which South were victorious. Captain, William H. 'Barkly Bill' Jones is kneeling in the centre holding a football. South Williamstown were the first VFA team to play in white pants, a departure from the usual blue knickers worn by other teams.
As soon as the union was effected a new wooden grandstand of three large rooms and a one-story clock tower which was used by the press and the timekeepers, was erected at a cost of 950 pounds and officially opened in December 1887 which gave good service for the next forty years, until replaced by the current concrete stand that was built in 1929/30. William Henry Roberts MLC, rose from vice-president to take over as president from Alfred Thomas Clark, who had been in the role for eleven seasons from 1870-71, 1873-75 and 1882-87. Clark would die at sea near Sri Lanka on his way to London on May 19, 1888. William 'Jasper' Jones returned after a season with Carlton and a representative game for Victoria against Tasmania to captain the combine, while William H. 'Barkly Bill' Jones, so named after his hotel, The Barkly Arms (later the Oriental), the initial captain of South Williamstown, was made vice-captain.
It was also decided to adopt new colours, and the now famous blue and gold came into football for the first time. This was a combination of the yellow from Williamstown's black and yellow and the blue from South Williamstown's blue and white. The first guernsey was all blue with a yellow waist band and blue and yellow striped hose. This design has changed in terms of neck vees, sashes, monograms and vertical stripes but from 1914 onwards, with the exception of one season in 1928 when the waist band re-appeared, it has been the yellow sash that has been used. Richmond were then free to drop the blue from its colours to become black and yellow, which soon led to the nickname of the Tigers. When numbers on the back of jumpers became common, Williamstown wore white numbers up until about 1937 when the sash disappeared from the back of the jumper and yellow numbers were worn.
Hotham bad boy, Tom 'Dutchy' Peters transferred from Williamstown to South Melbourne after just one season, while his two former teammates Joe Tankard, after 12 games, and leading goalkicker of 1887, Eddie Williams, returned to Hotham, which changed its name to North Melbourne following the change of name of the suburb. 'Stacks' Wallace transferred to Melbourne. The better South Williamstown players in Jones, Johnny Fribbs, Harry Claringbould, Dick 'Bloomer' Salt, Andy Henderson and Don Murray were retained by the new entity, while Harry Ryde crossed from South Melbourne. Alf 'Ginger' Worroll also returned from Essendon while ex-Prahran vice-captain F. Baillee and Tasmanian defender George 'Bud' Williamson joined during the year. The 'new' Williamstown finished the 1888 season in third position, winning 13 games, losing 6 and drawing one, only two games behind premier South Melbourne and runner-up Geelong, who were not met during the year along with Melbourne, in its best season in the original VFA. 'Town kicked 77 goals and had 57 scored against them.
A sketch of the proposed pavilion at the cricket ground that was erected in 1887 and officially opened in December of that year, as a result of the merger between Williamstown and South Williamstown
The season opened on May 5 with a one-goal win in the Club's first game on the cricket ground against Footscray before a crowd of 1,500, with 'Jasper' Jones and 'Bud' Williamson best. This game also featured the first use of an electric timekeeping alarm developed by local watchmaker, Mr E.H. Kirkby, of Nelson Place, which signaled the end of each quarter by a loud ringing noise which could be heard all over the ground. Prior to this, umpires kept time by carrying a watch in their pocket or referring to the the clock on a ground's pavilion if there was one. A resounding defeat at Fitzroy was followed by a win at home over Essendon, its first loss for the season, with Dick 'Bloomer' Salt kicking three of the 'Town's four goals and 'Barkly Bill' Jones best-on-ground, before a draw at South Ballarat's Eastern Oval watched by a crowd of 6,000. Williamstown's first win over Port Melbourne in the VFA occurred on May 26 at the cricket ground, with a 4.7 to 2.5 victory, with all four goals coming in the first quarter and Port kept to a goalless second half. Jasper Jones was again Williamstown's best but was reported for abusive language by umpire Trait. This result was reversed in the return match at Port on June 30, 5.11 to 1.5. A surprise loss to Essendon at the East Melbourne ground, 3.3 to 1.9, was followed by the second victory for the year over Footscray at Western Oval on June 9, 8.8 to 4.10, with Ernie Warren kicking 3 goals and Harry Ryde, who was to die from tuberculosis in 1890, best player. Williamstown were victorious at St Kilda the next week which ended the Saints three-game winning streak, who were able to score just one goal from 18 scoring shots. The Villagers then won their fourth successive game with another victory over Footscray, with Jasper Jones reported once again. By the end of June, Williamstown was in 6th position with 6 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw from their 10 matches.
The team was easily beaten by Ballarat at City Oval, 5.4 to 0.4, but then downed the visiting Carlton team, the premiership favourites, by 4 goals at Gardens Reserve, kicking three unanswered goals in the last quarter. Jasper Jones was reported yet again while Johnny Fribbs was best player. The Villagers enjoyed a big win over University at the cricket ground on August 4, 10.23 to 2.3, due to only 10 of the students turning up. Substitutes made up the numbers. This was Williamstown's highest score since it booted 11.7 against St KIlda in round 4, 1886, and only the second time the Villagers had kicked 10 goals or more in a game. If behinds had been included in the score rather than just being recorded, this would have been 'Town's highest score in the pre-VFL era. In any event, it was the Club's second-highest winning margin in the pre-VFL era. Rover Andy Henderson kicked 5 goals for the winners, the equal-second highest number of goals kicked in a game by a Williamstown player in the pre-VFL era. University forfeited the return game on September 29. Williamstown convincingly downed the previously unbeaten South Ballarat side at the cricket ground on August 11, 8.12 to 2.9, with Harry Claringbould booting 4 goals, but several players were in dispute with the Club and 'Gib' Currie, 'Dinah' Griffin and Bobby Gibbs did not play. The issue arose when Currie played with a junior team when the 'Town had a week off on July 28, and the committee prevented him from playing again until the VFA ruled on his permit status, and the other two stood down in support. Things got worse the following week when Williamstown were defeated by Carlton at the MCG on August 18 with the Blues kicking four unanswered goals in the last quarter after the scores were level at the final change. 'Bud' Williamson was best for the Villagers, who were again without 'Gib' Currie and Bobby Gibbs, and 'Barkly Bill' Jones and Harry Smith were both reported for abusive language towards umpire Trait and were both suspended for the rest of the season.
Report from the Williamstown Chronicle of September 8, 1888, of a public meeeting held at the Temperance Hall to discuss the abusive language charge brought by Umpire J.J. (John Joseph 'Cocker') Trait, the outstanding umpire of the 19th century, against Williamstown vice-captain, William 'Barkly Bill' Jones, during the match against Carlton on August 18 at the MCG. Despite Williamstown's threats of legal action, the VFA tribunal suspended Jones for the remaining six matches of the season in relation to the allegation. As the Club's VFA delegate, Jones continued to sit in meetings with those who rubbed him out.
Melbourne Punch, July 14 1887
Despite these setbacks, Williamstown continued to push for a top three finish with a fine win at home over Fitzroy, which led by two goals at quarter-time but were kept goalless after that while the Villagers added 4 goals. The 'Town supporters continually abused the umpire and threatened him with acts of violence, while Fitzroy's youthful larrikin gang who called themselves 'The Forties' went on a rampage at Williamstown train station after the match as the local police concentrated on protecting the umpire. (The ‘Fitzroy Forties’ was a collection of local toughs who were an ever-threatening presence on the terraces and in the streets afterwards. They would often get in fights with gangs and members of other clubs. According to Richard Stremski in Kill for Collingwood, the Collingwood gangs were more than happy to accommodate the Fitzroy toughs, one saying they loved heading up the road to the Brunswick Street Oval where “if you don’t get good football [at least] you’re bound to have bloodshed.”)
Williamstown Chronicle match report of the Williamstown v. Fitzroy game on August 25, 1888
This good form was maintained with a convincing win at Footscray the next week, 6.18 to 1.5, with 'Bloomer' Salt best-on-ground. There was crowd trouble at three-quarter time and police had to restore order after a nasty brawl. The team was brought back to earth at North Melbourne the next game with a 5-goal to 3 loss after North gained a winning break in the third quarter largely due to former 'Towner Joe Tankard's fine play. Williamstown then knocked off the Saints at the cricket ground by 5 goals to 3 in the penultimate round of games. Being awarded the 4 points for University's forfeiture of the last game, Williamstown gained its only top three finish in pre-VFL days, behind only premier South Melbourne and Geelong. The Villagers took advantage of an inequitable fixture to accumulate as many wins as possible against less talented opposition but still accounted for Carlton and Port Melbourne along the way. Newcomer Andy Henderson and James Smith topped the goalkicking for the season with 10 apiece.
The guernsey after the 1888 merger with South Williamstown, blue with a yellow waist band. Ted Alley was recruited from Footscray Juniors via South Melbourne and was knocked out just before half-time at Port Melbourne in 1905. Later that season against Richmond, Alley was the victim in a report of the Tigers' centre half-back Bill Lang, a heavyweight boxer who won the Australian title in 1909, lodged by the Williamstown club alleging unduly rough play. Alley was captain of the Club's first premiership team in 1907, after captain-coach Paddy Noonan sensationally resigned not long before the end of the home-and-away season.
Gilbert 'Gib' Currie, came from Williamstown Juniors in 1885 and played 53 games and kicked 10 goals until crossing to Carlton in 1889, where he played 73 games and kicked 35 goals up until the end of 1892. He also represented the VFA in a game against SA in 1890. He went to Port Melbourne in 1893 and played a further 14 games, kicking 2 goals. He died in November 1910 aged just 45.
The Sportsman, September 17 1890
The creeping tide of professionalism caught up with uncompetitive amateurs University by 1889, which after several years of mediocrity, withdrew from the VFA while the three Ballarat clubs disappeared, reducing the number of competing teams to 12. A Collingwood committee was formed in June with a view to forming a senior club with support coming mainly from Britannia Juniors with support from two members of parliament named Beazley and Langridge and Melbourne's delegate, Mr Hunt. An application for admission was rejected by the VFA, which were of the view that there were enough clubs in the competition. VFA secretary, Theo Marshall, appealed to all club delegates to assist in stamping out some undesirable featues that had crept into the game, namely unduly rough play on the field, bad behaviour during and after matches by supporters and the almost open betting that was occurring at games. All of these issues would arise in Williamstown's games as the season unfolded.
'Barkly Bill' Jones departed for premier South Melbourne in June after losing the vice-captaincy while the disgruntled 'Gib' Currie crossed to Carlton and Harry Claringbould went to Melbourne while Jack Warren went back to Richmond at the end of June. Most recruits came from local zones, other than J. McDonald who came from South Melbourne, and the money saved was put into ground improvements but the Club was finally in a sound financial position. Williamstown's rise to the top four was short-lived and in 1889 the Villagers plummeted to tenth position on the 12-team ladder, with only Melbourne and Footscray below them, having just 5 wins, 13 defeats and two draws for the year. The season got off to a bad start with a loss to Essendon at East Melbourne on May 4, 6.7 to 1.8, and then defeat at South Melbourne, 6 goals to 3, with Harry Ryde, the man who would contract TB later in the year, return to Tasmania and pass away in August 1890, best for the Villagers. Meanwhile, the two draws against Port Melbourne on May 18 at Williamstown, after a tough and goalless first half with skipper William 'Jasper' Jones best, and at Geelong on June 29, when the Pivots led by two goals at half-time before being worn down by 'Town, had merit considering Port finished third and Geelong fifth. This was Williamstown's best result against the Pivots since it beat them at Gardens Reserve in 1884 and was the only other time it did not lose to Geelong in the VFA days.
George 'Bud' Williamson, pictured here in The Melbourne Leader of June 20 1896, was dropped following the controversial loss to Footscray at the Western Oval on August 24 along with Andy Henderson. There were unconfirmed rumours that a Williamstown bookmaker had offered 5 pounds to some local players to 'play dead', but an investigation by the Club committee could find no evidence of this. Ironically, Williamson moved to Footscray the next season and later captained South Melbourne in 1896.
The Age reported that the club was experiencing internal disorganisation, and there was some doubt as to whether all players were doing their best to win, underlined by nine losses in ten rounds, interspersed with the draw at Geelong, during the season. The last of these was Footscray's first win of the season and first-ever over 'Town, at the Western Oval on August 24. There were serious repercussions at Williamstown after this humiliation, as some commentators were of the opinion that Footscray were not good enough to be in the VFA. On the eve of the Footscray match, rumours had circulated that Williamstown were not 'anxious' to win the match. It was reported in the press that 'a suspicious crowd' attended and that a bookmaker was laying odds that a weak Footscray team would win. When this happened, the defeated Village team left the field to cries of 'dead' and other derogatory references directed at the players. Rumours also circulated that a Williamstown bookmaker had offered 5 pounds to some local players to 'play dead', but an investigation by the Club committee could find no evidence of this. However, rover Andy Henderson and defender George 'Bud' Williamson were dropped for the next game owing to their poor performance against the Tricolours. The Club strenuously denied the action was for any other reason, but Williamson even went to the effort of sending a statutory declaration to The Herald in an attempt to clear his name. The Williamstown Chronicle also reported that Henderson wrote to the Club committee demanding it provide evidence that he was paid off in this match. Ironically, Williamson moved to Footscray the next season and later captained South Melbourne in 1896.
Age, November 23, 1889
Captain 'Jasper' Jones did his best to set a good example, while the efforts of newcomer Foote, 'Ginger' Worroll, McPherson, Lyle, Cooper, J. Smith and Gibbs were praised. During the season, Williamstown played 20 games for 5 wins, 13 losses and two draws, with three of these victories coming in the last four games, including a 6-goal win over Melbourne, 9.13 to 3.5, at Williamstown, which broke the eight-game losing streak, and another at St Kilda, 5.4 to 3.18, on September 21 in the penultimate round of games. Once again there was trouble between Williamstown and St Kilda supporters when a fight broke out after a 'bell topper' was knocked off the head of a young St Kilda supporter. In the last round, Williamstown gained revenge for its earlier loss to Footscray in another spiteful match between these arch-rivals. The Tricolours held a narrow lead at quarter-time but the Villagers were back on level terms by half-time. The fireworks started in the third quarter when 'Town started to get on top. An all-in brawl started in the crowd and the players were soon caught up in the action and police were forced to intervene. 7 reports resulted, and one Williamstown player, W. Young, was suspended until the end of the following season for striking Arthur Ley, the Footscray captain, and never played for 'Town again. Anderson of Footscray was also suspended until the middle of the next season for throwing and shoving umpire Shaw. The Villagers won the match, 6.12 to 1.5, with Jasper Jones and Dick Salt best for the victors.
Another of the rare victories in this season was over St Kilda, 4.10 to 2.8, at Williamstown on June 15. A group of 30-40 larrikins, mostly from Prahran, followed the St Kilda team and caused trouble at this game, with one of the group throwing a rock at Williamstown's Alf 'Ginger' Worroll and another jumping the fence and knocking down one of the other Williamstown players. A Williamstown supporter retaliated and knocked over the St Kilda fan before police intervened. The best effort was the 5.8 to 1.4 win against eventual 7th-placed Fitzroy before a crowd of 6,000 on the muddy Williamstown Cricket Ground on June 1, where 'Ginger' Worroll kicked two of the 'Town's five goals in a best-on-ground display. Worroll put in another best-afield effort the following week against Carlton at South Melbourne, when the Blues held a 3-goal lead at three-quarter time before the Villagers played all over them to reduce the margin to just one goal by the final bell. Ex-Williamstown player, 'Gib' Currie, was best for Carlton. There was also a victory over a touring Southern Tasmanian side, 1.4 to 0.1, at Williamstown on the Queens Birthday holiday. A crowd of 5,000 came to Williamstown on July 6 to see Essendon down the Villagers in the first home loss since the amalgamation with South Williamstown, despite a brilliant game from defender 'Bud' Williamson. Essendon captain, Bill Fleming, said after the match that it was 'the roughest game he had ever played in'. Local supporters were quite unhappy with the visiting team and umpire Harry Wilson and showered them with mud and rocks, and Wilson had to be escorted to the train station by police. Williamstown had a reputation for crowd trouble and South Melbourne refused to play at the cricket ground. There was another incident at the game against North Melbourne at Williamstown on September 14 when some of the crowd started brawling and the police had to make arrests to restore order. Against this background, Williamstown had 540 members in this season, the largest since the formation of the Club in 1860. The Villagers kicked a total of 65 goals for the season and had 79 kicked against them. Bobby Gibbs senior was the leading goalkicker for the year with a total of 13.
Williamstown's new captain for 1890, Jim 'Poley' McDonald, pictured here in the Melbourne Punch magazine of June 12, 1890
By the 1890's, Australia was in the grips of depression which saw real GDP fall 17% over 1892 and 1893 and 30% between 1891-95, accumulating foreign debt that had reached 40% of export earnings by 1890, aggravated by a maritime strike at Melbourne and all the other port capitals in mid-1890 when a ship's fireman was dismissed. London banks began to withdraw loans from Australia, which created a crisis in the real estate market. The accompanying financial crisis, which reached a zenith in 1893, was the most severe in Australia's history. The government had no money to grow the economy and had a massive debt, and with rising unemployment, which reached 30% by 1893, and increasing bankruptcies, tax revenues were in sharp decline. The unravelling of the property boom of the 1880's led to an abrupt collapse of private investment in urban development and a sharp pullback in public infrastructure investment. Also, a drought in 1895 accentuated and prolonged the depression, which had a profound effect on the development and popularity of football in Victoria. As attendances declined by half over a five-year period, funds became scarcer and jobs for players were harder to find, which meant that many clubs could no longer afford the wages once dispensed to players. Those that adapted best to these new conditions did so by investing resources into developing their local junior zones, as this did not require the wages normally paid to talented prospects. VFA secretary, Theo S. 'Thop' Marshall, was fiercely opposed to professionalism and was determined to recover the amateur roots of the game. He fought to equalise gate money between the clubs and refused to confront the realities of professional sport as it developed in the late 19th century. Marshall, therefore, played a major role in the split that led to the formation of the VFL in 1897 due to the unrealistic constraints he attempted to place on the stronger clubs as football transitioned from its amateur past to its professional future. The transfer and permit rules he introduced to prevent players from migrating to the highest bidder further aggravated the situation, as the sporting media of the day claimed that under-the-table payments to players were rife and urged the VFA to accept the reality. There were also job offers, travel allowances, inter-colonial tours and valuable end-of-season trophies. The impact of the discovery of gold in WA was also profound as the money available in the West saw more than 70 of the finest footballers leave Victoria to play in Perth, Fremantle and Kalgoorlie, which led to a decline in the quality of the VFA competition and subsequently made it much less attractive for the paying public and crowds which were only a third of what they had been in the 1880's. As membership numbers began to decline some clubs fell into financial difficulties and were virtually insolvent and dispensed with reserves teams. The need for reform was growing by the year, and led to the stronger clubs resenting the weaker enitities. Many of the crowds intimidated players and umpires and rioting and brawling, particularly at North Melbourne and Port Melbourne, was common. Also, Essendon dominated the VFA to such an extent that they won four consecutive premierships between 1891-94, surpassing even the brilliant efforts of the great Geelong (1878-80 & 1882-84) and South Melbourne (1888-90) sides, and stifled the competition.
Dick Salt (left) and Don Murray both departed for Carlton in 1890 and both subsequently returned during 1891.
Against this backdrop, Williamstown entered the new decade under a new captain, Jim 'Poley' McDonald, with Ernie Warren as his deputy, but 'Town did even worse in 1890, swapping places with Footscray who finished 10th, while the Villagers came last. The Williamstown Chronicle was very critical of the team's attitude to training in its April 26 edition but the situation was not helped by the departures of Dick 'Bloomer' Salt and Don Murray for Carlton and McPherson to Fitzroy, while disgruntled rover, Andy Henderson, transferred to North Melbourne and George Williamson crossed to Footscray after the bribery allegations of the previous season and Williamson would go on to captain South Melbourne in 1896. Young was suspended for the season as a result of his report in the final game of the previous year against Footscray but never appeared for 'Town again. Harry Claringbould returned from a season with Melbourne, as did Walter Warren from Ballarat. In between Footscray and the Villagers was Richmond, half a game ahead of Williamstown. Against 14 defeats, only two wins were achieved, against eventual third-placed Fitzroy at Williamstown on August 2, 5.2 to 4.13, in the 'Roys' sixth-consecutive loss, and the ninth-placed Port Melbourne on a foggy day at Williamstown on July 5, 3.7 to 2.6. There were also two draws, against Footscray on May 31, and Melbourne on September 6, with 'Jasper' Jones kicking 2 goals and being best-on-ground, in a total of 18 games. The Club kicked 43 goals and for the first time had a century of goals kicked against it - 106 goals 168 behinds.
St Kilda recorded its first-ever victory in the VFA over Williamstown and first since 1879 in the opening game by just one goal, 4.3 to 3.15, with the ever-reliable 'Ginger' Worroll best for the Villagers. Worse was to follow the following week at East Melbourne, going down to Essendon, 9.4 to 2.6, followed by Melbourne's first win of the year over the Villagers, 5.11 to 2.8. The draw with Footscray at Williamstown on May 31 didn't seem to thrill the Tricolour supporters amongst the crowd of 7,000 who swamped the trains after the match and could not be held back by the station staff or police, and two panes of glass were broken in a scuffle. Fitzroy kicked its highest-ever score of 14.12 to Williamstown's 3.3 at Brunswick St on June 7 and the 'Town remained winless after going down at Richmond the following week, 6.12 to 1.3. The season's first victory followed in the fog match at Williamstown against Port Melbourne on July 5, with Walter Warren best. At the conclusion of the game, which the Villagers won by a goal, several hundred Port supporters rushed to catch the Gem ferry back across the bay but found out that the service had been terminated for the day due to the thick fog. They then went to the railway station in order to take the train although the ferry ticket did not entitle them to use the train. The Argus reported that the railway officials and police were unable to control the crowd that rushed the train. The Villagers' decline was emphasised the following week when it met eventual runner-up Carlton at the MCG on July 12 and was annihilated, 15.15 to 0.2, with the Blues kicking its highest-ever score to date and greatest winning margin in an era of low scoring. Ex-Williamstown player, 'Bloomer' Salt kicked three goals for Carlton. This was 'Town's greatest losing margin in the pre-VFL era. Williamstown also failed to kick a goal against Footscray at the Western Oval on August 9, although the Tricolours only managed two themselves. Williamstown lost narrowly to North Melbourne at the cricket ground in the last game of the year on September 20, 3.8 to 2.11, after the visitors trailed at three-quarter time but Andy Henderson's best-on-ground performance against his old club helped North to get over the line. The Villagers were without luck as they hit the post 4 times during the game. Alf 'Ginger' Worroll was the leading goalkicker for the season with a rather modest total of 5 but he did represent Victoria against SA in July.
Ernie 'Dick' Warren, pictured here in the Melbourne Punch of July 31 1890, was one of six brothers to play with Williamstown. He played from 1883-1892 in 149 games and kicked 52 goals. He was vice-captain in 1890 and captain in 1891. He was Club leading goalkicker in 1884 and 1886, and his 30 goals in the latter season was the most by a Williamstown player until Len 'Mother' Mortimer booted 48 in 1905.
In 1891, the VFA introduced the commencement of fixturing with effect from the 1893 season onwards in response to the practice for many years of secretaries from the big clubs organising their own schedule of matches to boost gate money and impoverishing the smaller clubs. Also, umpires commenced a game by bouncing the ball in the centre of the ground rather than relying on a kick-off, which had been the norm ever since the game's inception. Quarters were also set at 25 minutes, and the goal umpire had to consult with the field umpire to confirm a score before waving the flags. Behinds were still not counted in a team's score although they were signalled and recorded.
1890 vice-captain, Ernie 'Dick' Warren, was promoted to captain in 1891 with 'Jasper' Jones his vice-captain. Former players Tom 'Dutchy' Peters and Eddie Williams (both North Melbourne), Don Murray and Dick Salt (both Carlton), and Jack Ward (Footscray) all returned to the Club, while Sam Johnson moved across from Footscray but, being a poor club, 'Town relied mostly on local talent, mainly from South Williamstown Juniors. The best recruit turned out to be classy Woodend player, Bob McCubbin, a relative of the revered Australian painter, Fred McCubbin, who would be one of the Club's finest during the next decade. Departures included follower Johnny Fribbs (Fitzroy), Alf 'Ginger' Worroll, after 7 seasons with Williamstown, who crossed to Port Melbourne, George Cooper, who also transferred to Port, and Fred Huggins who moved to Footscray in June.
Victories over Richmond and Melbourne in the final two games of the 1891 season enabled Williamstown to finish ninth, ahead of Footscray, Port Melbourne and Richmond, which won its first wooden spoon. The Villagers managed four wins and three draws from their 18 matches, which was double the number of victories of the previous year. These were over Richmond at Punt Road in round 7 (7 goals to 5) with Dick Salt best-afield, at Footscray in round 9 (2 goals to 1), at Williamstown over Richmond in round 21 (7 goals to NIL) with Salt three goals and best-on-ground again, and over Melbourne also at Williamstown in round 22 (5 goals to 3). In the win over Footscray, the Tricolours' Sammy Hood lost his temper and threw the ball into the umpire's face and subsequently received a four-match suspension. The big win over Richmond was 'Town's first success since round 9, a streak which included 7 defeats and two draws. One of the draws was the scheduled game against North Melbourne on July 11 at Williamstown which was called off due to heavy rain, but featured a ceremonial bouncing of the ball in the middle of the ground before it was abandoned. The players from both sides entered the field in their overcoats and exchanged a couple of marks before leaving. The nil-all draw gave the sides two points each. The others were in round 2 at the MCG (1 goal each) against Melbourne and the round 17 match at Footscray (2 goals each). Williamstown did not play eventual premier, Essendon. The worst performance was at South Melbourne in round 4, with the Villagers going down 9.17 to 1.1, scoring just one behind in the second half and failing to score in both the first and third quarters. They also lost the following game to eventual runner-up, Carlton, by 7 goals, 8.18 to 1.5, with the Villagers again unable to score in the first and last quarters. Another 7-goal defeat was suffered at Fitzroy in round 19, going down to the eventual third-placed 'Roys, 11.8 to 4.7. The following week at Port Melbourne, Williamstown kicked just 7 behinds with the wind in the first quarter and 2.8 in the third quarter to go down by two goals, 5.7 to 3.15. It was Port's first win after 11 consecutive defeats and a draw.
Best players for the season were centreman and vice-captain, William 'Jasper' Jones, followers Dick Salt and Gus Brownfield, defenders J. Bogle and Tom 'Dutchy' Peters, and forwards Jack Kenny and T. Sansom. Brownfield also led the goalkicking with a total of 10 in a team total of 51 for the season while 78 goals were scored by the opposition. Ted 'Dinah' Griffin was picked to represent the VFA in a game against South Australia at Adelaide Oval on June 16, which SA won 5 goals to 4 despite the Association not fielding the strongest-possible side as some players declined the offer to play after the VFA refused to pay them. In tough times, married men and those from working class backgrounds could ill afford to lose wages while travelling to another colony. The bad performances of 1890 caused a big drop in membership, which was down to 256 in this season.
Dick Salt, depicted here in The Sportsman on August 25 1891, returned to Williamstown from Carlton during 1891
Williamstown were struggling financially by 1892 and could no longer afford to recruit country players and was on the lookout for wealthy patrons. Many of the players of the 1880's had started leaving the club, including the 1888-89 captain and 1886 and 1891 vice-captain, William Fagg 'Jasper' Jones, who crossed to junior club North Williamstown. Former vice-captain, William 'Barkly Bill' Jones, returned to captain the Club but without success. Bobby Gibbs senior was made vice-captain. The other notable departures were Jack James (Colac), Tom 'Dutchy' Peters (Bendigo) and Eddie Williams (Port Adelaide). Sam Johnson went back to Footscray after one season with the Villagers and Percy Goode moved on to Richmond while Wauchope transferred to St Kilda. Andy Henderson returned from North Melbourne after two seasons following the bribery allegations of 1889, while Johnny Fribbs returned early in the season after a year with Fitzroy. Walter 'Dolly' Hall also joined the Club in this season from South Williamstown Juniors and would play until 1900 when he was suspended for life for striking an umpire. He was vice-captain in 1895. 'Mally' McCallum also joined the Club from South Williamstown Juniors and would go on to play 83 games over the following 8 seasons until 1899.
The season got off to a bad start with a 5-goal defeat at Port Melbourne, the second-bottom side of 1891, 9.8 to 4.3. All four of the Villagers' goals came in the third quarter and only two behinds were scored for the rest of the game. 'Town's Bob McCubbin was best-on-ground. Another 5-goal defeat followed in the first home game of the year against Geelong, 8.13 to 3.0, and it was becoming apparent that the appointment of 'Barkly Bill' Jones as the new captain had not been well received by his teammates, and Ted 'Dinah' Griffin took over during the season. Williamstown collected their first points for the year in round 3 with a draw against eventual fourth-placed Melbourne at Williamstown (5 goals each), after 'Town came from 2 goals down at three-quarter time and trailing the Fuchsias all day. The worst performance of the season came the following week in round 4 at Fitzroy, going down to the eventual runners-up 14.23 to 0.3, with the Villagers failing to score in the first quarter and registering just one behind only in each of the final three quarters. This was Williamstown's second-highest losing margin in the Club's pre-VFL era.
11 consecutive defeats followed, including an 8-goal loss to eventual premier, Essendon, at East Melbourne in round 8, 9.13 to 1.7. There was another disaster at Punt Road in round 12, when Richmond kicked their record score of 12.11 to Williamstown's 2.2, which was also the Tigers' greatest-ever winning margin. The Villagers improved dramatically two weeks later in the return match at Williamstown, reducing the margin to just 1 goal but losing yet again, 5.5 to 4.4. 'Town's Johnny Fribbs was best-on-ground and it was reported that the Richmond players had to contend with small boys throwing dirt and mud at them, while Williamstown players allegedly threw 'missiles' at the ball when the Tigers were taking a shot at goal. Williamstown led the eventual fourth-placed Melbourne at half-time in the round 15 game at the MCG, 3.1 to 2.6, but a 4-goal third quarter by the Fuchsias consigned 'Town to its 14th loss out of the first 15 rounds of the season. This was the Club's worst run of losses in the pre-VFL era.
The victories were all in the last three games for the year over Footscray at Williamstown in round 17 (7 goals to 1), over North Melbourne at Williamstown in round 18 (4 goals to 2) and over Port Melbourne at Williamstown in round 19 (4 goals to 3). The Villagers were in control of the game against Footscray after a 3-goal second quarter opened up a handy lead, which was repeated in the final quarter while the Tricolours added just four behinds to their score after quarter time. This broke a Club-record of 15 games without a win. Andy Henderson and Bob McCubbin were fine players for the winners, but Williamstown were still on the bottom of the ladder at the end of August, half a game behind Collingwood. The win over North Melbourne in round 18, 4.7 to 2.6, was the 'Town's first against them as a senior team, and the first since 1881 when the team was known as Hotham, with Johnny Fribbs and Walter Warren best players. The victory against Port in the last game of the season was due to the Borough's inaccuracy as they booted 3.10 to Williamstown's 4.2. Walter Warren was the only player to kick more than 10 goals for the season with 12. Follower Bob McCubbin, rover Johnny Fribbs, 'Dolly' Hall in defence, Warren and Jack Ward in attack, and vice-captain Bobby Gibbs, 'Dinah' Griffin, Arthur Morone and Gus Brownfield all tried their best to lift the team. In better news for the district, North Williamstown were the Victorian Junior Football Association premiers of 1892.
Despite all the progress and popularity of the game, the inner suburban clubs were still dissatisfied over a number of issues. Firstly, the poor gate returns when playing against some of the weaker sides, secondly the long distances that had to be travelled to these poorly-attended fixtures and finally, the rough elements that were creeping into the crowds at several grounds. VFA secretary, Theo Marshall, was also actively trying to outlaw payments to players by clamping down on players employed as groundsmen and as trainers by the more wealthy clubs. Another issue was the creation of yet another sub-committee to examine the matter of a proper fixture containing equal matches for each club and each meeting the other twice in a season. This time club secretaries were excluded from the process and big improvements with the draw occurred in 1893 and the complete control of fixtures by the VFA took place in 1894. If the movement towards forming another football organisation needed any impetus, the loss of control of fixture arrangements by the stronger, inner-suburban clubs provided just that.
Footscray Independent, January 16 1892
One of the sporting highlights of the 1892 year was a match betweeen a Williamstown Cricket Club 22 and Lord Sheffield's All-England XI, led by the legendary W.G. Grace, at Williamstown on January 13. A half-day holiday was declared by the Mayor, which led to an estimated crowd of 2000, which would have been significantly larger except for the inclement weather which caused play to be disrupted several times. Williamstown batted first and compiled 154 by 5pm but the Englishman only batted for 45 minutes in reply due to the time lost because of the rain. Grace did not bat but he did complete 22 overs, taking 11 wickets for 58 runs. Several Williamstown footballers also represented the cricket club in this match, including William Henry 'Billy' Williams, who became a County Court judge in 1919, Don Murray, who also played football for Carlton and South Williamstown, John 'Yorky' Dyson, who played more 100 games of football for Williamstown and took the only English wicket to fall, Dr. H.W. Bryant, who top-scored in the match and was also a football club vice-president from 1888-1896, J.K. Ogilvie Smith, who played football for Williamstown in 1876 when the Club won the Junior Challenge Cup, and Andy Grubb, who captained the cricket team in this match and who played football for Williamstown in 1885.
The Herald, July 14 1893 - Dan 'Pat' Shanahan played 52 games with Williamstown from 1892-95 after being recruited from Footscray Juniors, and also represented the VFA in a game in 1893. He transferred to Footscray in 1896, where he played 6 games and kicked 1 goal.
Follower Bob McCubbin tried out with Melbourne in the pre-season practice matches of 1893 but his application for a clearance was turned down by the VFA permit committee who were clamping down on players changing clubs for money and he returned to Williamstown. Vice-captain of 1892, Bobby Gibbs senior, was elevated to the captaincy with Ted 'Dinah' Griffin appointed his deputy. New players included North Williamstown men, Jack Kennison, who would play for 7 seasons either side of one year with local junior club Osborne in 1894, W. Knight, who would play for six seasons, and John Sheehan, who would play 40 games and kick 11 goals over the following four years. Jimmy Thompson also arrived from Newport, and would stay for the next seven seasons up until 1899. There were no significant departures from the 1892 playing list. The Villagers improved marginally in 1893 to win four games and draw three of the 20 matches it played to finish in 10th place, ahead of Carlton, Richmond and North Melbourne. The first of these victories was at Footscray in round 8 when the 'Town kicked 3 goals straight to the Tricolours 2.12 (behinds still didn't count towards the result even though they were recorded), with the Villagers' 'Yorky' Dyson best-on-ground. The others were at Punt Road in round 12 (6 goals to 1) after the Villagers kicked 3.7 to 0.2 in the first quarter and never relinquished the lead, at Williamstown over St Kilda in round 15 (8 goals to 2), with Bob McCubbin best-on-ground and Walter Warren prominent in the biggest victory of the season, and at Williamstown over eventual wooden-spooner North Melbourne in round 20 (7 goals to 2). Walter Warren with 3 goals was best for 'Town. In the St Kilda game, vice-captain Ted 'Dinah' Griffin was reported and subsequently suspended for two matches for striking the Saints' 'Bunney' Archer during the game. The draws were at Port Melbourne in round 4 (2 goals each) in a game where Bobby Gibbs snr starred and Peter Ritchie sustained a broken leg, against Richmond at Williamstown in round 5 (1 goal apiece) and at Williamstown against Fitzroy in round 19 (4 goals each), with Gus Brownfield best-on-ground. The Villagers were short of players and were forced to enlist four substitutes who refused to play because they hadn't been picked regularly during the season. The other Williamstown players lifted and managed the draw against the eventual fifth-placed 'Roys after trailing at half-time, with 'Yorky' Dyson also prominent.
The team did extend eventual third-placed South Melbourne at Williamstown in round 11 by kicking 5.1 to 6.5. The Age reported that the Villagers' last quarter comeback had the South timekeeper, Mr Golding, in such a state that he 'was desperate to finish the game while South was still ahead.' It was reported that he 'rushed into the arena and seized the bell, ringing it violently' until 'the umpire ordered him off the field.' With Johnny Fribbs and Ted 'Dinah' Griffin (3 goals) in fine form, the Villagers led at quarter-time before South fought back to have a two-goal break at the last change. 'Town stormed home kicking three quick goals but South managed to hang on. The Southerners had no such anxious moments against Williamstown in the opening game of the year at South Melbourne, winning 12.8 to 2.11, in the Villagers' worse performance of the season. Timekeepers were again in the news in the last game of the season when Melbourne visited Williamstown and won 4.7 to 2.5 with Walter Warren best-afield. The Sportsman reported that 'the 'Town timekeeper vented his spleen by hitting the Melbourne timekeeper over the back with the bell'. In rounds 16-18, three consecutive games at Williamstown were lost by just one goal to Footscray, Port and Collingwood, respectively. A total of 77 goals were kicked by the Villagers for the season and 96 goals were kicked against it. Walter Warren was again leading goalscorer for the year with 13, while better players were Johnny Fribbs, P. Shanahan, 'Yorky' Dyson, Gus Brownfield, captain Bobby Gibbs snr, Bob McCubbin, the Warrens (Walter and Peter), 'Jasper' Jones, John Sheehan, vice-captain 'Dinah' Griffin and Charles Grunden. Follower McCubbin was selected to represent the VFA against South Australia at Adelaide Oval on June 10, which the Association won 4.7 to 2.9, while McCubbin and Shanahan were picked in the side that played Norwood at the same venue two days later, with the VFA again victorious 6.9 to 2.10. 'Yorky' Dyson was named one of the best defenders in the colony and McCubbin one of the best followers at the end of the season in The Evening Standard. There was discussion about a merger with local junior club North Williamstown, the VJFA premiers of 1892, during the year but nothing came of it.
Jack Kenny, who commenced with Williamstown in 1887 after being recruited from Williamstown Juniors, was elevated to the captaincy in 1894 but was unsuccessful and replaced for the following season by Walter Warren
Former players, Andy Henderson from North Melbourne, and Dick 'Bloomer' Salt, after a year out of the game, both returned to Williamstown in 1894 as did Jack James after stints at Colac and Geelong and Dinny Riley after 7 seasons at North Williamstown. Riley would play with the Villagers for a further six years. 'Jasper' Jones turned his hand to umpiring and Walter Warren transferred to Carlton briefly before returning to 'Town after just one week while Jack Kennison went to local junior side Osborne but returned in 1895. Bob McCubbin's brother, George, joined him at Williamstown after crossing from Footscray. Jack Kenny assumed the captaincy with Gus Brownfield his deputy. Future mayor of Williamstown, James Hall, began his 9-year reign as Club president in this year. 'Town remained in 10th place in 1894 despite losing the opening 7 games, including a 7-goal defeat at Williamstown against eventual premier, Essendon, in round 2, 9.9 to 2.4, the heaviest defeat of the season. Six of the 'Dons goals came in an opening-quarter blitz to the Villagers score of zero. It was reported in The Herald on May 11 that a Richmond player 'held his opponent so cheaply that he smoked a cigarette on the field' during the opening match of the season at Punt Road which the Villagers lost 9.12 to 6.7. The third defeat of the year was at Williamstown against Carlton, 7.5 to 4.10, which ended the Blues worst-ever run of 16 consecutive losses. Williamstown's Queen's Birthday match on May 24 at Footscray was highlighted by the Villagers forfeiting their half-time score due to having 21 players on the field and subsequently losing 3.8 to 1.2. It was reported in the Australasian newspaper that Williamstown were so incensed that a player 'ran at the umpire and pushed him away when a decision did not meet with his approval.' 'Mallee' McCallum was best for 'Town. The Villagers lost to Collingwood yet again in round 6 at Williamstown despite being more than double the Magpies' score at half-time. Collingwood's five-goal third quarter sealed the win while the 'Town could only manage four behinds in the second half. Fitzroy's narrow win at Williamstown in round 8 was achieved with a goal two minutes before the final bell, with Walter Warren kicking all of the Villagers' 3 goals and Jack James best-on-ground. The first victory of the season came in round 9 over Richmond at Williamstown (7.6 to 3.6), the Tigers' 8th consecutive loss, but that was followed by a 5-goal defeat at the MCG at the hands of eventual runner-up, Melbourne, where the Fuschias led 7.2 to NIL at half-time before Williamstown kicked its entire score for the match of 4.1 in the third quarter.
Arthur 'Artie' Thompson, who was born in Williamstown on November 6 1871, came to play for the Villagers from Carlton in 1895 and played 19 games up until the end of 1898. He returned to Carlton in 1899 and played 22 VFL games up until the end of 1901. Before joining Carlton the first time he was the champion goalkicker of the VJFA in 1892 when playing for North Williamstown. Thompson passed away on June 26, 1955, at Williamstown aged 84.
Port Melbourne was again in trouble with the VFA after the four-goal draw at Williamstown in round 11. The Villagers were disgusted with Port's behaviour and lodged a complaint about their 'brutal play' and refused to play the return match at North Port Oval. Umpire G. Molyneux reported Port player Drew for striking Williamstown's George McCubbin and the entire team for 'ignoring his rulings, and were guilty of rough play, bad language and fighting' according to the Sportsman newspaper, but the VFA did nothing and the charge against the Port player was dismissed. The Villagers got off the bottom of the ladder with a 4-goal win over St Kilda at Williamstown in round 12, 7.10 to 3.8, with future captain, Jack James, best-on-ground. The season gained some respectability between rounds 14-19 with a draw against North Melbourne at Arden Street (3 goals each) with Bob McCubbin in brilliant touch, a 2-goal win over bottom side, Carlton, at University Oval, a 1-goal victory against Footscray at Pt Gellibrand, a 4-goal win at St Kilda followed by another draw with North in the return match at Williamstown (3 goals each). Despite trailing the Tricolours all day, Williamstown kicked three unanswered goals in the last quarter to pinch the 7 goal-to-6 victory, with 'Dolly' Hall and Jack James best for 'Town. The Argus reported on August 27 that 'Williamstown's fine win at St Kilda was led by a best-on-ground effort from Johnny Fribbs. This was a praiseworthy effort given that he forgot his uniform and took the field in a costume that Sancho Panza (a fictional character in the novel Don Quixote) might have worn as livery'. The Villagers kicked 11.6 against the Saints, including 5 goals in the second quarter, and Peter Warren, brother of Walter, booted 4 goals for the winners. This was Williamstown's highest score since they kicked 11.7, also against the Saints, in round 4, 1886, and only the third time that the team had kicked more than 10 goals in a game. It would remain the Villagers' second-highest score in the pre-VFL era. This gave 'Town five wins and three draws from 18 games and 10th place on the 13-team ladder, ahead of Richmond, St Kilda and Carlton. The latter won only two matches and one newspaper declared that 'the sooner the club packed up, the better'.
A total of 80 goals was kicked by the team during the season and 94 goals were scored against them. The Warren brothers kicked 30 goals between them with Walter booting 17 and Peter 13. Walter Warren was also selected to represent the VFA against South Australia at the MCG on July 21, which the Association won easily, 13.15 to 0.6. Walter 'Dolly' Hall and the Warren brothers played for the VFA in an exhibition match against Essendon at Victoria Park on September 22 which the Association won 5.10 to 0.7 with Walter Warren kicking 3 of the goals. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1894 season, held at the Mechanics Institute in Electra St on March 25, 1895, committeeman Mr G.V. Baker proposed that any present and future players who played with the team for three years be granted life membership, the first time that the issue of life memberships had been raised.
James Hall, president of the Club from 1894-1902, was also Mayor of Williamstown in 1902-03
Walter Warren commenced his five-year reign as captain of Williamstown in 1895, replacing the unsuccessful Jack Kenny, with Walter 'Dolly' Hall as his vice-captain. All of the Club's recruits came from local juniors and the Colac area, with the exception of Arthur 'Arty' Thompson who came across from Carlton. Jack Kennison returned after a season with local junior side Osborne, bringing Harold Barnes with him, who would play with 'Town for the next 7 seasons. Laurie Ogilvie joined from North Williamstown while player from 1889, Dick 'Ironsides' Hall, returned from South Williamstown Juniors and would also serve Williamstown for the next 7 years. Future life member, Mick Roche, came from Williamstown Juniors in this season. 1894 vice-captain, Gus Brownfield, transferred to Fremantle but was back by the end of June, while Bob 'Coronation' Caldwell went to West Melbourne Juniors during the year but returned in 1897 to play for five further seasons.
The year began with a ladder-topping win over St Kilda at Williamstown, 7.3 to 4.8, led by captain Walter Warren's three goals, before losing at Fitzroy to the eventual premier by a goal, 3.13 to 2.2, followed by a draw at Port Melbourne (4 goals apiece). A 3-goal loss to Essendon at East Melbourne was followed by victories at Williamstown over Footscray, 7.7 to 5.6, and North Melbourne, 5.8 to 4.9. In the Footscray encounter, the win was set up with three unanswered goals in the first quarter, including an alleged '60-yarder' from Walter Warren. Recruit Dick 'Ironsides' Hall was best-on-ground. Eight consecutive losses in the middle of the season from rounds 8-15 ended any premiership hopes, one of these being to eventual third-placed Melbourne, 3.9 to 2.1, after the Villagers had led for most of the game despite scoring just one behind after quarter-time. 'Town's Jack James was best-on-ground. The Australasian reported on July 13 that 'Williamstown supporters gave Melbourne no end of trouble in this match, for they kept the ball out of play and, in some instances, even went so far as to run away with it when wind and game were in the visitors' favour. At one stage several Melbourne supporters sent out a posse to retrieve the ball.' One Williamstown supporter even put a penknife into the ball in an attempt to waste time.
Billy 'Boxer' Monagle played 4 games and kicked 6 goals with Williamstown in 1895 before transferring to Port Melbourne and playing in their 1897 premiership side. He was recruited by Carlton in 1899, playing 17 games, before crossing to Boulder City in WA in 1900. Monagle was a lightweight boxer.
The Villagers failed to score a goal at South Melbourne in round 10, managing just 6 behinds to South's 3.7, and kicked 4.19 to 5.4 to lose against Richmond at Williamstown in round 13, bearing in mind that behinds were recorded but still did not count towards the score. To make matters worse, the Villagers demanded a count of the Tiger players, suspecting they had 21 on the field, but got it wrong. 'Town won three of the last four games, downing Carlton at Williamstown in round 17, 3.11 to 2.6, Port Melbourne at Williamstown in round 18, 6.5 to 3.4, and St Kilda at the Junction Oval in round 19, 7.9 to 4.7, after trailing the Saints at three-quarter time before unleashing a 4.8 to NIL final quarter. St Kilda was struggling to get a regular team together by the end of the year and tried out 6 new players in this game. In the final round, Williamstown suffered its biggest defeat of the year, losing to eventual fourth-placed Collingwood at Williamstown, 10.4 to 4.7, to round out the season. The game was all over at quarter-time, with the Magpies leading 5.3 to NIL.
The Villagers finished one rung higher on the ladder in ninth position with six wins and one draw in the 18-round season, with Footscray, Carlton, Richmond and St Kilda below them. Walter Warren finished equal 11th on the VFA goalkicking list in 1895 with a total of 14, while brother Peter booted 13 goals out of a team total of 69. The Age named Walter Warren one of the best forwards in the colony, Jack James one of the best rovers and Bob McCubbin as one of the best followers. The Argus regarded Johnny Fribbs as one of the best followers and concurred with The Age on James and Warren. The Australasian regarded Warren as the only Williamstown player worth mentioning.
Walter Warren, one of six brothers to play for Williamstown, commenced his five-year reign as captain in 1895, a record second only to the great Gerry Callahan and Ben Jolley who both led the Club for six seasons.
In what turned out to be the final season of the Association competition before the formation of the Victorian Football League, the discontent of the more powerful clubs was heading towards a climax as the 1896 season got underway. The VFA was clearly struggling and the top clubs began planning to secede. Reforms such as the control of fixtures by the VFA, the push to equalise club funds, the poor gate returns from some games, the unruliness of crowds at certain grounds (particularly Port and North Melbourne) and the hostility by VFA secretary, Theo S. Marshall, to open payments to players all contributed to the dissatisfaction of the inner suburban clubs. Marshall's attempts to eradicate semi-professionalism indirectly contributed to the drain of the colony's best players to WA, where the money on offer there attracted over 60 Victorian footballers, including some of the VFA's greatest players. The resultant decline in football standards led to reduced attendances, less gate money for the powerful clubs and the subsequent agitation for a breakaway competition. The club's financial resources were largely derived from gate takings, so the most powerful clubs were those that could attract the biggest crowds, and those clubs (South Melbourne, Geelong, Carlton and Essendon) were earning as much as ten times the income that the poorer clubs such as St Kilda, Richmond, Footscray and Williamstown were capable of generating. This led to a situation whereby the VFA became effectively divided into two 'divisions', whereby the wealthy clubs, who were the premiership contenders, chose to play each other as many times as possible in a season to bolster their financial positions and only played against the poorer clubs at the start of the year, effectively in practice matches to prepare for the big games against the other powerful clubs and to target potential recruits. There was also a view that there were too many clubs competing in the VFA. The top echelon also included clubs that were connected to the strong teams by professional and personal ties, such as Melbourne and Fitzroy, while St Kilda was not particularly affluent but its administrators were middle class gentleman with contacts. It became clear that these clubs were meeting regularly to find a way of discarding the weaker clubs and making drastic alterations to the rules. In July rumours were circulating that the weaker clubs would be cut from the competition and the clubs that believed they were in danger of missing out on the new competition attempted to convince the stronger entities to agree to a two-division league, which had been promulgated previously by Essendon but resisted by the VFA and most clubs. On 2 October the plan for a strong competition of just eight clubs was publicly announced the day prior to the play-off game (the first in VFA history) for the premiership between Collingwood and South Melbourne at the East Melbourne ground, which was won by the Magpies, 6.9 to 5.10. Essendon, Geelong, Collingwood (after only five seasons in the VFA), Fitzroy, Melbourne, South Melbourne, Carlton and St Kilda left the VFA to form the VFL, leaving only North Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Footscray, Richmond and Williamstown. Former 'Town captain and administrator, 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick, remained defiant and claimed that he was glad that his club had remained loyal to the VFA. He claimed that every effort was made at reconciliation with the new VFL clubs but they had said that it was 'our way or the highway'. Williamstown's relegation was largely demographic due to the fact that it was further from the city than any of the other Melbourne clubs. Over the next 100 years, despite the loss of Richmond, Footscray, North Melbourne and eventually Hawthorn to the VFL, the VFA survived and occasionally thrived in competition with the VFL/AFL until finally succumbing and being replaced by the current Victorian Football League in 1996.
The hostility by VFA secretary, Theo S. Marshall, to open payments to players all contributed to the dissatisfaction of the inner suburban clubs. Marshall's attempts to eradicate semi-professionalism indirectly contributed to the drain of the colony's best players to WA, where the money on offer there attracted over 60 Victorian footballers, including some of the VFA's greatest players. The resultant decline in football standards led to reduced attendances, less gate money for the powerful clubs and the subsequent agitation for a breakaway competition, which eventuated in 1897.
Rover Jack James, in his fourth season with the Club, took over the captaincy from Walter Warren in 1896, who remained on as vice-captain. 'Yorky' Dyson, who had played with the Club since 1890, left for Williamstown Juniors but was back by the end of May, Pat Shanahan and Andy Henderson both crossed to Footscray and Peter Warren went to West Perth during the year. Sydney Chester returned after stints at Essendon, Horsham and North Williamstown. The season commenced with a loss, two draws and a win over Richmond in the Villagers' only home game in the first four rounds. The victory over the Tigers was highlighted by a great game from Walter Warren who kicked four goals. Three consecutive defeats followed, including an 11-goal loss to Melbourne at the MCG, who kicked a record-equalling 15 majors and achieve its greatest winning VFA margin. The Fuschias' 8-goal final term was also a record. The Herald, reporting on the wet round 7 clash at Williamstown against second-placed Collingwood, stated that 'the ground was in bad shape for the match between the locals and the visiting Collingwood team because the sheep, which are allowed to graze on the playing ground to keeep the grass down, broke out on Friday night, thus causing the reserve ground to be in the condition it was.' Captain Jack James was again prominent for the 'Town, which went down, 4.3 to 3.5. The following week, Williamstown lost to Essendon for the ninth consecutive time, 7.6 to 3.2, this time at Pt Gellibrand. The Villagers returned to the winners list with successive two-goal victories over Footscray and North Melbourne at Williamstown. The Tricolours were up against it when three of their better players, Stranger, Hood and Pender, preferred to go to the races. Former vice-captain, Ted 'Dinah' Griffin, was best for 'Town. The worst performance of the season at Geelong followed, with the Villagers going down to the eventual third-bottom side, 12.14 to 0.2, the biggest margin ever between the two clubs. Williamstown returned to the winners list with victory over Carlton at the University Cricket Ground in round 13, 3.7 to 2.3, with Walter Warren best-on-ground. Another big loss was incurred at Fitzroy in round 14, with the 'Roys triumphing 10.13 to 3.4. Walter Warren kicked all of Williamstown's goals. The round 16 western derby at Footscray ended in controversy and a draw after umpire McCoy abandoned the game after fights broke out during the final quarter, ending in a melee between all the Footscray and Williamstown players, many of whom then left the field. The scores were level at the time and the VFA ruled the match a draw.
The Villagers rounded out the year with three successive victories over teams that were to finish below them on the ladder. They were too good for eventual wooden-spooner, Richmond, at Punt Road in round 17 despite registering just 4 goals from 17 scoring shots to the Tigers' 2.1. They then beat St Kilda at Williamstown in round 18, 5.10 to 2.3, with Walter Warren again best-on-ground, kicking three of the five goals. 'Town got home by just one goal from lowly Carlton in the last game, despite the Blues leading at three-quarter time, thanks to another marvellous contribution from Walter Warren who booted 5 majors, the equal-second highest number of goals kicked by a Williamstown player in the pre-VFL era.
Jack James, pictured here in The Melbourne Leader of June 20 1896, was made captain in 1896, replacing Walter Warren for one season only.
The Villagers eventually finished in eighth place on the 13-team ladder in 1896 with seven victories for the season to go with eight losses and three draws. Ironically, they finished above three of the breakaway clubs in St Kilda (ninth), Geelong (eleventh) and Carlton (twelfth). It was the lowest position on the ladder in Geelong's history. Walter Warren again had a fine season, finishing fourth on the VFA goalscoring list with 23, six majors behind the leader. According to The Australasian and The Age, Warren was one of the leading players in the colony, while The Age nominated Harold Barnes and Laurie Ogilvie as 'a capable pair of juniors'. Defenders 'Mally' McCallum and first-year player Percy 'Jasper' Barclay from Collingwood, midfielders Jimmy Thompson and 'Dinny' Riley, and ruckmen Bob McCubbin and J. Fagan were other good players during the year. Sadly, 'Jasper' Barclay passed away on 12 January 1897 aged 25 as a result of an accident at a sawmill in his hometown of Heywood while 1896 teammate Sydney Chester drowned at the Williamstown back beach in March 1897 while trying to secure a boat, aged just 27. The team kicked a total of 64 goals and had 93 kicked against them.
Brunswick, the strongest of the junior clubs, was admitted in 1897 to make a six-club competition. There is no evidence that Williamstown was ever mentioned or displayed any desire to join the breakaway group, but it may have had something to do with the fact that its ground was farther from the city than any of the other Melbourne clubs. Fitzroy, which joined the VFA in the same year as Williamstown, was close to the city, its supporters could walk to most of the other grounds and was able to attract players more easily. Geelong was another matter, as it was a perennially successful club and had made overtures to the Association to shed the weaker teams as far back as 1889 and develop a more streamlined competition. Essendon had similar views. In 1894, these two clubs along with Melbourne and Fitzroy favoured a six-team breakaway league with the inclusion of Ballarat and Bendigo. Collingwood favoured a reduction in numbers by a series of mergers, such as Footscray and Williamstown, Carlton and Fitzroy and South Melbourne with Port Melbourne. The matter simmered until the end of the 1896 season, when the top 5 clubs on the ladder plus Geelong invited the formerly powerful Carlton and St Kilda, favoured because of its southern location, to join the other dissidents. Some VFA officials tried to save the situation by promulgating a two division system with promotion and relegation but were ultimately unsuccessful. Few of the VFL's new supporters gave the remaining VFA clubs much chance of survival, which was scant reward for those clubs that had assisted in pioneering the game before some of the breakaway clubs had even entered the junior football scene. Theodore Fink (president), Williamstown's Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick (secretary) and Alf Woodham (treasurer) were the men chosen to lead the Association into the new era of football.
Walter Warren regained the captaincy in 1897, in a season where behinds were to be counted as part of a team's score which brought about a reduction in the number of drawn games but the VFA did not follow the VFL's lead by introducing finals until 1903. Williamstown's first points for the season did not come along until the round 4 draw with Richmond, 8.4 to 7.10, the first under the new scoring system, which would have been a victory in seasons past, following narrow losses in the opening three rounds. The first victory came two days later on the Queen's Birthday holiday against the newly-admitted Brunswick, 9.16 to 4.2, before a goalless effort against Footscray, 0.4 to 2.10. Another two defeats followed before a 7-goal victory at Williamstown over Richmond. The Villagers followed this up with another 7-goal win at Brunswick, holding the 'Wicks to a solitary behind scored in the first quarter. A 2-point win over neighbouring Footscray and a 1-point loss to North Melbourne was followed by the season's biggest defeat by 52 points at Port Melbourne. 'Town bounced back to win six of the last seven games and nine out of the last twelve to eventually finish in fourth place with 10 wins, 9 losses and the draw against the Tigers. Five of the defeats were by 7 points or less, including the one point defeat by North Melbourne and 3 points and 5 points by eventual premier, Port Melbourne. The Villager's aggregate of 106 goals for the season, the first time that the Club passed the century, was boosted by a score of 13.15 against Brunswick in the last game and was second only to Port's total of 136. 'Town's score against Brunswick was the highest since the Club's admittance to the Association, and only the fourth time that they had booted more than 10 goals in a match. The opposition managed a total of 78 goals in this season. Three Williamstown players in Walter 'Dolly' Hall, George McWilliams and Walter Warren represented the VFA in the game against the Ballarat Association played on July 31 at Eastern Oval, Ballarat, which was won by the VFA 7.8.50 to 6.11.47, with Warren booting 4 of the goals.
1897 was notable for the entry of Cr J.J. (John James) Liston into both football administration and public life when he joined the general committee of the Football Club. His name became synonymous with Williamstown for, over many years, he served in most positions, including as the Club's VFA delegate in 1898 and from 1901-1903, as treasurer in 1903, vice-president 1908-09 and 8 years as president from 1923-30. He was also elected onto Williamstown Council around this time when in his early 20's. Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick retired at the end of the season to concentrate on his duties as VFA secretary. He had served 11 terms as the Club's VFA delegate from 1887-1897, a committeeman in 1886, assistant secretary in 1884-85, secretary in 1887-89 as well as being a capable player from 1884-97 and also captain in 1886 and part of 1897.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1897 season held in March 1898, it was noted in the Williamstown Chronicle that 'the balance sheet was not at all gratifying, inasmuch as the club had lost heavily over the sale of tickets and gate receipts, due in a very large measure to the formation of the League'.
Star follower Bob McCubbin transferred to Collingwood at the age of almost 30 in 1898 and played the first 6 games of the year before being dropped and was back at Woodend, from where he was recruited by Williamstown in 1891, by the following year.
A reduction in the size of teams from 20 to 18 players occurred in 1898 along with an order-off rule which was abandoned after two seasons. Star follower Bob McCubbin transferred to Collingwood at the age of almost 30 in this season and played the first 6 games of the year before being dropped and was back at Woodend, from where he was recruited in 1891, by the following year. Williamstown were on top of the ladder after round 1 following the biggest win of the season by 52 points over Brunswick at Pt Gellibrand, the fifth consecutive victory over the 'Wicks since they joined the VFA, and all by 42 points or more. Two defeats followed to Footscray and North Melbourne, before a 3-goal win over Richmond in the fourth home game of the season and then another victory at Brunswick to have The Villagers in third place on the ladder. In round 7, Williamstown ventured to Footscray and two players came to blows in the last quarter with Footscray leading 4.3 to 2.7. The Williamstown Chronicle reported that 'the umpire called a ball-up, separated the combatants and bounced the ball. Play had hardly again started when two other players were seen at variance, and were punching at one another. A spectator now jumped over the fence, and in a minute people were rushing onto the ground from all points of the compass. Play was out of the question. The umpire took the ball and went off the ground, and with him the Williamstown players, but 'Scray stayed out time, when the umpire came out of the dressingroom and declared the match a win for Footscray.' A VFA committee of enquiry into the fracas recommended that Williamstown players Dinny Riley be disqualified for the remainder of the season, McNamara for a month and a reprimand for Dick 'Ironsides' Hall. This was the catalyst for five successive losses, including 6-goal defeats at Port Melbourne and Richmond. The season's third victory over Brunswick and then a 14-point win at Pt Gellibrand in round 12 over eventual premier, Footscray, in the best performance of the season, could not lift Williamstown from second last on the ladder. The season was rounded out with three consecutive losses at Port Melbourne, North Melbourne and Richmond. Williamstown finished in fifth place in the six-team competition with five wins from their 15 games. The Villagers could manage just 58 goals for the year while they had 70 kicked against them. The season was notable for the fact that it was the first year ever that no drawn games occurred.
Tom Hedley played 48 games and kicked 11 goals for Williamstown over four seasons from 1899-1902
The VFA admitted West Melbourne and a re-formed Prahran team in 1899 to build the competition up to eight teams. Prahran did well to finish fifth with eight wins while West Melbourne caused a minor sensation by winning its first match against Brunswick with a century score - 14.16.100 to 1.1.7. Williamstown improved to beat each of the other clubs at least once and eventually won 11 of their 21 games to finish fourth on the ladder, kicking 89 goals in an improved performance against 84 booted by opponents. Once again the Villagers failed to kick a goal at Footscray on May 27, scoring just 0.3 to 8.4, in the season's heaviest defeat but in the return match on July 15 Williamstown downed the eventual premier, 4.3 to 3.6. This was followed up on July 1 with a win over Port Melbourne, 4.7 to 0.5, the Villagers' first victory over Port since 1892. The other meritorious performance was against eventual runner-up, North Melbourne, at Williamstown in round 15 when The Villagers triumphed by a point, 4.10 to 3.15. North almost stole the game after kicking only nine behinds up until three-quarter time and then adding 3.6 to one goal in the final term. Brunswick were defeated for the eighth consecutive time in round 2 in the Club's biggest win for the season by 33 points and where the 'Wicks failed to score in the first three quarters. However, Brunswick had their first VFA victory over 'Town in round 9. Newcomers Prahran and West Melbourne were both defeated, and there were also a victory over Richmond in round 6. In the round 13 clash at Richmond, the Tigers kicked 5 majors from 5 shots at goal in the first 15 minutes of the game but only won by 9 points in the end. The Argus newspaper considered the best players for the year were Frank 'Jinner' Worroll, Walter Warren, Dave Barty, Tom Hedley, Bob Caldwell and Jimmy Thompson. The Australasian rated Worroll as the best rover in senior football.
Dick Houston came from North Melbourne in 1900 to captain Williamstown for one season only, pictured here on a Celebrities Series football card of 1887-89.
Essendon Town joined the Association in 1900, increasing the number of teams in the competition to nine. Its home games were played at the Essendon Cricket Ground (Windy Hill) while the Essendon team in the VFL continued to play at East Melbourne. Due to it also playing in the red and black colours, Brunswick changed to black and white jumpers in this season and wore them for the first time in the opening game against Williamstown, which the Villagers won 4.10 to 2.8. Former North Melbourne, St Kilda and Geelong 200-game player, 36yo Dick Houston, who had captained North in 1890 and 1898, came to Williamstown in 1900 and because of his experience was elected skipper. There was resentment that an outsider was given the role ahead of the more-than-capable local Walter Warren, but it didn't seem to effect the harmony of the team as 'Town enjoyed its best season to date and was even in line to win the premiership until late in the season. In fact, the Villagers headed the VFA ladder for the first time in its history from rounds 1-10 and rounds 14-15 and defeated Footscray, the eventual premiers, 2.8.20 to 2.3.15, at Pt Gellibrand in round 7 in a top-of-the-table clash with captain Houston inspiring. 'Town's score remains the Club's record lowest-ever winning score, and left Williamstown as the only undefeated side in either League or Association ranks.
Despite the inaccurate Villagers kicking 19.52 in the first five rounds (of which Archie Guthrie contributed 1.12), nine consecutive victories, including a forfeit by Brunswick which arrived at Williamstown on June 30 without the players jumpers, to start the season was the best by a Williamstown side until 1957, when the team won all 20 home-and-away rounds before losing both finals. The run of wins was only ended by the Villagers' poor kicking at North Melbourne in round 11 in the 3.6 to 1.12 loss, which included 1.9 in the final term. Following the round 14 clash at Port Melbourne which Williamstown won, 2.17 to 2.4, the Port captain, Syd Hickey, and another Port player, Arthur Knox, were both served letters advising them 'that their services will not be again required by the Port Melbourne Football Club.' Both players transferred to Williamstown the following year, although Knox later returned to Port in 1903.
Arthur 'Knobbo' Knox transferred to Williamstown from Port Melbourne in 1901
The victories continued until the visit to Footscray in the penultimate round of games. Both teams had lost only one game to that point and, as the premiership was still decided by the club which won the most games, this clash was virtually for the pennant. The Tricolours had the match sewn up by quarter time, kicking 3.7 to 0.1, and were still 4 goals up at half-time. Footscray went on to win 8.15 to 3.5 to earn its third consecutive title, while Williamstown lost its final game of the year to Prahran by 8 points. Williamstown finished second on the ladder in 1900 with 13 wins from their 16 matches, three games clear of third-placed Richmond, in the best result since promotion to senior football in 1884, and were the only side to defeat the powerful Footscray team during the season. There was no finals play-off system in place in the VFA until 1903. First-year player, Edward Staniland from Fitzroy, was the leading goalkicker for the year with a total of 16 to Walter Warren's 11, including a haul of 5 against West Melbourne at Williamstown in round 15 in a 56-point win, the season's biggest victory margin. A total of 69 goals were kicked during the season to the 53 scored by opponents. An exhibition game between Footscray and a combined VFA team was played two weeks after the end of the season at North Melbourne in aid of the family of the late Mr F. Mitchell, who had been a hard worker for the Association. The VFA won 8.13.61 to 3.6.24 and Williamstown's George McWilliams was best afield.
Dick Houston was also a fine cricketer and played 23 first-class matches for Victoria between 1885 and 1898, with a highest score of 72 when he captained Victoria to a win over Tasmania in 1893-94. He also scored 213 not out against Brighton when playing for Williamstown in 1902-03. He was caretaker at the Williamstown Cricket Ground at the time of his death in November 1921 at the age of 58. He retired from football after an illustrious career spent mostly with North Melbourne at the end of the 1900 season. His brief stay at 'Town in charge of the team coincided with the Club having its best-ever season and it was unfortunate his services were not sought after earlier.
President of the Club from 1888-93, William Henry Roberts MLC, passed away on 5 November at the age of 53. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1900 season held in April 1901, the issue of life memberships was raised again as the resolution carried at the annual meeting of 1894 that any player who represented the Club for at least three years be granted life membership had still not been acted upon. Vice-president JJ Liston moved that this requirement should be extended to four consecutive years of service, a motion that was seconded and carried. Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick was defeated in a vote for the secretaryship of the VFA by the Footscray delegate, Mr J Fotheringham, in this year and was awarded life membership of the Association for his long and sterling service, the first Williamstown person to be so honoured.
The Williamstown team, circa 1900, pictured outside the original pavilion at the Pt Gellibrand ground, which was officially opened in December 1887
Williamstown president since 1894, James Hall, succeeded Theodore Fink as VFA president in 1901 but continued to also preside over the Villagers' affairs in the two years he headed up the Association. He was the first of four Williamstown officials to attain the VFA's highest office, with the others being John James Liston (1929-44), John Grieve (1989-92) and Tony Hannebery (1993-94). Hall was also mayor of Williamstown in 1902-03, Commodore of the Hobson Bay Yacht Club and president of the Williamstown Bowling Club in 1903-04 and 1911-12. He passed away suddenly at the age of 68 in July 1930 whilst touring Central Australia. Veteran Walter Warren resumed the captaincy in 1901 for the fifth and final time after Dick Houston moved on and the Villagers finished fourth with seven wins, eight losses and a draw from 16 matches, in a disappointing follow-up to the successes of the previous season. George McWilliams, who had played with 'Town since 1897 after coming from Geelong College, went off to the Boer War as a volunteer with the Fifth Victorian Contingent early in the year. New players included Horrie Dick, who would become the Club's very first coach in 1906, 'Ginger' McNeilage from West Melbourne, Billy Davies from Yea, who would go on to play 65 games with Essendon in the VFL from 1906-09, and Vic Manderson who would play for 6 seasons and become a life member.
After losing the opening two games to Prahran and Footscray, the team then won seven and drew one of its next nine matches, including the season's biggest victory by 55 points over Essendon Town at Williamstown in round 6. There was also a 34-point win against Footscray at Pt Gellibrand in round 12 and a 28-point victory over Prahran the week before. 'Town also defeated eventual premier, Port Melbourne, at North Port Oval in round 5 by 2 goals, one of their three losses for the season and managed a draw at North Melbourne in round 8, a team which finished one rung but 4 games above Williamstown on the final ladder. The Villagers then lost the remaining five matches, including defeats by Port Melbourne, Richmond and North Melbourne, who all finished above Williamstown on the final ladder. Second-year player, Edward Staniland, won the Club goalkicking with a total of 25, including 5 against Essendon Town at Williamstown in the 55-point victory. A total of 84 goals and 117 behinds were scored by 'Town and 80 goals and 115 behinds by their oppoments.
JJ Liston became Williamstown's delegate to the VFA in this year, and also became Mayor of the city later in the year.
Frank 'Jinner' Worroll played 57 games and kicked 23 goals for Williamstown from 1896-1900 and returned to play in The Villagers' first premiership side in 1907. He also had a stint at South Melbourne from 1901-03, playing 31 games and booting 12 goals.
Season 1902 was similar to the previous year with Williamstown again finishing fourth, this time with eight wins and eight defeats from its 16 games. Walter Warren was replaced as skipper in this season by former Port Melbourne player, Arthur 'Knobbo' Knox. The highlight was the 7.3 to 3.9 victory over Port Melbourne in the final game of the season which denied the Borough a chance at the premiership as Port and Richmond had won the same number of games going into the last round and making a playoff appear likely as the method of deciding positions on percentages had not entered into usage by the VFA. However, the Tigers downed Prahran by 25 points while the Villagers upset win handed Richmond its first premiership. Port only lost twice in this season, to Richmond in the first round and to 'Town in the last round. Arthur 'Skelly' Caldwell, brother of Williamstown players, Bob 'Coronation' Caldwell (1897-1901) and Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell (1905-08 & 1921-22), commenced playing for the Villagers in this season while Walter Warren retired as a player at the end of 1902 after 16 solid seasons as a player. This is most probably the lengthiest term of service by a Williamstown player but sadly records were not kept in detail until the mid-1930's by new secretary, Larry Floyd. His five seasons as captain (1895, 1897-99 & 1901) is second only to Gerry Callahan and Ben Jolley who led the Club for six seasons in Williamstown's rich history. He stood down as skipper in 1900 due to Dick Houston being lured across from North Melbourne for one season only. The team posted 86 goals and 158 behinds to 76 goals and 131 behinds by opposition teams. Ted Staniland was the leading goalkicker for the third successive season with a modest total of 13.
Walter Warren, one of six brothers to play for Williamstown, was captain 1895, 1897-99 & 1901, leading goalscorer 1892-1896 & 1898-99, and retired as a player at the end of the 1902 season after 16 years service. Walter passed away on November 30, 1952, at the age of 82 at his home in Illawarra St.
William Fagg 'Jasper' Jones, played from 1884-86 then went to Carlton in 1887, returned to Williamstown and captained the side in 1888-89 before retiring in 1893 after 115 games. He passed away on March 9, 1947 aged 84.
The bye was eliminated when the number of teams in the VFA increased to ten in 1903 with the admission of Preston, which had won the three previous Victorian Junior Football Association premierships. This meant that each team played the others twice during the season in an 18 home-and-away series. James Hall stepped down from the president's role he had held since 1894 mainly because of his additional duties as VFA president and was succeeded by local MLA, Alex Gordon Cuthbert Ramsay. JJ Liston was treasurer in this season and Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick returned to the Club after a number of years with the VFA to become secretary during the year, replacing W.J. Canning, after starting the season as assistant secretary. Billy Bremner crossed to Melbourne in the off-season and would go on to play 23 games over the following two seasons despite being 30 years-of-age when he made his VFL debut. Arthur Britt joined the Club during the season after 3 games with St Kilda and 1 with Melbourne the year before. Tom McKinley became captain with Fred Houghton his deputy. Future Test cricketer, Jimmy Matthews, made his debut in this season while another recruit was Frank Wilcher who would go on to play 53 games with Collingwood from 1906-09 and become mayor of Williamstown in 1927-28.
Following the introduction of a 'final four' system in 1903, Williamstown were left to rue the drawn match with eventual premier, North Melbourne, in round 5 at Pt Gellibrand. The Villagers also lost their first encounter with newcomers, Preston, in round 3 by 12 points as, with the train service out of action, 'Town played two men short for part of the game at Preston. Nevertheless, in an improved performance, the team finished just two points behind fourth-placed West Melbourne and with a much superior percentage. Footscray was the only team to inflict defeats on the Villagers in both encounters during the year. 'Town scored 111 goals and 188 behinds, which was the highest aggregate achieved by the Club since the introduction of the points system. The opposition recorded 79 goals and 146 behinds. Second-year player, Edward Prescott, was the leading goalkicker with a total of 25 for the season.
North Melbourne, which was expected to dominate the competition after the breakaway, finally won a pennant after overcoming Richmond, which won the minor premiership, by 21 points in the grand final challenge match. The finals system introduced by the VFA in this season meant that all but the four top teams dropped out of the competition after the home-and-away rounds. The second team then played the fourth in the first semi-final followed by the second semi-final between the first and third teams. The final would be played between the winners and if the victorious team also led the list at the completion of the home-and-away rounds, it would be declared the premier team. However, if the top team was defeated in the second semi-final it could challenge the winner of the final to a grand final. Also, if the top team was defeated in the final after winning the semi-final, it could challenge the winner of the final to another game for the premiership. This system was used by the VFA for about thirty years until replaced by the 'Page-McIntyre System' in 1933, which had the added virtue of always ensuring that a grand final would take place.
Local Test cricketer, Jimmy Matthews, made his football debut with Williamstown in 1903 and played 81 games and kicked 134 goals until 1913, with a year at St Kilda where he played 12 games and kicked 18 goals in 1907. He was the leading goalkicker at Williamstown in 1906 with 46, making him equal second on the VFA list and earned him interstate selection against SA. He was also leading goalscorer in 1910 with 30 goals. A right-armed leg spinner, he played first-class cricket for Victoria from 1906-15, and 8 Test matches for Australia taking 16 wickets. He is the only player in Test cricket history to take two hat-tricks in the same match, which he achieved against South Africa in 1912.
They did defeat the eventual runner-up, Richmond, by a point in round 2, and downed Port Melbourne in both home-and-away games, by 32 points in round 4 and 49 points in round 13. After making a late bid for the finals by winning the last four home-and-away games all by comfortable margins, including the season's biggest victory of 51 points over Prahran at Williamstown in round 17, the Villagers missed by half a game, with 10 wins, 7 losses and the draw. Three of the losses were by 9 points or less. They also had a superior percentage to fourth-placed West Melbourne and had beaten them by 33 points in their round 15 clash. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1903 season, held in April 1904, Treasurer JJ Liston alleged that Williamstown were blocked from the finals 'owing to Footscray throwing away its (round 16) match against West Melbourne purposely.' The Williamstown Chronicle reported on August 22 that 'owing to the unexpected defeat of the Footscray team by West Melbourne last Saturday, the chance of 'Town being included in the four to play off for the premiership, are very remote indeed. It does not appear that Footscray were much concerned about last Saturday's contest, seeing that there were so many absentees.' Six of the Tricolours' regulars did not play, and their leading forward, Dave De Coit, failed to appear after half-time.
The first life memberships were awarded at this meeting, all going to former players Bobby Gibbs snr (1885-1899, 171 games, 46 goals, captain 1893), Jack Kenny (1887-1899, 83 games 10 goals, captain 1894), Mick Roche (1895-1899 & 1903-05, 32 games 2 goals), Dave Barty (1899-1902, 45 games 21 goals), Ted 'Dinah' Griffin (1886-1897, 167 games, 37 goals, captain 1892), Harold Barnes (1895-1901, 62 games 3 goals), Walter Warren (1886-1902, captain 1895, 1897-99 & 1901, 102 games 85 goals) and Walter 'Dolly' Hall (1892-1900 & 1903, 78 games 1 goal, vice-captain 1895 & 1899). It was North Melbourne's first pennant since competing in the VFA from the inaugural season in 1877, downing Richmond in the grand final 7.6 to 3.9. Spearhead, Ted Staniland, who led the Club goalkicking from 1900-02 was badly injured in a workplace accident in June when the horses on his lorry bolted and he was thrown under the wheels, seriously injuring his leg. The 30 year-old Staniland never played again. Despite his absence for much of the season, the Villagers still managed to kick 111 goals and 188 behinds while 78 goals and 146 behinds were scored by the opponents.
Williamstown Chronicle, July 11, 1903. The incident occurred at the round 10 match at Western/Whitten Oval on July 4, won by the Tricolours by 21 points, 6.8.44 to 3.5.23. The umpire was named Murphy.
Williamstown Chronicle, July 11, 1903. The half-time altercation with the umpire referred to above was not related to an on-field incident involving Williamstown's Arthur Britt, who was playing his first match for the Villagers after being cleared from St Kilda during the week prior to the game, and Footscray's 'Ching' Harris, who allegedly slung Britt violently by the neck in the third quarter.
Arthur Britt (1903-06, 43 games 22 goals), pictured on a 1905 Wills cigarette card, was involved in a controversial incident at Footscray in round 10, 1903, in his first game for Williamstown
The Williamstown team of 1904 which made the finals for the first time the following season
Tom McKinley retained the captaincy for 1904 but Bob Caldwell was elected vice-captain, replacing Fred Houghton. New players included Alick 'Roodie' McKenzie, who would play for 'Town for seven seasons, Billy 'Whiskers' Jones, who would play for six and Len 'Mother' Mortimer, who would become the first Williamstown player to head the VFA goalkicking in 1905 and then go on to play 153 games and kick 289 goals for South Melbourne from 1906-15, including the 1909 VFL premiership and leading South's goalkicking 7 times.
The Villagers dropped a rung to sixth position in 1904 with 10 wins and 8 defeats from the 18 home-and-away games. A total of 96 goals were kicked for the season while 85 goals were scored by the opposition. Narrow losses in the opening four games, all by less than 9 points and including a 1-point loss to eventual premier North Melbourne, were followed by five consecutive victories that saw the Villagers just outside the four. The first of these wins was by a point over minor premier, Richmond, at Williamstown in round 5 and there was also a 6-point victory over premier, North Melbourne, at Williamstown in round 11. Subsequent wins were followed by losses and the team never really challenged for a finals place, although three consecutive victories in rounds 15-17 left Williamstown in fifth position on the ladder but two games behind fourth-placed North Melbourne. In the round 15 game against lowly Prahran at Williamstown, the Two Blues gave the Villagers a fright by kicking the first four goals of the game but only managed two behinds after quarter time to 7.9 kicked by 'Town. The season concluded with a 2-goal defeat at the hands of West Melbourne. Len 'Mother' Mortimer showed sound form in attack and booted 29 goals for the year, the highest total since Ernie Warren's 30 in 1886, including 6 goals out of 8 against Preston at Williamstown in round 16 in a 34-point victory.
North Melbourne were again premiers, but this time it was awarded the pennant when Richmond refused to play in the grand final after the appointment of umpire Allen. Richmond were not happy with his handling of the semi-final which they had lost to North by two points, and when the VFA failed to relent the Tigers elected not to contest the final. North therefore became the first and only senior team to win a pennant by forfeit.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1904 season, held at the Mechanics Institute in Electra St on April 1 1905, life memberships were awarded to players Vic Manderson (1901-1906, 70 games 12 goals) and Charlie 'Jigger' Viney (1899-1903, 50 games 4 goals).
Melbourne Punch newspaper, June 15 1905 - scenes from the round 6 game against West Melbourne at Williamstown, which West Melbourne won by 10 points, 2.14.26 to 2.4.16.
Tom McKinley, captain of Williamstown in 1903-04, transferred to Footscray in 1905 and three years later led that team to the 1908 VFA premiership. He was replaced as skipper by Horrie Dick with George Baker vice-captain. Despite McKinley's loss, the Villagers were not short of talent with the addition of Ted/Ned Alley after 16 VFL games with South Melbourne and qualified for the finals for the first time in 1905 by winning fourteen of the eighteen home-and-away games to finish in third position, one game behind North Melbourne and equal with eventual premier Richmond and followed by Port Melbourne, who 'Town defeated twice once again.
Williamstown were always well placed in the race for the finals, winning the first five games and nine of the first 11, including a 6-goal victory over eventual premier, Richmond, at Pt Gellibrand in round 5. There was also the season's biggest win by 78 points over Essendon Association at Windy Hill in round 4. Two losses followed before another four consecutive victories, which saw the Villagers in second place on the ladder after round 11. A surprising defeat at Footscray the next week and then a 5-goal loss at Richmond saw 'Town slip back to third place, but then another run of four consecutive wins, including victories over eventual finalists, North Melbourne (by 6 points) and Port Melbourne (by 25 points), secured Williamstown's first finals appearance.
The game at Port Melbourne in round 9 which the Villagers won by two goals was a rugged affair and recruit Ted Alley was knocked unconscious just before half-time. Alley was again the object of roughhouse tactics in the Richmond game at Punt Road in round 14. Alley was the victim in a report of the Tigers' centre half-back Bill Lang, a heavyweight boxer who won the Australian title in 1909, lodged by the Williamstown club alleging unduly rough play. The charge was dismissed due to lack of evidence and Williamstown was fined 3 pounds and 3 shillings for making a frivolous report.
The jubilation at reaching the finals was short-lived as Williamstown went down to North Melbourne in the first final, 5.5.35 to 3.8.26, at the East Melbourne ground in front of a crowd of 7,000. Best players were Ted Alley, Arthur Britt, Billy Graham, Alick McKenzie, George Baker, Tommy Hall, Billy Davies, Jimmy Matthews, Vic Manderson and Fred Houghton. Len 'Mother' Mortimer led the VFA goalkicking with a total of 48, the highest number achieved by any Williamstown player in a season to date, and the first Williamstown player to lead the Association goalkicking. He kicked 9 in Williamstown's big win over Brunswick in round 11 at Pt Gellibrand, 12.5 to 3.7, and booted 8 in the 78-point win at Windy Hill against Essendon Town in round 4, 13.16.94 to 2.4.16. The team scored a total of 128 goals and 186 behinds for the season, the highest aggregate of points yet achieved by the Club, while opponents booted 73 goals and 138 behinds. The team geurnsey reverted to the yellow waist band in this season after the yellow sash over the blue jumper had been used for many years. The Club had 445 members in 1905.
The third president of the Club, John Jobson, passed away on September 21 at his home in Station Road at the age of 81. He presided over the Club from 1876 to 1881. Billy Davies and Horrie Dick were selected to represent the VFA against the South Australians at Punt Road on 24 June, but Dick arrived late for the game and was replaced in the selected side. SA won the match by 7 points in front of a crowd of 6,000. Ted Alley and Davies played for the VFA in the return match at Adelaide Oval on August 5 attended by 8,000 spectators which SA won by 3 points.
Port Melbourne were the first senior club in Melbourne to wear numbers on their jumpers to aid identification of players in this season, although the numbers were too small and the concept was not persisted with until it resurfaced just before the start of the First World War. Fitzroy and Collingwood had used small numbers on their jumpers in a game in 1903 but that was played in Sydney and South Australia also wore numbers on their jumpers in their two games against the VFA in 1905.
1905 captain Horrie Dick was appointed the Club's first coach in 1906
The first 'coach' in Australian football is generally conceded to be Jack Worrall, who moved from Fitzroy to Carlton in 1902 to completely manage that team. Williamstown appointed a coach for the first time in 1906 when 1905 captain Horrie Dick, who had played with the Villagers since 1901, was given the role as well as being elected captain of the team by the players. Arthur Britt was appointed vice-captain. Missing from the 1905 line-up was Len 'Mother' Mortimer and Billy Davies who crossed to VFL clubs South Melbourne and Essendon, respectively, while Frank Wilcher went to Collingwood after spending the 1905 season at South Fremantle. Wilcher, born in Williamstown in August 1883, would go on to become the Mayor of Williamstown in 1927-28. After 31 games and 77 goals for the Villagers, Mortimer would kick 11 goals in his first practice match and go on to play for South for 10 seasons, kicking 289 goals in his 153 matches. He topped the Swans goalkicking in each of his first seven seasons and played in their inaugural VFL premiership side in 1909. Davies would go on to play 65 games for Essendon from 1906-09, including the losing 1908 VFL grand final, before returning to the Villagers in 1910.
'Town had twelve good wins in 1906, missing the finals by half a game due to eventual fourth-placed Footscray drawing in round 3 with eventual premier, West Melbourne, which won its one and only pennant during nine years in the VFA. After winning six of the first seven rounds, with the only defeat being to West Melbourne, by 4 points only, Williamstown then lost to North Melbourne (by 1 point), Footscray (26 points) and Port Melbourne (10 points) in successive weeks to drop from second to fifth on the ladder by round 10. The best of the wins in the first half of the season was a 27-point victory over eventual second-placed Richmond at Punt Road in round 5 when the Tigers were unbeaten to that stage.
Williamstown-born Arthur Britt first played with The Villagers in 1903 after earlier stints with Melbourne and St Kilda. He would go on to become vice-captain in 1906, his final season with Williamstown and would total 43 games and 22 goals
They recovered to win six of the next seven matches, including a 10-point victory over West Melbourne at Williamstown in round 13 and a win over North Melbourne also at Pt Gellibrand in round 17 by a goal, to be in fourth place but had to visit Footscray in the last game in a play-off for a finals place. The Tricolours were fifth at the time, two points behind, and led the Villagers by 3 points only at half-time, but by kicking 5 goals to one in the third quarter they set up a 9.10 to 5.4 victory to displace Williamstown from the final four. Footscray were the only team to defeat the Villagers twice in this season. Cricketer, Jimmy Matthews, also played football for Williamstown in 1905-06 and 1908-10 as well as 12 games and 18 goals for St Kilda in the VFL in 1907, before making his test debut against England in 1912. On May 28 that year, he created history by taking two hat-tricks with his right-arm leg-breaks on the same day in the first Test against South Africa in Manchester during the triangular series between Australia, England and South Africa. He had previously taken a hat-trick for Victoria against Tasmania at Launceston in the 1908-09 season. His move to the spearhead to replace Len Mortimer resulted in a total of 46 goals for Williamstown in the 1906 VFA season which put him equal second on the Association goalkicking list and also earned him interstate selection against the South Australians where he kicked a further 9 in the two matches played at Adelaide Oval and East Melbourne, both of which were won by the Association. He kicked 7 goals at Port Melbourne in the opening game of the season in a 46-point win, 6 goals against Preston at Williamstown in round 2 in a 36-point win and 8 goals against Essendon Association in round 3 at Williamstown in a 67-point victory to give him 21 goals after the opening 3 games. Half-forward flanker, Billy Jones, also had a good year with 22 goals and he was also picked in the VFA representative team along with Matthews.
Two boundary umpires were introduced by the VFA in this year and Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell, a player who was to play a big part in Williamstown's history left Newport Juniors to play a few games during the 1906 season, joining his brother, Arthur. The winner of the most consistent player trophy, Billy Graham, broke his leg during the season as did Dick Bliss. The 1000 points aggregate was posted for the first time in Club history in 1906 when a total of 140 goals and 177 behinds (1017 points) were scored while the opposition put together 102 goals and 156 behinds (768 points). Club membership increased to 649 in 1906. Port Melbourne played as amateurs in this season and 20 goals were kicked in a game for the first time in Association history by Richmond in the opening round and by West Melbourne in round 10.
Full-forward in Collingwood's 1903 premiership side, Jim Addison, joined Williamstown in 1907, played in the premiership team of that season and led the Club goalkicking in 1909 with a total of 26. Addison played with The Villagers from 1907-10, playing 52 games and kicking 87 goals.
Wyn Outen, who had played with 'Town from 1899-1901 before spending 3 seasons with St Kilda and then one in WA, returned to Pt Gellibrand in July while 1906 captain-coach, Horrie Dick, went to Essendon in 1907 where he played just the one game before transferring to Footscray. Star goalkicker, Jimmy Matthews, went to St Kilda and played 12 games and kicked 18 goals in this season before returning in 1909. Bert Reitman, who lived locally, joined from Collingwood during the season and made his debut in round 4 along with teammate Jim Addison, who was full-forward in the Magpies 1903 premiership team. Another newcomer to join the Club in June was John Francis McCabe, who played under the pseudonym of Dick McKay, after 148 games of League football with Fitzroy (1897-98), St Kilda (1899-1903) and South Melbourne (1904-07). He played in defence for the 'Roys in their first game of VFL football in 1897 and captained St Kilda in 1901. His VFL career featured not one finals match, a record at that time. Frank 'Jinner' Worroll returned after several seasons with South Melbourne where he played 31 senior games and kicked 12 goals, while Ernie Jamieson arrived from Carlton Juniors but went to Williamstown Juniors in 1908 and then to Carlton in 1909 where he would play 125 games including the back-to-back premierships of 1914-15 and two losing grand finals in 1910 and 1921 before captaining the Blues in his final season in 1922. He was selected in the Victorian State squad in 1913. Bobby Gibbs junior also made his debut in this season and would go on to play 140 games and kick 87 goals from 1907-15 and 1919. He was vice-captain in 1915 and 1919 and his father, Bobby Gibbs senior, had played 171 games and kicked 46 goals from 1885-99 and was killed in the Boxer Rebellion in China. Gibbs junior was the uncle of Bert McTaggart junior who played in Williamstown's 1939 premiership team before going on to a career with Carlton and Footscray. Bob Briggs also started in this season after transferring from Port Rovers.
Photos from Melbourne Punch magazine, June 20, 1907 of the match between Williamstown and West Melbourne at East Melboune on 15 June, won by Williamstown by 10 points, 8.10.58 to 6.12.48
Williamstown made the finals for the second time, not only finishing on top of the ladder with fifteen wins from its 18 home-and-away engagements but also winning its two finals to take its first premiership after 24 years of senior competition. The result should not have been unexpected due to the very creditable third position achieved in 1905 and the twelve good wins in 1906 when the finals were missed by the narrowest of margins. Under new captain-coach Paddy Noonan, captain of North Melbourne's 1903-04 premiership teams, and with Ted Alley as vice-captain, they won the first six games straight, including victories over the other three eventual finalists, Richmond, West Melbourne and Footscray, to take top spot from the previously undefeated West Melbourne when the Villagers downed them by 10 points in round 6 at East Melbourne. Three defeats over the next six weeks relegated the team to second spot by round 12 before top place was regained by virtue of another 6 consecutive wins, including another victory over eventual runner-up, West Melbourne, and the season's biggest win over last-placed Preston by 58 points in round 17. The match against West Melbourne ended in controversy when the timekeepers ended the game 5 minutes early when West had the wind and only needed a goal to win the game. There was also two victories by 56 points, over Brunswick in round 4 and Preston in round 8. The Club's first minor premiership was secured with victory over Port Melbourne at Williamstown in the last round, 13.18 to 7.10. Two of the three defeats during the home-and-away rounds were to Essendon by 3 points and Port Melbourne by 2 points. The other defeat was in the round 12 game at Punt Road against the strong Richmond team which attracted a crowd of 12,000, and which 'Town lost by just 15 points. The final four was made up of Williamstown, Richmond, Footscray and West Melbourne.
Williamstown beat Footscray at East Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is now the site of the Jolimont railyards, for the third time in this season, 5.11.41 to 3.9.27 in the first semi-final, with former captains Horrie Dick and Tom McKinley playing for the Tricolours against their old team. Only one goal was scored in the first half, with Williamstown leading 1.9 to 0.5, before the Villagers added four goals to one in the third term to set up the win. Billy Jones was best for 'Town, followed by Wyn Outen in the centre, Dick McKay in defence, Jim Caldwell on a wing and Mat Outen on the ball.
Williamstown Chronicle, October 12 1907
When West Melbourne accounted for Richmond by 4 goals in the second semi-final, it meant West would have to defeat Williamstown twice to repeat its 1906 triumph. The grand final was also played at East Melbourne, which was West Melbourne's home ground in 1907, before a crowd of 24,000 which saw Williamstown with a handy lead at quarter time of 4.4 to 0.2, thanks to winning the toss and Bob Briggs' 3 goals, before West improved to trail by only 11 points at half-time, 4.5.29 to 2.6.18. West had the wind in the last quarter but still trailed 5.9 to 2.9 at three-quarter time, but repeated attacks on goal by West at the start of the final term resulted in four behinds before Jim Addison steadied 'Town with a goal. West replied with a fine goal from Lou Armstrong but Williamstown sealed the game when rover Bobby Gibbs jnr kicked the side's seventh goal while West continued to add behinds. When the bell rang to end the game, Williamstown had won their first pennant outright, 7.10.52 to 3.16.34, meaning the Club's right to a challenge match did not have to be exercised. Hurley was the umpire and the goalkickers were Bob Briggs 3, Jim Addison 2 and Bobby Gibbs Jnr 2. Best players were Percy Garbutt, Bert Reitman, Captain Ted Alley, Dick McKay, Jim and Arthur Caldwell, Bobby Gibbs jnr, Bob Briggs, Jim Addison, Frank Worroll and Billy Jones.
The leading goalkicker for the season was Bill Lambert with 19, who was still the assistant property steward at the Club 50 years later. Williamstown also kicked their highest-ever score to date in this season when it booted 14.12 to 5.8 against Preston in the round 17 game at Pt Gellibrand. The Club reached another record aggregate score of 154 goals and 215 behinds (1139 points) in this season while the opposition put together 88 goals and 186 behinds (714 points), which would have given the team the healthy percentage of 159.5 under the present-day method of calculating these things. Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell and Billy Jones represented the VFA in a game against South Australia at East Melbourne on 8 June which was won by SA by just one point with Jones kicking 3 goals. Jones and Dick McKay were selected in the VFA team in the return match at Adelaide Oval on 27 July, won by the Association by 11 points. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1907 season, held at the Temperance Hall in Electra Street in March 1908, life memberships were awarded to former players Bob 'Coronation' Caldwell (1895-1904, vice-captain 1904) and Arthur Britt (1903-1906, 43 games, 22 goals, vice-captain 1906) and current players Howard 'Lordy' Lewis (1905-1908, 39 games, 6 goals) and Billy Jones (1904-1909, 62 games, 56 goals). Jones was mentioned in the annual report as being the most consistent player for the season. Life member, former captain and vice-captain and player from 1886-1897 (167 games, 37 goals), Ted 'Dinah' Griffin, passed away at age 39 on 1 July 1907 as a result of a liver infection. Griffin also represented Victoria in 1891.
1907 captain-coach Paddy Noonan sensationally resigned in the week leading up to the first semi-final against Footscray. It was reported that he had been dropped from the side but he had tendered his resignation before the team was selected and Noonan issued a statement to that effect. He said 'it has been made to appear that I was not chosen to play for Williamstown against Footscray, but I wish to state that such was not the case, as the match committee and I are as one. I resigned for sufficient reasons, which I care not to mention here, but which are well known to the players and supporters of the Williamstown club. Suffice it to say that a large majority of the players were with me and were prepared to stand out of the Footscray match, but at a meeting of players held on the night before the match, at the earnest wish of the president (for whom I have the greatest respect), I exhorted the players to stand together and go out as one man on the morrow and win - which they did.' Apparently Noonan was an interested and gratified witness of Williamstown's great triumph.
It was reported in The Age on September 30 that 'it is understood that his (Noonan's) retirement was due to some unpleasantness arising through remarks made by another prominent member of the team.' This was confirmed in the Leader newspaper on October 5 when it was stated that 'a few weeks back some friction arose between Noonan and another prominent member of the team resulting in the former standing out of the last two matches (the semi-final and grand final) and retiring from the club. Several of the players strongly supported Noonan, and evinced a disposition to also retire, when it was announced that he would not take part in the team's penultimate match against Footscray. It is to Noonan's credit that on the night before the match he exorted the players to go in as one man and win - which they did.'
As a result Ted Alley captained the team for the remainder of the season and Wyn Outen was his deputy. Some players believed that Noonan would be conflicted playing against West Melbourne as he lived in that area but he had played well against West in the home-and-away games and he was a former North Melbourne player and not from West Melbourne. Some also thought that he was too friendly with opposition teams, such as when he was carried back shoulder-high to the Williamstown rooms by the Port Melbourne president and secretary after making a speech to the Port players following the round 18 game at Williamstown, which was won by 44 points. His resignation came in the week following this game.
Noonan played one game in 1908 before crossing to Yarraville in the VJFA as coach during the season. He then became a boundary and later a field umpire in 1909 before returning to North Melbourne as captain in July 1909 before retiring at the end of the year at the age of 34. He filled a number of administrative roles at Arden St. in the ensuing years and later coached North Melbourne in 1929 when the incumbent, Charlie Tyson, was sacked mid-season. He passed away on January 27, 1935, aged 59.
Leader, October 5, 1907
Williamstown's 1907 premiership team was:
Backs: Bert Reitman Dick McKay Ted Alley (c.)
Half-backs: Howard Lewis R.J. Johnston Percy Garbutt
Centres: Jim Caldwell Wyn Outen (v.c.) Arthur Caldwell
Half-forwards: Billy Jones Jim Addison Frank Worroll
Forwards: Ernie Jamieson Bob Briggs Billy O'Shea
Followers: Mathew Outen Bob Monar
Rover: Bobby Gibbs jnr
One other notable event that occurred in 1907 was the Port Melbourne Cricket Ground being prohibited for use by the VFA over the last three weeks of the season, due to a complaint by Richmond and the umpire about the behaviour of Port players and supporters following the round 15 game between the two clubs at North Port which the Tigers won by 7 points. Port then had to play a home game against Preston at Williamstown and Essendon Town at Richmond. Games resumed at Port Melbourne the following season.
The Club lost long-serving official, John Gunn, who passed away in September before the premiership victory. Gunn served as secretary in 1895 and 1900, as a committeeman in 1896 and 1897, as treasurer in 1898, 1901 and 1902, was the Club's VFA delegate in 1904, 1905 and 1907 and vice-president in 1906.
1907 Valentines Association postcard series
Back Row: (players only) Mathew Outen*, Ernie Jamieson*, Bob Monar*, Dick Bliss, Jim Addison*, Percy Garbutt*, Bob Briggs*, Howard Lewis*
Middle row: (players only) Frank Worroll*, Bert Reitman*, Wyn Outen (vice-captain)*, Bob Ferguson (president), Ted Alley (captain)*, Billy Jones*, Tommy Hall, Percy Pilkington
Front row: (players only) Will O'Shea*, Arthur Caldwell*, Bobby Gibbs jnr*, Bill Lambert, Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell*, Dick McKay*
Absent: R.J. Johnston*
* = played in 1907 grand final v. West Melbourne at East Melbourne on September 28, 1907, with Williamstown victorious 7.10.52 to 3.16.34
Punch magazine, October 3, 1907 - a section of the crowd at the final of 24,000
The 1908 year was preceded by a tumultuous off-season when Richmond left the VFA and joined the rival VFL, and North Melbourne and West Melbourne were banished from the competition for attempting to do likewise as a merged entity known as the City Football Club. University, which had won the Victorian Junior Football Association premiership in 1907, was also admitted to the VFL. Left with just seven clubs, the VFA admitted Brighton from the Metropolitan Junior Football Association and Northcote from the Victorian Junior Football Association. As North Melbourne and West Melbourne were left without a competition to play in, both clubs were declared defunct by the end of March. However, the Association could not afford to lose both the Punt Road and Arden Street grounds due to their proximity to the city and, by the middle of April, a new North Melbourne Football Club had been formed and was re-admitted to the Association on the grounds that nobody who had previously served on the committees of North or West Melbourne were involved in the new entity. The VFA also reduced the number of players on the field in this season from 18 to 17 by removing one of the ruck/follower positions from the game.
The legendary Syd Barker snr came to Williamstown in 1908 after two seasons with Essendon Association but only stayed for 3 games before joining the VFL's newest club, Richmond. He played just 2 matches with the Tigers and transferred back to the VFA the following year and was an outstanding ruckman for North Melbourne for the next 12 seasons. He played in premierships in 1910, 1914, 1915 & 1918, captaining the last two, as well as leading the Club through an unbeaten streak of 58 victories from 1914-19, which straddled the war recess. He briefly captain-coached Ascot Vale in the VJFA in 1916 during the recess. He went to Essendon VFL during 1921 when North temporarily disbanded following an aborted attempt to join the VFL and captain-coached them to premierships in 1923 & 1924. He passed away in 1930 at the age of 42. North Melbourne's best and fairest award is named the Syd Barker Medal.
Williamstown took its winning sequence to 10 with victory in the opening two games over Port Melbourne and Preston before losing to Essendon Association at Windy Hill by 7 points before a crowd of 6-7000, when the 'Dons were on top of the ladder. Former president, Bob Ferguson, had the honour of unfurling the Club's first premiership flag before the game against Preston at Williamstown, which was won by 15 points. Ferguson had stepped down due to business reasons and was replaced by the Mayor, Cr. W.H. Treganowan. No coach was appointed in 1908 but Wyn Outen was elected captain with Percy Garbutt vice-captain. New players included Bert Amy, who would go on to play 129 games and kick 118 goals from 1908-15 and 1919 and captain the side in 1919 and part of 1911 and lead the goalkicking three times, W. Fairchild from Leopold Juniors, Mick Tyrrell from Golden Point, Frank Ellis from West Torrens (SA), Tom Clancy from South Melbourne and Henry Paternoster also from South Melbourne who was seriously injured in the second quarter at Preston in round 11 on debut when Mason of the Bullants charged him and badly damaged his shoulder which required hospitalisation.
Seven wins in the first eight games indicated the reigning premier was on track for another finals appearance until a four-goal loss to Footscray created doubts. Essendon Association recruit, Syd Barker snr, crossed to Richmond VFL without a clearance after the 85-point round 8 win over Northcote at Williamstown and missed the game against the Tricolours. The Villagers enjoyed a good season winning 12 of the 18 home-and-away games to finish third, behind Footscray and Essendon but with the highest percentage of all teams. This was the 'Dons first finals appearance as was the case with the fourth-placed Brunswick. Footscray was the only team to defeat 'Town twice but the margin in the final home-and-away game at Williamstown was just one point.
The team kicked their first-ever century score with 17.21.123 to North Melbourne's 5.6.36 in round 7 at Pt Gellibrand, with Bob Briggs kicking 5 goals. They followed this up with a score of 14.16.100 to Northcote's 1.9.15 the following week with Jim Addison booting 5 goals. Williamstown also topped the ton in round 13, beating newcomers Brighton 16.4.100 to 2.9.21 with Bob Briggs kicking 6 goals, and downing North Melbourne in the return clash at Arden St. in round 16, 17.19.121 to 6.4.40, when Briggs kicked 10 majors. This was a record number of goals in a game for Williamstown and was not bettered until Harry 'Soapy' Vallence booted 18 against Oakleigh in 1939. Briggs also kicked the most goals in a season for 'Town with a total of 59, which placed him second on the VFA list. Jim Addison also kicked 39 for the year, which gave him seventh place. The team kicked a total of 161 goals and 217 behinds (1183 points) while opponents booted 101 goals and 155 behinds (761 points) during the season.
Williamstown bowed out of the finals race in the first semi-final, losing to Footscray at North Melbourne, 6.9.45 to 4.6.30, before a crowd of 12,000. Three players made their debut for the Villagers in this game in Bill McKinley, Shelley and Vincent, replacing Lamb, Bill Carrie and Arthur Caldwell. None of the three played another senior game for Williamstown. Best players for 'Town were Bob Monar, Bert Amy, Bobby Gibbs jnr, Jim Addison, captain Wyn Outen, Frank Ellis and Jim Caldwell.
A scene from the round 9 clash against Footscray at the Western/Whitten Oval, which the Tricolours won by 25 points, 6.7 to 2.6
Part of the crowd of 5,000 at the round 9 game at Western/Whitten Oval against Footscray
Both photos from Melbourne Punch magazine, June 18, 1908
From Melbourne Leader, 20 June 1908, photo taken at Western/Whitten Oval before the round 9 game against Footscray which the Tricolours won by 25 points, 6.7.43 to 2.6.18.
Back row: Mat Outen, Mick Tyrell, F. Johnston, Bert Reitman, Bob Monar, Tommy Hall, Frank Ellis
Centre row: Percy Garbutt (vice-captain), A. Fairchild, Dick McKay, Wyn Outen (captain), Bobby Gibbs jnr, Ted Alley
Front row: Jim Caldwell, Arthur Caldwell, Bob Briggs, Jim Addison
Footscray went on to win the grand final, defeating Brunswick at the MCG before a crowd of 44,246, a record which would stand until the 1939 grand final. Williamstown secretary, Arthur H. Johnson snr, had rather ingeniously suggested to the VFA that the final be played there on a public holiday when the American fleet was in town, which attracted thousands of people to the city in the morning. On July 11 in 1908 at Williamstown for the round 13 game against Brighton, flags were flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for three former secretaries who had passed away since the last home game, namely George Fleming (1901-02), Tom Edmunds (1897-99) and Duncan McLeod (1870-71, 1873, 1876 and 1882-86). A Ladies Committee was mentioned for the first time in the annual report for the year, headed up by the wife of the Club secretary, Mrs A. H. Johnson, although there is evidence that one existed as early as 1903. Ted Alley and Dick McKay represented the VFA in a game against South Australia at Adelaide Oval on 20 June which was won by SA by 7 points. Alley, Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell and McKay also played for the VFA in a game at Broken Hill on 27 June which the VFA won by just one point. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1908 season, held at the Empress Pavilion in Garden St in March 1909, life memberships were awarded to former players W. (George) Baker (1902-06, 62 games 26 goals, vice-captain 1905) and Tommy Hall (1904-08).
'Town's Bob Monar breaks clear with the ball in the round 18 clash with Footscray at Williamstown while umpire Kendall looks on. The Tricolours were victorious by 1 point, 5.8.38 to 5.7.37. The two teams met again the following week in the first semi-final at North Melbourne, and this time Footscray led all day to run out winners by 15 points, 6.9.45 to 4.6.30, and went on to be premiers for 1908.
Bert Reitman of Williamstown takes a fine mark against Footscray in the round 18 game at Williamstown, which the Tricolours won by one point, 5.8 to 5.7
A Williamstown player heads goalwards with the ball in the round 18 game at Williamstown against Footscray, which the Tricolours won by a single point, 5.8 to 5.7
A section of the crowd enjoying the round 18 game at Williamstown against Footscray, which the Tricolours won by a single point, 5.8 to 5.7
All photos from Melbourne Punch magazine, August 20, 1908
Williamstown Chronicle, October 3 1936 - Frank Young was WFC treasurer in 1908 and a committeeman in 1910
1907 premiership full-forward, Bob Briggs, joined Fitzroy in 1909 and played for two seasons in 26 games for 47 goals, leading the 'Roys' goalkicking in 1910 with 30. He then transferred to St Kilda in 1911 for one season, playing 7 games and kicking 7 goals. Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell, the youngest member of the 1907 premiership team, also transferred to South Melbourne in 1909 where he would go on to play 155 games until the end of 1919 and captaining South's 1918 premiership team, before returning to Williamstown and captain-coaching the team to the premiership in 1921. Wyn Outen was again captain in his final season with Williamstown with Ted Alley the vice-captain, replacing Percy Garbutt. New players in this season included Frank Eldridge from Broken Hill, Alfe Weidner from Warragul, Wally Scott from St Kilda, Charlie Hartshorne from Footscray Juniors, George McNeilage from Melbourne and Joy from Camberwell while Arthur Caldwell and Jimmy Matthews both returned from St Kilda.
West Melbourne attempted to rejoin the VFA for the 1909 season, a move that was eventually rejected on the grounds that 11 teams in the competition would create byes. Prahran and Essendon Association dominated the home-and-away rounds, losing only 5 games between them, and it was left to Brunswick, Footscray, Williamstown and Brighton to fight for the remaining two finals spots. All four finished with 11 wins and percentages decided that eventual premier, Brunswick, and the Tricolours would compete for the premiership. The Villagers missed out by 3.9%, perhaps due to an indifferent start to the season with three losses in the first four rounds, although two of these defeats were to the two top teams of the year, Prahran by 4 points at Toorak Park in round 2 which was played in torrential rain and by 7 points at Windy Hill in round 4. The only success was a 9-goal win over Port Melbourne at Williamstown in round 3, the year's biggest winning margin. Four successive victories had the Villagers back in the four by round 8, including wins over eventual premier, Brunswick, by 3 goals in round 7 and a one-goal win over finalist, Footscray, in round 5. There was also a 6-goal victory at Arden St in round 6, where 1907 premiership half-back flanker, Percy Garbutt, kicked 5 goals. 28yo Garbutt was found unconscious outside the Woolpack Hotel in Nelson Place on the following Tuesday evening after falling and striking his head. He missed the following game against Northcote. A surprise loss at Preston and then defeat at the hands of Prahran for the second time had 'Town back in fifth place by round 11. A narrow victory at Port Melbourne and then a one-point win over Essendon at Williamstown in round 13, 5.3 to 4.8, gave hope of a finals berth. This game was marked by exhibitions of violence in the last 17 minutes of the match after Williamstown had taken the lead after a long snapshot from the wing by Garbutt rolled through the unguarded goal. The Argus reported 'it was really a game of no-man-standing, with the play congested between the two half back lines, and in between them two sets of angry men struggling, tearing and punching ..... with sly tripping, deliberate punching, and all the worst features of the game, displayed to between 6,000 and 7,000 people.' McIntyre of Essendon and Garbutt were both reported during the game, and at the end, as the players walked from the field, Bert Atkyns of Essendon rushed at Bob Monar of Williamstown 'and struck him a heavy blow' at the pavilion gate. Monar promptly retaliated and police intervened, took their names and charged them both with riotous behaviour. This incident had its sequel at the Williamstown Police Court on July 27 where all charges were eventually dismissed. Umpire Alley handed out more than 80 free kicks during the game, almost equally divided between the two teams.
Melbourne Leader, July 3 1909 - team photo taken before the round 10 game at Brighton, won by Williamstown by 12 points, 5.15.45 to 4.9.33
Losses to Footscray at Western Oval the next week and at Brunswick two weeks later put paid to the notion of participating in the finals. The season was rounded out with victories at Northcote by 5 points and over Preston by 45 points at Williamstown. Bob Monar was suspended for six matches and recruit Frank Eldridge for four as a result of the Northcote game for alleged fighting. In the final game against Preston, the Villagers needed either Brunswick or Footscray to lose and for victory over the Bullants by between 100 and 140 points to make the final four. The first two requirements were met but due to the suspension of so many players, 'Town struggled to field a team and had to coax Billy Jones, who had hardly played since the 1907 premiership, out of retirement and play an untried junior in Wilson, who never made another senior appearance for the Villagers. Jim Addison was the season's leading goalkicker with 26, followed by future Test cricket player, Jimmy Matthews, with 22 and 1908 vice-captain, Percy Garbutt, who also kicked 22. The team kicked a total of 110 goals and 187 behinds (847 points) to 90 goals and 154 behinds (694 points) booted by opponents, giving 'Town a percentage of 122 as against fourth-placed Footscray's of 125.9.
After Prahran headed the ladder at the end of the home-and-away rounds but was then defeated in the first semi-final by Brunswick, a 'post-mortem' was held and four players, Edward 'Copper' Rourke, Bill Bennion, Jack Julian and Charlie Haigbloom were advised that their services were no longer required as a result of rumours that circulated that the players accepted money to 'play dead', although the VFA didn't have an investigation and the Association was comfortable enough to grant the quartet permits to play elsewhere. Rourke, Bennion and Julian all joined 'Town the following year, although Bennion was at Port Melbourne by round 10 after being told his services were no longer required once again.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1909 season, held at the Mechanics Institute in Electra Street in March 1910, life memberships were awarded to Horrie Dick, who played 96 games and kicked 42 goals from 1901-06 and was captain in 1905 and was the Club's first official coach in 1906, Billy Barnes, who was assistant secretary from 1900-1902 and in 1904, 1906, from 1908-09 and from 1912-15 and was a committeeman in 1903, Wyn Outen, who played 99 games and kicked 19 goals from 1899-1901 and 1907-09 with a stint at St Kilda from 1903-05 and part of 1907 and was Williamstown captain in 1908-09 and vice-captain of the 1907 premiership team, and Dick Bliss, who played 21 games and kicked 8 goals in 1906-07, 1909 and 1911. Trophies were presented to first-year player, Frank Eldridge, for consistent training, Bert Reitman for most consistent player, Jim Addison for leading goalkicker, Charlie 'Gately' Hartshorn for best junior player and Bert Amy for best attendance at training. Reitman also represented the VFA in games against SA at Adelaide Oval in June and at North Melbourne in August, the first of which was won by SA, 7.8.50 to 4.7.31, while the latter was won by the VFA, 9.11.65 to 5.8.38.
Former player of the 1860's and 1870's, James Arthur Thompson, passed away suddenly on December 22, aged 62. John Anthony 'Jack' Dennis entered the football scene in 1909 when he was elected as the Club's VFA delegate, a post he would hold until 1934, as well as occupying top positions with Williamstown and the VFA. He was Club president in 1912, 1913, 1919 and 1920 and a vice-president in 1935, as well as VFA treasurer and chairman of the Permit and Umpire Committee. He was also a councillor of the City of Williamstown and Mayor twice and the licensee of the Customs House Hotel in Nelson Place for many years. J.J. Liston also reappeared in 1909 when he became a vice-president of the Club. The Club had about 800 members in the 1909 season.
Melbourne Punch magazine, August 5 1909 - part of the crowd at Williamstown for the round 15 game against North Melbourne, which was won by the Villagers, 3.11.29 to 0.7.
Williamstown Chronicle, December 25 1909 - James Arthur Thompson passed away suddenly on December 22 1909, aged 62. A native of London, he arrived in Williamstown in 1864 and immediately engaged in local sports activities, mainly cricket and Australian Rules football. He played for the Football Club in the 1860's & 70's and organised the meeting in May 1870 that restarted the Club. As Cricket Club secretary in 1888, Thompson was responsible for drawing up the agreement under which the Football Club agreed to use the cricket ground for home games following the merger with South Williamstown. He was a Williamstown resident for 45 years and was president of both the Williamstown Cricket Club and Baseball Club when he passed away.
Billy Davies, who had played with Williamstown from 1901-05 before going to Essendon for four seasons, returned in July after 65 games at VFL level, while a new committee imported Edward 'Copper' Rourke, captain of Prahran in 1908-1909, as captain-coach in 1910 with Alick 'Roody' McKenzie the new vice-captain. Other recruits included A. Simmonds from Port Melbourne, J. Stephens from North Melbourne and his brother F. Stephens from Beverley, Walter Litchfield returned after two years with Footscray Juniors, Richard O'Connor from Collingwood District, Wally Gibbons from Carlton District, Tal Leonard from local club, White Rose Juniors, and George 'Coon' Bennett from Essendon Association. Lou Salvas' father, Gordon, also joined the Club in this year from Pt Nepean.
1907 premiership ruckman, Mat Outen, along with Bill O'Brien crossed to St Kilda and were followed to the Saints by Bob Monar in June without a clearance, C. Johnson transferred to North Melbourne, Frank 'Mick' Ellis went to Richmond while Tom Clancy went to Carlton. Bill Carrie was cleared to Brunswick after playing with Carlton Juniors in 1909 and Bill Bennion was at Port Melbourne by round 10 after joining Williamstown from Prahran with 'Copper' Rourke and Jack Julian before the commencement of the season. In late June the committee advised recruits Bennion and Wal Burleigh (Collingwood) that their services were no longer required along with Horner, who came from Camberwell in 1909. 1907 premiership full-back, John Francis McCabe aka Dick 'Tiger' McKay, returned during the year after a season with Port Melbourne but retired after the round 10 game against Brunswick at Williamstown at the age of 33, 14 years of constant senior football having finally taken its toll on his body.
George McNeilage played 24 games for Williamstown in 1909 and 1910 after earlier playing with Geelong and Melbourne
Rourke was unsuccessful and was not reappointed in 1911 after the team dropped to seventh place on the ladder with just eight wins from its 18 home-and-away games. This continued the slide from premiers in 1907 to third in 1908 and fifth in 1909. One of these victories was by 115 points over Preston at Williamstown in round 2 (18.14.122-1.1.7, Bert Amy 5 goals) and by 75 points in the return match at Preston in round 11 (17.21.123-6.12.48, Bill Kerr 5 goals). 'Town's score in the first clash was the best tally of goals yet kicked while the Club's highest score was equalled in the return encounter. The exact same score had been kicked by the Villagers in the round 7 match at Williamstown against North Melbourne in 1908.
Apart from a 4-goal win over eventual fourth-placed Prahran in round 5, there was also a one-point loss to eventual premier, North Melbourne, at Williamstown in round 6, 8.15-8.14, and a two-point loss to preliminary finalist Essendon Association in round 16 at Williamstown. The other victories were against teams that finished below "Town on the ladder. Rumoured player unrest reached a head on the Thursday night before the round 8 clash with Footscray when it was reported in the Victorian Football Follower of 2 July that 'the players met ...... to thrash out and settle the difficulties amongst them'. 'It could easily be seen that the seasiders just at present are not a happy family'. The meeting achieved little as the Tricolours won convincingly, 14.16.100-3.9.27, at Williamstown two days later. This was the first time that an opponent had scored a century against the Villagers. Umpire Hume awarded 87 free kicks during the game, 46 to Footscray and 41 to the Villagers. The Argus headline of June 27 screamed 'Williamstown's Downfall - Internal Discord' as it reported on 'the most pronounced thrashing inflicted upon the seasiders during the past 20 years.' It concluded that 'the elements of discord and disunion have, unfortunately, obtruded their heads at Williamstown during the past fortnight. The players will meet next Thursday evening to thrash out and settle, if possible, the difficulties that have arisen amongst them.'
The Williamstown team of 1910, the only season in the Club's history that a WFC monogram appeared on the guernsey. The side was captain-coached by Edward 'Copper' Rourke, a former West Melbourne and Prahran captain.
The players and committee again met before the next match against Northcote at Williamstown to discuss the strained relations. The Argus reported on July 4 that 'after some parleying, and after (captain-coach) Rourke had volunteered to resign, which the players unanimously would not hear of, it was agreed 'to let bygones be bygones' and the hatchet was decently interred on the spot'. The team bounced back, downing the 'Cotes by 55 points, 12.20.92 to 5.7.37 (Jimmy Matthews 4 goals). 1910 was also the season that the Club temporarily adopted a yellow WFC monogram on a blue guernsey. Jimmy Matthews finished eighth on the VFA goalkicking list with his 30 majors for the season, followed by Bert Amy with 21 and Bill Kerr 16. The team kicked 135 goals 208 behinds (1018 points) to the opposition's 126 goals and 166 behinds (922 points).
Matthews also represented the Association along with Alf Weidner and Alick McKenzie against South Australia at North Melbourne on June 18, which the VFA won by two goals, 9.12 to 8.6. Billy Davies and Weidner both represented the VFA in the return clash with SA at Adelaide Oval on July 30, which SA won by just 2 points, 10.16.76 to 11.8.74. The Club also reportedly considered a move back to the Gardens Reserve, its former home ground before the amalgamation with South Williamstown in 1888, but nothing came of the idea. Also, Williamstown Juniors joined the VJFA in this season. Secretary, Arthur Johnson snr, applied to the Council in late May for use of the ground for season 1911 as the cricket ground was likely to be used for naval shipbuilding. The Defence Department was the lessor of the land at that time. Forward, Bill Kerr, pased away at the age of 28 in February 1911 after contracting typhoid fever.
WFC Ladies membership badge 1910
Rourke's selection was an interesting one as the former West Melbourne captain transferred to Prahran when West disbanded and was captain of the Two Blues in 1908-09 before he was one of four players sacked after an unsatisfactory performance in the 1909 second semi-final against Brunswick. Rumours circulated that the players accepted money to 'play dead' although the VFA didn't have an investigation and the Association was comfortable enough to grant the quartet permits to play elsewhere. Two of the other Prahran players, Bill Bennion and Jack Julian also joined 'Town, although the former had played previously with the Villagers but he was at Port Melbourne by round 10 after being told his services were no longer required once again. Rourke crossed to Northcote in 1911 and was appointed captain there also after the original skipper, Alf Beck, resigned after the opening game.
Carlton's 1906 premiership player, Isaac 'Ike' Little, played with Williamstown in 1911 after starting out with North Melbourne's VFA team. His services were dispensed with by the committee for disciplinary reasons in June 1911 but he was back in the team by round 11. He later went to Footscray VFA in 1914.
Williamstown, under new captain-coach Ted Alley, now in his seventh season with the Villagers, again finished seventh in 1911 but, in winning only five games out of the 18 home-and-away rounds, it experienced its worst season since 1893. Recruits included Bert Streckfuss from South Melbourne, Isaac 'Ike' Little from Carlton, A.E. Trewartha from the Bendigo area, Alan Ferguson from Castlemaine, Walters from Maldon, Tommy Lamprell from Footscray and St Kilda prior to that, local Fred Harden jnr, Tom O'Halloran and Bert McTaggart snr from Werribee. A 14yo from Warragul named Jack MacDonald commenced in this season and, apart from the recess of 1916-18 when he served in World War I, he played up until the end of 1924, was vice-captain in 1920 and a member of the 1921 premiership side on the half-back flank.
Alley resigned the captaincy after the 10-point loss to Prahran at Williamstown in round 6. Bert Amy was elected to replace him while Bert Reitman retained the vice-captaincy. One highlight of the season was the selection of two Williamstown players, Reitman and Ike Little in the VFA representative team that played SA at North Melbourne on June 10 which was lost by 9 points, 9.7.61 to 7.10.52. Surprisingly, Little's services were dispensed with by the Club committee two weeks later for disciplinary reasons but he was back in the team for the round 11 clash with Preston at Williamstown. Reitman was also selected in the return clash at Adelaide Oval on July 8 which the VFA won by 13 points, 6.12 to 5.5. Alf Weidner was also selected in the squad but did not play.
The other notable events during the season were a 6-point victory over grand finalist Brunswick at Williamstown in round 13, 5.15 to 5.9, and a 64-point win at Preston in round 2, 13.20.98 to 5.4.34. The worst effort for the year was arguably the 3-goal loss at Northcote in round 8 when the 'Cotes were last on the ladder. This was Northcote's first-ever victory over Williamstown in the seventh clash between the two teams. The defeat by Brighton at Williamstown by 21 points in round 16 was little better and was only the second time the Penguins had beaten the Villagers since joining the VFA in 1908. At the Williamstown Police Court on August 25, Bobby Gibbs junior appeared to answer charges laid by Constable Gleeson of having assaulted Brighton captain Tom Gibney during this match. Gibbs was fined 40 shillings. Gibbs was also suspended by the VFA Tribunal until June 30 the following year in respect of the incident. Bert Amy was leading goalkicker for the year with 15, followed by Robert Collins on 10 and Walter Litchfield with 9. The team kicked a total of 93 goals and 161 behinds (719 points), the lowest aggregate for some time, as against the opposition's 130 goals and 195 behinds (975 points).
The other development in Association football in 1911 was that open payments to players was finally allowed after many years of agitation for its legality, even though the payments constituted little more than expenses for those players whose clubs were financial enough to take advantage of the VFA's ruling.
Port Melbourne Standard, February 25, 1911
Bill 'Bubs' Kerr, who played 22 games and kicked 16 goals in 1906 and 1910, died as a result of typhoid fever on February 16, aged just 28. Kerr came to Williamstown from Essendon after playing one game in 1905 and then went to South Melbourne in 1907 where he played 15 games and kicked 8 goals. He returned to Williamstown during 1910 and played 11 games and kicked 16 goals, the third most behind Test cricketer, Jimmy Matthews, with 29 and Bert Amy with 21.
Another recruit for the 1911 season was Bert Streckfuss from South Melbourne
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 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.
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, J. Robinson for striking and Ted Alley for inciting Robinson to strike the Essendon player.
1912 Skylarks football card
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.
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.
Long-serving defender, Bert Reitman, was appointed captain-coach for the 1913 season. Recruited from Collingwood during 1907, Reitman played in Williamstown's premiership team that season and retired after the 1914 season while still captain. He was immediately made a life member for his 8 years of service, and had two sons, Ron and Keith, who played seniors in the mid-1940's and were both in the 1948 Seconds premiership team.
1907 premiership defender, Bert Reitman, took over the captain-coach mantle for the 1913 season with Bert Amy as vice-captain and the team showed belated improvement, winning eight of its last 10 games to finish fifth with 12 wins, just half a game behind fourth-placed Brunswick which drew with North Melbourne during the year. All home games were won in this season, which meant every other club was defeated at least once. Recruits included Bill Grant from Melbourne City, Hoey from Williamstown Juniors, Artie Adams, Jimmy Harrison and Leslie Coward, who ended up the leading goalkicker with 25 majors for the season. Williamstown kicked a total of 146 goals and 206 behinds (1082 points) while the opposition tallied 115 goals and 186 behinds (876 points).
The year commenced with a 3-goal loss at the Western/Whitten Oval to eventual premier, Footscray, and defeats were suffered in three of the first five games, with the only victories being over Northcote and Melbourne City, teams that would finish second-last and last, respectively. The season improved with a narrow win over eventual finalist, Brunswick, and then a 9-goal victory over Port Melbourne at Williamstown, despite being only 19 points in front at three-quarter time before unleashing a 7 goal last quarter to double their score. Newcomer Coward booted 4 goals in the victory which saw the Villagers in sixth place on the ladder by round 7. A narrow loss at Essendon was followed by the season's biggest win by 70 points over Brighton at Williamstown and then the best performance of the year, a one-goal victory over eventual premier, Footscray, also at Williamstown, led by veteran small-man, Bobby Gibbs jnr. A surprise defeat at Northcote was followed by three successive wins, including a thrilling one-point defeat of eventual grand finalist, North Melbourne, at Williamstown in round 12. A 5-goal loss at Brunswick dented the 'Town's finals hopes, but then another string of wins in the last three rounds of the home-and-away games made sure that Williamstown were still a chance to make the finals right up until the last round. Needing Brunswick to down Essendon Association, Williamstown players and officials sailed to their engagement at Brighton aboard the S.S. Williamstown and returned victorious, 11.19 to 8.10, but Essendon defeated Brunswick, 14.11 to 7.12, to clinch a finals place and deny the Villagers their first appearance since 1908. During the season, 'Town gave supporters some anxious moments with narrow victories over fourth-placed Brunswick by 3 points at Williamstown in round 6, eventual premiers Footscray by a goal at Williamstown in round 10, runners-up North Melbourne by a point also at Williamstown in round 12 and third-placed Essendon by 9 points at Williamstown in round 17. The team also lost to Essendon at Windy Hill by 2 points in round 8. The round 14 clash with Prahran at Williamstown ended in controversy when the secretary, Arthur Johnson senior, was alleged to have rung the bell to end the game rather than the official timekeeper with the Two Blues 8 points in arrears but kicking with a strong breeze and had scored 2.3 to NIL in the last term. 9 goals 20 behinds were scored at the end to which Prahran were kicking during the game and only 1.4 at the other end of the ground.
Membership in this season stood at 532 adults, 65 youths and 250 ladies, easily the best total in the Club's history.
Commercialisation of the game was alive and well in the early 20th century
The Club's first non-playing coach was appointed in 1914 when Alex 'Joker' Hall was lured across from Essendon Town. The previous year's captain-coach, Bert Reitman, stayed on as skipper in his final season with Tom O'Halloran his vice-captain. Cecil McLean and Stan Mitchell, one of the greatest rovers to ever wear the Williamstown jumper, both joined the Villagers in this season along with Len 'Toff' Elliot who led the goalkicking with a total of 22, J.S. Middleton from Footscray VFA and Wally Scott after 108 games with St Kilda joined during the season. 1907 premiership ruckman, Mat Outen, also returned after a few seasons with the Saints. Players missing from the 1913 line-up included Frank Eldridge, who crossed to Footscray, Tal Leonard, who moved to Prahran, and Fred Harden jnr, who transferred to North Melbourne but was back at Williamstown for 1915. Melbourne City dropped out of the competition and was replaced by Hawthorn.
The season commenced promisingly with four consecutive victories, including a 3-goal win over eventual finalist, Essendon Association, at Williamstown in round 1 and the two biggest wins for the year at Northcote (63 points) and at home over Port Melbourne (48 points), which saw the Villagers in second place on the ladder. Reality arrived when clashes with some of the stronger teams in the competition resulted in four successive defeats, including a 2-goal loss to eventual grand finalist, Footscray, and a 1-goal defeat at the hands of eventual premier, North Melbourne.
The Argus, July 11 1914 - team line-ups for the round 15 clash at Western/Whitten Oval, won by Footscray 6.11.47 to Williamstown 4.5.29. The Tricolours were eventual runners-up to North Melbourne in this season, the first of three consecutive premierships won by North.
Williamstown also suffered the ignominy of losing by 3 goals at Glenferrie in Hawthorn's first victory in the VFA after the newcomers had lost their first six games by an average of 7 goals. 'Town had slipped to seventh place on the ladder by round 8. A narrow win at Brighton and a narrow loss at Prahran preceded another string of four consecutive victories, including the second win for the season over Essendon Association, and the Villagers were back in third spot. Defeats at the hands of the eventual grand finalists, Footscray and North Melbourne, both by 3 goals, interspersed with wins over Brighton and lowly Hawthorn rounded out the home-and-away rounds. Eleven matches were won and seven lost in making the final four for the first time since 1908.
Williamstown were beaten badly by Footscray in the first final, 13.12.90 to 5.6.36 at East Melbourne before a crowd of 7,000. The Villagers led by 7 points at half-time but were over-run in the second half by the Tricolours, who added 6.3 to NIL in the third term and 4.1 to just two behinds in the last. Better players were Bert Amy, Bobby Gibbs jnr, vice-captain Tom O'Halloran, Jack MacDonald, Bert McTaggart snr, Stan Mitchell, Richard Anderson, Norm Busbridge and Tommy Jones. Len 'Toff' Elliott led the goalkicking with a total of 22, followed closely by Bert Amy with 21 and Ted Busbridge with 19. The Club scored 155 goals and 191 behinds (1121 points) to the opposition's 141 goals and 176 behinds (1022 points).
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1914 season, held at the Empress Pavilion in Garden St. in March 1915, life membership was awarded to the retiring 1907 premiership player and 1913 captain-coach, Bert Reitman, after eight seasons of service. He was also made a life member of the VFA for 'valuable services rendered to the game'. Former player (1902-05), life member and assistant to the training staff, George Baker, passed away during the year. The Club had a record 1357 members in this season, made up of 837 males, 423 ladies and 97 youths.
Charlie Dunn started with Williamstown in 1915, served in World War I for four years and then returned to play again from 1919-22, totalling 33 games before transferring to Williamstown Juniors in 1924.
Although Great Britain had been at war with Germany since August 1914, the impact had not been felt in Australia due to the distance from the scene of battles in Belgium and France. However, the landscape altered as the men started to embark after impressive farewell marches through the streets of Melbourne and many doubted the wisdom of starting the 1915 football season. Opposition to wartime sport grew when news of Australian casualties filtered through from Gallipoli. Nevertheless, the VFA decided to commence the season, and it was a common sight for prominent citizens, including suburban mayors, to address crowds at matches in an effort to gain recruits for the war effort. Players were also implored before they took the field and many promised to join up when the season was finished.
Alex Hall was reappointed non-playing coach for 1915 and Ted Alley became captain in lieu of Bert Reitman who retired after playing 126 games for 'Town from 1907-14 and being awarded life membership. Bobby Gibbs jnr was elected vice-captain. New players included Robert Monk from Melbourne, Richard 'Dicka' Brown, Charlie Dunn from Williamstown Juniors, Herbert Wouda, Leslie 'Leggo' Lee from Richmond and Jim 'Corker' Jamieson from Williamstown Juniors.
Nine wins and four losses in a season truncated to 13 rounds due to the advent of World War I saw Williamstown finish in third spot. The season started well with four wins in the first five games, with the only defeat being by two goals at the hands of eventual premier, North Melbourne, at Williamstown in round 2. A 7-point loss at Brunswick in round 6, followed by an 8-point win over Northcote at Pt Gellibrand and a 10-point defeat by Prahran left Williamstown in fifth place on the ladder after round 8. The Villagers jumped two rungs to third after consecutive wins at Port Melbourne (by a solitary point) and at Williamstown over Brighton by 64 points, the season's biggest win and the sixth consecutive victory over the Penguins. The second loss for the year to North Melbourne, this time by four goals, was followed by two wins over Essendon Association and Hawthorn to round out the home-and-away rounds.
Williamstown was no match for North Melbourne on its home ground in the second semi-final and went down by 48 points, 11.14.80 to 4.8.32. The Northeners increased their lead at every change, by 9, 21 and 28 points, and the Villagers only managed two goals after quarter time to the eight kicked by North. Best for 'Town were Charles Dunn, Stan Mitchell, Richard Brown, J.S. Middleton, Robert Monk, Richard Anderson, Jimmy Harrison, Jack Macdonald, Bobby Gibbs jnr, Artie Adams and Fred Harden jnr. Anderson, Dunn and MacDonald played for Williamstown in this match whilst on leave from the Armed Forces. Jim 'Corker' Jamieson made his debut in this game and would go on to play in the Williamstown Junior premiership teams of 1916, 1917 and 1919, the first as vice-captain, and would also play in Williamstown's premiership team of 1921. He was the uncle of Stan 'Nugget' Jamieson who would play in Williamstown's 1939 premiership team and 1941 Seconds premiership team, both games which were played on the MCG. Captain, Ted Alley, was dropped by the match committee for the final due to his late arrival for the previous match against Hawthorn and Bobby Gibbs jnr led the team. This was Williamstown's last match for almost four years as the Association went into recess for two years in 1916/17 due to the war and 'Town did not commence competing again until 1919.
Leading goalkicker for the year was Fred Harden jnr with 14, followed by Stan Mitchell with 13 and Bobby Gibbs jnr on 12. The Club kicked a total of 103 goals and 151 behinds (769 points) and had 89 goals and 139 behinds (673 points) booted against them. By season's end, thirteen players, including Bert McTaggart snr, one vice-president (Harry Cox) along with coach, Alex Hall, had enlisted and left for the European front. 1907 premiership player, Arthur ' Skelly' Caldwell, brother of 1921 premiership captain-coach, Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell, passed away on 26 July, 1915, at the age of just 29 in a military hospital in Malta as a result of gunshot wounds to his spine and arm received at Gallipoli. He played 84 games for Williamstown from 1902-10, and spent the 1909 season with St Kilda where he played 8 games. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1915 season, held at the Oddfellows Hall in Pasco St in May 1916, life memberships were awarded to president of 1912 and 1913 and VFA delegate from 1909-11, John Anthony 'Jack' Dennis, and vice-president of 1913 and VFA delegate of 1914-15, Richard Morrison.
Williamstown Advertiser, March 6 1915 - Bert McTaggart snr came to Williamstown from Werribee in 1911 and played until 1914, when he enlisted and saw action in Egypt with the Expeditionary Forces, together with Harry Cox, below. He sustained a wound to the shoulder and was hospitalised in Heliopolis, Egypt, in September 1915. After four years in the service, he returned to play one final season in 1919 with 'Town, totalling 75 games and 43 goals.
Williamstown Advertiser, March 6 1915 - Harry Cox was a vice-president in 1914 and 1915 and also a trainer in 1914, before enlisting and seeing action in Egypt with the Expeditionary Forces, together with Bert McTaggart snr, above.
Former player, Arthur Edward 'Skelly' Caldwell, Private 4th Battalion Australian Infantry – played 84 games from 1902-10, including the Club's first premiership in 1907 and 8 games for St Kilda in 1909. Arthur died on active service in July 1915, aged 29. Born in Young NSW in February 1886, his family moved to Melbourne soon after. Arthur went to school at North Williamstown Primary School. His brother Jim Caldwell played 155 games with South Melbourne and was also in the Williamstown premiership team of 1907 as well as being captain-coach of 'Town's 1921 premiership team. An older brother, Bob, also played for Williamstown from 1895-1904 and was vice-captain in his final season. Arthur’s other brothers Thomas and Joseph also served overseas, Thomas winning a Military Medal for his bravery in action. On 26 July 1915 Arthur died as a result of wounds he had sustained at Gallipoli on 14 July. He had been transferred in a hospital ship to Malta. He is buried at Addolarata Cemetery in Malta.
Ballarat Courier, May 5 1917 - Leslie Coward, a Ballarat native, was killed in action in France on April 12, 1917, aged 22. He played 14 games for Williamstown and kicked 25 goals in 1913, before returning to Ballarat Imperials. He led the Club goalscoring in his only season with 'Town.
Richmond Guardian, March 2 1918 - Edward Leslie Barnes Cooper aka Leslie Edward 'Leggo' Lee played 12 games for Williamstown in 1915 after earlier playing the last two games of the 1913 season with Richmond as an 18yo. He was killed in action at Messines, Belgium, on June 8 1917, aged 22.
W. (Reg) Wallis, pictured in 1914, played 57 games and kicked 11 goals for Williamstown from 1912-15. He became coach of Williamstown Juniors in 1916 during the war recess until suffering a bad leg injury 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 VFA then went into recess in 1916 and 1917 due to the seriousness of the Great War and the large number of young men enlisting and could not muster a full complement of clubs when it resumed in 1918, with only Footscray, Northcote, Port Melbourne, North Melbourne, Prahran and Brunswick participating. North won the grand final by 93 points over Prahran. Williamstown, Hawthorn, Brighton and Essendon rejoined the VFA in 1919. The Victorian Junior Football Association (VJFA) continued during this period in order to provide sport for those too young and those not able to go overseas and to keep some spark of interest in the Association for those charged with the task of rebuilding the competition after the war ended. The many senior players who came into the various teams lifted the standard of play immensely and, with no Association football, the crowds were content to follow the juniors.
Williamstown Juniors won the pennant in 1916 in that competition from second place at the completion of the 16 home-and-away rounds with 13 wins, but only after defeating Preston Juniors, the minor premiers, twice. Both games were held at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, after 'Town overcame Yarraville in the first final before a crowd of over 3,000, 16.9.105 to 3.0.18. The first grand final resulted in a controversial one-point victory to Williamstown, 11.10 to 11.9, after Preston led by 4 points late in the game before the umpire awarded a free kick to Williamstown for time-wasting by Preston's Mutch after he had taken a fine contested mark. The resultant kick from 'Town's Ernie Dean scored a goal to win the game for the Villagers. As Preston had finished minor premiers, they had the right to 'challenge' the result by way of a rematch the following week. The Villagers were sucessful once again in front of a crowd of 5,000, downing Preston by just 3 points, 2.9.21 to 2.6.18, under captain-coach, champion North Melbourne rover Charlie Hardy, who replaced former Williamstown senior player, Reg Wallis, when he was badly injured early in the season. Jim 'Corker' Jamieson, who debuted for the senior team in the losing second semi-final against North Melbourne in 1915, was vice-captain. Preston were coached by Percy Ogden, father of the future Williamstown dual premiership coach, Gordon Ogden. Preston's two goals both came in the first quarter, and their player Strawbridge had an opportunity to kick at an unguarded goal with 10 minutes play remaining but missed and recorded the last score of the match.
Whilst the 'Second Twenty' had won premierships previously, this was the first in the VJFA. The Juniors were minor premiers in 1917 with 15 wins from the 18 home-and-away rounds and then won both finals to take a second successive premiership, once again under the captain-coaching of Charlie Hardy., who returned to North Melbourne in 1918. They defeated the second-placed team, Preston, in the second semi-final by 32 points, 10.11.71 to 5.9.39. 'Town then met Fairfield in the grand final at East Melbourne in front of a crowd of 3,500 and won convincingly, 11.10.76 to 6.8.44.
After finishing second on the ladder at the completion of the 16 home-and-away rounds, Williamstown then contested their third grand final in a row in 1918 under new captain-coach, Fred Carpenter, but went down to minor premiers, Footscray, by 16 points, 7.8.50 to 3.16.34. The two played off in the semi-final and 'Town won handsomely, 14.12.96 to 2.5.17 before a crowd of 10,000 at East Melbourne but the Tricolours gained revenge in the play-off. Carpenter returned to South Melbourne in 1919 and was replaced by Paddy Kenneally. Footscray finished on top of the ladder undefeated after the 16 round home-and-away season with Williamstown in second place. 'Town inflicted the Tricolours' first defeat of the year with a 3-point win in the semi-final, 6.7.43 to 5.10.40. These two teams played off again for the title in 1919, but this time Williamstown Juniors were successful, winning by just 5 points, 6.6.42 to 4.13.37 and taking off the John Wren Shield, donated by the legendary Collingwood benefactor, and personally handed over to the new captain-coach Kenneally at a celebratory dinner.
This was one of the most colourful periods in the history of Williamstown Juniors and the senior team ultimately benefited by the transfer of both ready-made players and officials who played a big part in the successes of the 1921-24 period.
The Prahran Telegraph, October 21 1916 - The Williamstown Juniors team that won the Club's first VJFA premiership in 1916, containing future Williamstown senior players Johnny Martin snr (42 games 41 goals 1923-27, captain-coach 1926) and vice-captain Jim 'Corker' Jamieson (43 games 8 goals 1919-22, 1921 premiership).
Williamstown Chronicle, October 21 1916 - Williamstown Juniors won their first VJFA premiership in 1916, with Jim Jamieson best-on-ground. Jamieson would go on to be first ruck in Williamstown's VFA premiership team of 1921. Future Williamstown captain-coach of 1926, John Martin snr, was also named amongst the best players.
The VJFA premiership medal of 1916, awarded to Jim 'Corker' Jamieson, vice-captain of the Williamstown Juniors team. He would go on to play 43 games and kick 8 goals with Williamstown from 1919-22, including the 1921 VFA premiership. He was the uncle of Stan 'Nugget' Jamieson who played in Williamstown's 1939 premiership team and the 1941 Seconds premiership side, one of only two Williamstown players to play in two premierships on the MCG, with Jim Quinn being the other.
Former spearhead, Ted Staniland, who played for Williamstown from 1900-03 after crossing from Fitzroy and led the Club goalkicking in 1900/01/02, passed away at the age of just 42 on September 1, 1917 at his home in Fitzroy. At the annual meeting held in respect of the 1918 season in which Williamstown did not compete, held at the Mechanics Institute in Electra St in March 1919, former committeeman of 1913 and secretary of 1914-18, Arthur Prideaux, was awarded life membership.
'The Pioneer Exhibition Game of Australian Football in London', was held at Queens Club, West Kensington, London on October 28, 1916, between the Third Australian Divisional team and another team of Australian serviceman, called the Australian Combined Training Units, and played in aid of the British and French Red Cross. It was the first-ever exhibition of Australian Football played on foreign soil. The match raised 1,000 pounds (approximately $153,000 now). The match was organised by Lieutenant (later Sir) Frank Beaurepaire and attracted a crowd estimated at between 3,000 and 8,000, including the (then) Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and his third cousin, the former King Manuel II of Portugal.
The Third Australian Divisional team contained two Williamstown players, Leslie Edward 'Leggo' Lee (#11) and Edwin John 'Ted' Alley (#14). Lee is shown fourth from the left in the back row while Alley is far right in the front row. Lee played 12 games with 'Town in 1915 after earlier playing 2 games with Richmond in 1913 as an 18yo. He was killed in action on 8 June 1917 at Messines, Belgium. Alley played with 'Town from 1905-15, totalling 160 games and 20 goals. He captained Williamstown's first premiership side in 1907 after the captain-coach, Paddy Noonan, sensationally resigned on the eve of the finals. He was captain-coach for the first six rounds of the 1911 season before stepping down and being replaced by Bert Amy, and was captain again in 1915. He played 16 games for South Melbourne before coming to Williamstown and went to Hawthorn for the 1919-20 seasons after the War. A third Williamstown player, Ted Busbridge (#22), was named in the squad but did not play. He played 53 games for 'Town from 1912-15 after joining the Club from Essendon Association. He became a Prisoner of War during the campaign. Frank Beaurepaire is in uniform in the centre of the middle row. The Third Australian Divisional team won the contest 6.16.52 to 4.12.36.
The playing list from the official record of the game.
Further information about this game and some remastered footage can be viewed at the following link and by clicking on the first image
and also here by copying and pasting the following link into your web browser https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuUjgJHLgdg
The Herald October 6 1917 - The Williamstown Juniors grand final line-up in 1917, containing future senior Williamstown players Hugh Munro (100 games and 47 goals, 1921-30, 1925 captain, 1921 premiership, 1924 grand final, life member) and Jim 'Corker' Jamieson (43 games 8 goals 1919-22, 1921 premiership).
Williamstown Chronicle, October 13 1917 - Williamstown Juniors won their second consecutive premiership in 1917 after finishing minor premiers at the end of the home-and-away rounds. Captain-coach of both the 1916 and 1917 premiership sides, Charlie Hardy, returned to North Melbourne in 1918 and was replaced by future Williamstown captain-coach and 100-game player, Fred Carpenter, who guided Williamstown Juniors to the grand final, which was lost to Footscray Juniors by 16 points, 7.8.50 to 3.16.34. Carpenter returned to South Melbourne in 1919 and was replaced by 1916 & 1917 Juniors' premiership player, Paddy Keneally.
Footscray Independent, October 25 1919 - the Williamstown Juniors team in the 1919 VJFA grand final, featuring future Williamstown senior players Hugh Munro (100 games 47 goals, 1921-30, 1921 premiership and 1924 grand final, captain 1925), Jim 'Corker' Jamieson (43 games 8 goals, 1919-22, 1921 premiership) and Pat Kennedy (11 games 4 goals, 1919-20).
The Australasian, October 25 1919 - Williamstown Juniors won their third flag in four years after a rugged encounter with Footscray Juniors at East Melbourne, where the field umpire, Henry Beaumont, was knocked unconscious as was Williamstown player, Bert 'Baby' Graf, in the second quarter. He took no further part in the game. A resultant brawl amongst the players resulted in about 1,000 spectators and 17 police and a mounted trooper enter the field and play was suspended for 10 minutes until the ground was cleared and the game could be resumed. Although 'Town played one man short for two and a half quarters of the game, the scores were level with four minutes to go in the match. According to the Footscray Independent 'Alf Graf picked the ball up on the boundary and with a hasty left-foot kick snapped a lucky goal and won the premiership for Williamstown', the final scores being 6.6.42 to 4.13.37.
Williamstown returned to the VFA in 1919, with Alex Hall again non-playing coach and Bert Amy, who had played with Port Melbourne in 1918, captain and Bobby Gibbs jnr vice-captain. Pre-war skipper, Ted Alley, transferred to Hawthorn and took Reg Wallis with him. In total, 23 people connected to the Club had enlisted and served on the European front during the war, the most of any of the VFA clubs. Of these, former players, Leslie Coward (leading goalkicked 1913) and 1907 premiership player, Arthur Caldwell (84 games, 1902-10), failed to return as did Les 'Leggo' Lee (12 games, 1915). An honour board was commisssioned by the Club to commemorate the sacrifice made all those who volunteered. 38 players from Williamstown Juniors enlisted. Recruits included Pat Kennedy from Williamstown Juniors via St Kilda, Norm McDonald also from Williamstown Juniors, Jim McAuliffe from Yarraville, Bert Sutton from Yarraville Juniors, Les Stone from Northcote, Jack Stephenson from Brunswick, E.A. Fairless and K. Webster
The return to the field got away to a flying start with a 92-point victory at Brighton in round 1, with Williamstown having 40 scoring shots to 8 by the Penguins. Rover, Stan Mitchell, booted 5 goals. Two defeats at the hands of eventual runner-up, North Melbourne, and the greatly improved Hawthorn, were followed by wins over the lowly Port Melbourne and Essendon Association. Four consecutive losses, to eventual premier, Footscray, by 50 points at Williamstown in the season's biggest defeat, as well as to other finalists in Northcote and Brunswick, saw the Villagers in 8th place in the 10-team competition by round 9. Five victories in the next 6 rounds elevated the 'Town to 5th place on the ladder and a finals appearance was realistic. However, 7-goal losses at Footscray and then Northcote made the task impossible. The home-and-away rounds were concluded with a 13-point win over Prahran at Williamstown. Captain, Bert Amy, was the best of the goalkickers with a modest 16 in his final year, in a season that saw nine wins and nine losses and fifth place on the ladder, 3 wins out of the final four. 116 goals and 220 behinds (916 points) were kicked by 'Town to 125 goals and 187 behinds (937 points) by opponents over the course of the season.
Membership in respect of the 1919 season showed a decrease on pre-war numbers, with only 295 male members, 72 ladies and 34 youths. Former vice-president and general committeeman, V. Martin, and W. Thomas, both passed away during the year. At the annual meeting held earlier in the year before the season began, Bert Amy, who played 129 games and kicked 118 goals from 1908-19 and was captain in 1919 and for part of 1911 and was vice-captain in 1913, received life membership at the annual meeting. He was also leading goalkicker on three occasions in 1911, 1912 and 1919, his final season. There were reports once again that some members of the committee were anxious to return to the Gardens Reserve.
North Melbourne extended their winning sequence since July 18 1914, including the war recess, to 49 by finishing atop the ladder after the conclusion of the 18 home-and-away rounds before losing the first final to Brunswick by 9 points. Syd Barker, North's great captain and follower and a former Williamstown player, played in every game of that record-breaking sequence as well as playing for Ascot Vale during the recess. Footscray then downed North in the final to deny the Northeners their fourth consecutive pennant.
Harry Haughton of Carlton was appointed captain-coach for the 1920 season, after 113 games and 49 goals from 1912-19 with the Blues, including their 1914-15 premiership teams and the 1916 runner-up side.
A new committee reverted to a playing coach in 1920 and appointed 34yo Carlton and Victorian follower, Harry Haughton, to the position with Jack MacDonald as his deputy. Other recruits included Leo Tasker, also from Carlton, Jack 'Red' Hickey from Footscray Juniors, Kemp from South Australia, Reefton Spicer from Richmond, Laurie Smith from Essendon, Richard 'Ginger' Armstrong from Daylesford, Les Woodfield, Roy Punshon and Jacky May who returned from the war. Mick Dunn from Carlton and Fred Carpenter, formerly of South Melbourne and who captain-coached Williamstown Juniors to the 1918 VJFA grand final, joined the Club in late June. Dunn had played 35 games with the Blues from 1916-19 while Carpenter, who had played with Williamstown Juniors in 1907, came to Williamstown after 52 games and 68 games with the Southeners.
The season was not a great success with eight wins and ten losses and sixth place on the ladder. The season opened with a 1-goal victory over eventual wooden-spooner, Brighton, even though Williamstown had 21 scoring shots to 10, before falling by 3 goals at Footscray. Consecutive wins over Northcote and Hawthorn elevated Williamstown to second position on the ladder, before eight losses over the subsequent 10 weeks destroyed any finals aspirations. One of these defeats was at Northcote by 76 points to a team that did not even make the finals. Eventual premier, Footscray, also inflicted an 11-goal loss on the Villagers at Williamstown the week before. The season ended on a positive note with wins in three of the last four games, including a thrilling 2-point victory over eventual grand finalist, Brunswick, at Williamstown in round 17, 7.18 to 7.16, with Haughton kicking 4 of the goals. Haughton was leading goalscorer with a total of 24 for the season. The team scored a total of 140 goals and 201 behinds (1041 points) to 160 goals and 220 behinds (1180 points).
Membership doubled in this season to 580 male members, 89 female members and 69 youths. Cecil McLean and Bert Sutton were both selected to represent the VFA in a series of 3 games in August against a WA Goldfields team at Kalgoorlie during the year. At the annual meeting held earlier in the year in respect of the 1920 season, life memberships were awarded to Bobby Gibbs jnr (140 games 87 goals 1907-19, vice-captain 1915 & 1919, premiership 1907), Norm Busbridge (59 games 24 goals 1912-20), George Musicka (committeeman 1911-18, assistant secretary 1919-20) and Bert McTaggart snr (75 games 43 goals 1911-19).
Roy Punshon commenced with Williamstown in 1920 and played 28 games up until 1925 when he transferred to Williamstown Juniors and became captain in 1926.
Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell, the youngest member of Williamstown's 1907 premiership team, returned from South Melbourne as playing coach for the 1921 season after having captained South's 1918 VFL premiership side.
Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell, the youngest member of the 1907 premiership team, returned from South Melbourne as playing coach for the 1921 season after having captained South's 1918 VFL premiership side and having represented Victoria. Older brothers, Arthur and Bob, had also played for Williamstown, the former having been killed at Gallipoli during World War I. Dick Condon was made vice-captain after transferring from North Melbourne and Harry Haughton agreed to remain on as a player. Other new players were Tom Geisler from Hawthorn, Vic Truman from Carlton, Hugh Munro from Williamstown Juniors via Footscray, Bob King from Fitzroy, who worked at Newport Railway Workshops, Dave Elliman from Melbourne, Jack Wiseman from Prahran and former player, Harry Greaves, returned after a stint at Footscray. Future captain-coach and Recorder Cup and VFA Medal winner, Charlie Stanbridge, also joined the Club in this season from Prahran Juniors and Jim McAuliffe returned after a year with Williamstown Juniors.
Phil Skehan, a premiership teammate of Caldwell's and a butcher located in Douglas Parade, Williamstown, also moved across from South after the start of the season and, in his first game, against Essendon Town at Windy Hill in round 6, he collided with F. Richards of Essendon about 10 minutes into the first quarter and suffered severe concussion and a broken right leg. He died in hospital without regaining consciousness six days later from hypostatic pneumonia and concussion of the brain at the age of 26. He was the first VFA/VFL footballer to have lost his life as a result of an on-field injury. He had only received his transfer from South the Wednesday before the game.
Williamstown Chronicle, Saturday, 25 June, 1921
The season commenced shakily with two defeats in the first three rounds to the teams that would eventually finish first and second on the ladder at the conclusion of the home-and-away games in Footscray and Port Melbourne, by 15 points and 2 points, respectively. Interspersed between these two losses was a 2-goal win over Prahran at Pt Gellibrand. After the Port loss, there followed three consecutive victories by 10 goals at Glenferrie (Jim McAuliffe 5 goals, Caldwell best), by 45 points over Brighton at Williamstown and a 2-point win at Essendon in the match where Phil Skehan was injured and eventually died. Essendon led with less than a minute to go when Fred Carpenter took a fine mark and kicked the winning goal just as the bell rang. This left the Villagers in fourth place on the ladder after 6 rounds.
Williamstown played Northcote the day after Phil Skehan passed away, and players from both teams, as well as the umpires, all wore black armbands in his memory. This was the first of three successive defeats which were then experienced, including the second loss for the year to Footscray. The season's biggest victory occurred the next week at Toorak Park, with 'Town downing Prahran by 95 points, 16.26.122 to 3.9.27, with Harry Haughton kicking 6 goals. A 4-goal loss at Port Melbourne preceded a string of four consecutive wins, all by big margins, over Hawthorn (46 points, McAuliffe 5 goals, Elliman best), Brighton (45 points, Condon best), Essendon Association (58 points, Carpenter 6 goals & best player) and Northcote (64 points). The game at Northcote was virtually to decide who would finish in fourth position.
Williamstown players and supporters travelled across the bay in a steamer for the match with Brighton, where the Penguins did not score their first goal of the game until nearly half-time. In the game against Essendon, they (Essendon) had difficulty in fielding a team owing to the absence of half a dozen of their regulars, and a committeeman eventually had to take the field to make up the numbers. The Argus reported that 'towards the end several players had to be separated after displaying menacing attitudes. For the remainder of the game the play was strenuous, and after the match the Essendon players were serenaded to the station by hoots from a crowd of unruly youngsters.' The final home-and-away game resulted in a 2-goal loss to finalist, Brunswick.
The 1921 season was disrupted when North Melbourne suddenly disbanded after round 8, just prior to the scheduled clash with Williamstown, and the Villagers were the only team that never played North in this season. This was a result of off-field maneuvers in both the VFA and VFL which stemmed from the scheduled closure of the East Melbourne Cricket Ground at the end of the season in order for the Flinders Street railyards to be extended in order to accommodate parking of new electric trains. This meant that the Essendon VFL team had to find a new home after playing at the ground since 1882. In June 1921 it announced that it would move to Arden Street, as 800 of Essendon's 1700 members lived in North Melbourne, West Melbourne and Kensington and the Club felt the gate returns would be greater in the more centrally-located North ground. North saw this as an opportunity to enter the VFL as it was felt that Essendon could not retain its name while playing at Arden St and that soon the majority North Melbourne-based members would force it to be rebranded as North. The North committee formally announced that it would seek an amalgamation with the Essendon VFL club for the 1922 season and promptly disbanded rather than play out the season as the VFA had threatened the Club with disqualification and it also gave the players time to seek a transfer before the 1 July deadline.
North Melbourne Juniors offered to take over the senior Club's fixtures but the VFA rejected the proposal. Three players from North came to Williamstown, namely Herb Miles, Jack O'Connell and Bob Clark. It was a presumptious move by North as no agreement had been reached with Essendon on the matter of a merger. The VFA appealed to the State Minister for Lands, requesting that he veto Essendon's move, as the Arden Street ground was owned by Melbourne City Council. He upheld the appeal, and within two weeks Essendon had reached agreement with the Essendon Council to play for the next five years at Windy Hill. This prompted the Essendon Association team to disband in December, bringing an end to its 22-year existence. The VFA wanted to maintain its most central club and re-admitted North in December, on the proviso that an entirely new committee be appointed just as what had occurred in 1908. After North disbanded, the team that was scheduled to play North had a bye but received four points. Williamstown was the only team that had two byes during the season. It was a perculiar coincidence that in 1907, when Williamstown won their last premiership, North Melbourne were disqualified for applying to enter the VFL and in 1921 the same thing occurred.
1907 premiership player, Jim 'Ginger' Caldwell, returned from South Melbourne in 1921 after 11 seasons and 155 games and captaining South's 1918 premiership team to captain-coach Williamstown. Caldwell was selected in the WFC Team of the Century on the wing and is a member of the WFC Hall of Fame.
The team recovered from the setback of Phil Skehan's demise to finish the season in fourth place with 9 wins and 7 losses, plus the two byes, one win in front of Northcote, and then downed second-placed Port Melbourne in the first semi-final at East Melbourne before a crowd of 15,000 by 26 points, 15.11.101 to 11.9.75, even though Port had won both home-and-away clashes during the year. In fact, 'Town did not manage to beat any of the other finalists, being Port, Footscray and Brunswick, during the year and was not expected to advance very far. After an even first quarter with Port kicking with a slight breeze, Williamstown kicked six goals to two in the second quarter to open up a 4-goal lead by half-time. This was extended to 26 points by three-quarter time, and both sides kicked 3.2 in the last term. The Argus reported that 'Port's undoing was the result of being repeatedly penalised for breaches of the rules-notably holding and pushing opponents-and in this offence their captain (Steve Leehane) was the principal offender.' Fred Carpenter kicked 4 goals while best players were Bob King, Harry Haughton, Norm McDonald, Carpenter, Jim McAuliffe, Stan Mitchell, Dick Condon, Jack MacDonald, Laurie Smith, Jack O'Connell, Charlie Stanbridge, Dave Elliman and Hugh Munro. In the Sporting Globe on August 24 1935, in a review of this game, it was remarked by sports reporter, P.J. Millard, that 'Bob King, as on many other occassions, was Williamstown's star in that stern struggle. His marking at centre half-back was dazzling. Association supporters still talk about it. By many he is regarded as one of Williamstown's three greatest players since the (First World) war, Allan Geddes, of Richmond, and Arthur Sykes being the others.'
The Argus, September 24 1921 - starting line-ups for the first semi-final at East Melbourne Cricket Ground, won by Williamstown 15.11.101 to Port Melbourne 11.9.75
The preliminary final was also played at East Melbourne against Footscray in front of a crowd of 10,000 supporters, and Williamstown had a 4-point lead half-way through the third quarter after the Tricolours had kicked 3 goals in 3 minutes when a torrential hail storm hit the ground. The playing surface was turned into a sheet of ice within a minute of the storm hitting and caused the game to be abandoned with the score reading 10.5.65 to 9.7.61. The Argus reported that 'the oval was a sea of ice, and further play was impossible. Some of the players had been cut with pieces of jagged ice and ..... one of the boundary umpires (famous old player Mick Madden) had several wounds on his head.' Footscray wanted to resume the game once the storm had abated but Williamstown declined, and a hurried meeting of Association officials decided to abandon the match. Fred Carpenter again kicked 4 goals and better players were Stan Mitchell, Carpenter, Jack MacDonald, Jack O'Connell, Hugh Munro, Harry Haughton, captain-coach Jim Caldwell, Charlie Stanbridge, Dick Condon, Bob King, 'Ginger' Armstrong and Norm McDonald.
The replay, effected by a heavy ground and a greasy ball due to rain, was won by Williamstown by just 3 points, 9.14.68 to 10.5.65, which was the last game played on the famous old ground as the Railways Commissioners required the ground for railway purposes as detailed above. The crowd of 8,000 saw the Villagers get away to a good start and lead 4.5.29 to 1.0.6 at quarter time. Poor kicking for goal in the second quarter reduced the 'Town's lead to 13 points at half-time, which was further narrowed to just 10 points by the last change of ends. Footscray, kicking with the breeze, scored a goal to reduce the margin to 3 points with two minutes remaining but Williamstown hung on to score a hard-fought victory, with Jim McAuliffe and Stan Mitchell both kicking 3 goals. Better players were Mitchell, vice-captain Dick Condon, Jim Caldwell, 'Ginger' Armstrong, Bob King, Dave Elliman, Hugh Munro, Jack MacDonald, Jack O'Connell and Laurie Smith.
As Footscray finished on top of the ladder they had the right to 'challenge' Williamstown to a rematch, which took place at Fitzroy's Brunswick St. Oval on October 22 in front of a crowd of 20,000. This was the one and only time that this venue was used for a VFA finals match and only occurred due to Fitzroy Cricket Club having a bye in the first round of district cricket. Captain-coach, Jim Caldwell, broke a small bone in his forearm in the replayed final, but took the field with his injured arm in plaster. Footscray selectors were so displeased with the form of the team in the replayed final that eight changes were made for the 'challenge' match.
After Caldwell won the toss and kicked with a strong breeze, the Villagers got away to a bright start kicking to the Brunswick St. end and led 2.1 to 0.4 at quarter time, despite the heavy ground and the greasy ball proving difficult to hold. Despite Bob King's aerial supremacy and the valiant efforts of the other defenders, the Tricolours used the wind to their advantage and had taken the lead by half-time, with the score reading 3.6 to 2.5. A 5-goal third quarter gave 'Town a 9-point advantage at the last change, 7.5 to 5.8, and when Footscray's Dr. Roy Park, the former University and Melbourne player and Australian and Victorian cricketer, hit the post within seconds of the start of the last term a close finish appeared likely. However that was their only score for the term while Williamstown added a goal from rover, Norm McDonald, after a smart tap-down from Harry Haughton. Caldwell was named among the best players in the premiership victory, downing the Tricolours 8.9.57 to 5.9.39. Other good players on the day were best-on-ground, Bob King, vice-captain Dick Condon, Jack MacDonald, former Footscray player Hugh Munro, Herb Miles, Tom Geisler, Jack O'Connell, Laurie Smith, Dave Elliman, Richard 'Ginger' Armstrong, Stan Mitchell and Fred Carpenter (3 goals). Jim McAuliffe, who kicked 2 goals to give him 63 for the season, a new Club record, and made him second on the VFA list behind George 'Toots' Taylor of Port Melbourne, who booted 78. The team kicked a total of 196 goals and 242 behinds (1418 points - a new Club record) to 143 goals and 200 behinds (1058 points) during the course of the season.
Other good players of that season were Jim 'Corker' Jamieson, Harry Haughton and Norm McDonald. Other major goalkickers were former captain-coach Haughton with 33, Fred Carpenter 26, Hugh Munro 17, Stan Mitchell 13, Fred Harden 12 and Norm McDonald 11. Jim McAuliffe and Stan Mitchell were both selected to represent the VFA in a clash with a WA Goldfields team at East Melbourne in August, which the VFA won 18.10.118 to 2.5.17 with McAuliffe kicking six of the goals. Membership increased again in this premiership season, with 720 male members, 253 female members and 100 youths. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1921 season, held at the Mechanics Institute in Electra Street in March 1922, life membership was awarded to player, Fred Harden jnr, who retired following the premiership win after commencing with the Club in 1911 and playing 74 games and kicking 49 goals. He was the leading goalscorer at the Club in 1915. The Club's VFA delegate from 1914-21, life member and incumbent local councillor, Richard Morrison, passed away at the age of 45 on May 20. He had been assistant secretary in 1905 and a vice-president in 1913.
Williamstown's 1921 premiership team was:
Backs: Charlie Stanbridge Herb Miles Tom Geisler
Half-backs: Dick Condon (v.c.) Bob King Jack MacDonald
Centres: Jack O'Connell Dave Elliman Laurie Smith
Half-forwards: Jim Caldwell (c.c.) Harry Haughton Hugh Munro
Forwards: Fred Carpenter Jim McAuliffe Stan Mitchell
Followers: Jim Jamieson Richard Armstrong
Rover: Norm McDonald
Williamstown Chronicle, Saturday, 29 October, 1921
1921 premiership squad
Back row: Dave Elliman*, Bob King*, Jim Jamieson*, Charlie Stanbridge*, Cyril 'Pompy' Blunt, Harry Haughton*, Bob Clark, Richard 'Ginger' Armstrong*, Tom Geisler*
Middle row: Hugh Munro*, Fred Carpenter*, Herb Miles*, Jim Caldwell (captain-coach)*, Dick Condon (vice-captain)*, Jim McAuliffe*, Jack MacDonald*
Front row: Jack O'Connell*, Laurie Smith*, Stan Mitchell*, Norm McDonald*
* = played in 1921 grand final v. Footscray at Brunswick St, won by Williamstown 8.9.57 to 5.9.39
1921 premiership team, featuring winger Laurie Smith (middle row, third player from right), full-back Herb Miles (middle row, second player from right), captain-coach Jim Caldwell (middle of front row) and vice-captain Dick Condon (front row, third from right)
Former Williamstown player and life member, Norm Busbridge (1912-20, 59 games 24 goals), commenced the season as captain-coach of Williamstown Juniors but resigned in July and was replaced by future senior Williamstown coach, Jim Toohey, who had played briefly for North Melbourne before they disbanded after starting the year as captain-coach of Prahran. The Juniors finished in third place. In November 1921, Williamstown, along with Prahran and Footscray applied to join the VFL, while Camberwell, Coburg and Geelong West applied to join the VFA. All applications were rejected. Williamstown also made it known that it preferred the Gardens (Fearon) Reserve to the cricket ground and was willing to pay cash for a new fence and the erection of a pavilion although it would prefer the removal of the Cricket Club pavilion and its re-erection on the Reserve.
Essendon Association amalgamated with the remnants of the North Melbourne Club before the season but the merged entity played on under North's name and managed to finish third on the ladder but lost both games against 'Town. A Geelong team playing out of Kardinia Park was also admitted, alleviating the need for a bye caused by Essendon's demise. Williamstown reappointed Jim Caldwell and Dick Condon to their positions of captain-coach and vice-captain, respectively, but 1922 got off to a bad start when Bob King was enticed to transfer to Williamstown Juniors by Captain James Fearon, the Juniors' president, as captain-coach but he could only get them to fifth position. Charlie Stanbridge crossed to Port Melbourne, Dave Elliman went back to Melbourne, Richard 'Ginger' Armstrong went to the country and 'Corker' Jamieson retired during the season, all key players in the premiership team of 1921. During the year Harry Haughton took up a country coaching position and Jack O'Connell crossed to South Melbourne without a clearance. New players included Allan Geddes from North Melbourne Juniors, Thomas O'Keefe from Northcote and Harry 'Cop' Dussell from Essendon VFL. Bill Whitburn, Bert Colechin, Aub Holten, Jim Sutherland and H. Purtle were others to join, the last three being from Williamstown Juniors. Star Carlton and Victorian follower, Rupert 'Rupe' Hiskins, was rumoured to have signed with Williamstown and was named in the squad for the opening match against Prahran but Carlton refused to clear him and he returned to play with the Blues until the end of 1924. Another Carlton player, C. Frost, joined the team during the season.
The season commenced with the year's biggest victory, by 77 points over Prahran at Williamstown, with Jim McAuliffe kicking 5 goals. Before the game, the premiership pennant won in 1921 was unfurled by the Club president's wife, Mrs Ditty. This was followed by a narrow 3 point win at Arden St over the rejuvenated North Melbourne, the first by the Villagers since 1913 and the first at Arden St. since 1909. The victory was repeated at Williamstown in round 11 with an 8-point win, also the first time that the Northeners had been downed twice in a season since 1909. A one-goal defeat at Port Melbourne was followed by two victories at Williamstown over Brunswick and Brighton by 34 points (McAuliffe 6 goals) which had 'Town in third position on the ladder by round 6. It was the 13th consecutive win over Brighton. Two losses at Northcote and at Williamstown to Hawthorn by just 2 points meant the Villagers were now back in sixth position on the ladder. The Argus reported that 'at Williamstown, where Hawthorn were successful by 2 points, the crowd blamed the umpire, who had to put up with much abuse. As they returned to the pavilion several attempts were made to strike them. One woman who was particularly aggressive tried to strike the umpire with an umbrella, and a man who was said to have endeavoured to hit a boundary umpire was promptly siezed by a constable. About 300 people waited about outside the pavilion for the umpires, and when they came out surrounded by police, they were followed by a mob to the railway station. Stones and mud were thrown, and finally the umpires were driven away in a motor car.' The home crowd had been incensed by field umpire Thompson's failure to pay a mark to Jim McAuliffe in the goal square with only seconds remaining in the match, and chased him toward Battery Road before police came to his rescue.
The Herald June 17, 1922 - 'Corker' Jamieson was first ruck in Williamstown's 1921 premiership team after coming from Williamstown Juniors in 1919. He played 43 games and kicked 8 goals up until the end of 1922. He was the uncle of Stan 'Nugget' Jamieson who played in 'Town's 1939 premiership side and the 1941 Seconds pennant team, both games being played on the MCG. Stan Jamieson and Jim Quinn are the only two Williamstown players to feature in two premierships played on the MCG. Jim Jamieson also played in premierships with Williamstown Juniors in 1916, when vice-captain, and 1919.
A 6-goal win at Kardinia Park over the new Geelong Association team followed and more umbrella action occurred as reported by The Argus, which stated that 'when the players were leaving the field a woman insulted the Geelong captain, and as he was passing through the gate she attempted to strike him with an umbrella.' A 9-point loss to eventual runner-up Footscray preceded wins over eventual wooden-spooner, Prahran, and finalist North Melbourne by 8 points on a wet day at Williamstown. A 2-goal loss to eventual premier, Port Melbourne, and a draw at Brunswick was summed up by The Argus which 'saw a bitter, unpleasant game in which punching, tripping, undue roughness and all the worst features of the game were displayed. The display of the two clubs was unworthy of the clubs and to the Association to which they belong. It will be surprising if there are not several men reported.' Two consecutive victories followed at Brighton by 20 points, even though the Villagers had 27 scoring shots to 12, and at Williamstown over Northcote by 49 points (Fred Carpenter 6 goals). The home-and-away games were rounded out with defeats in two of the last three games, interspersed with the second win of the year over newcomers, Geelong Association, this time by 52 points at Pt Gellibrand.
Nevertheless, Williamstown made the final four on percentage from Brunswick and Hawthorn with a rather modest 10 wins from its 18 home-and-away engagements. However, 'Town went down to Port Melbourne in the first semi-final at Arden Street before a crowd of 14,000, 13.14.92 to 8.3.51. The game was lost in the second and third quarters when the Villagers added only two behinds to the quarter time score compared to Port's 2.2 and the Borough then booted 6.4 to 2.0 to have the match sewn up at three-quarter time with a lead of 46 points after leading by 58 shortly before the break. It was Port's first win in a final at its seventh attempt. Fred Carpenter kicked 3 goals while better players were Harry Dussell, Dick Condon, Bill Whitburn, Herb Miles, Tom Geisler, Laurie Smith, Allan Geddes, Stan Mitchell and Norm McDonald. 1921 Williamstown premiership player, Charlie Stanbridge, played for Port Melbourne in this game. Jim McAuliffe was leading goalkicker again with 48, closely followed by Fred Carpenter with 42 and Norm McDonald on 23. The team managed 183 goals and 195 behinds (1293 points) to 154 goals and 184 behinds (1108 points) kicked by opponents.
Membership of the Club increased to a record number in this season, with 1623 senior season ticket holders and 208 youths. There was also an unprecedented level of turnover (1,676 pounds) as well as expenses (1564 pounds). During the year, the secretary of the Club and VFA delegate, Les Thompson, resigned from both positions after a disagreement with the committee and the son of former secretary, Arthur Johnson senior, took up that role and A.L. Dixon became the VFA delegate. The year concluded with an end-of-season trip to Maryborough in October by 40 players and committeemen led by the Club's VFA delegate, Jack Dennis.
Sporting Globe, September 6 1922 - a scene from the first semi-final at North Melbourne, won by Port Melbourne 13.14.92 to Williamstown's 8.3.51
Collingwood rover, Charlie Laxton, was appointed Williamstown captain-coach in 1923 after playing 148 games and kicking 89 goals with the Magpies from 1912-21. Laxton played in Collingwood's premiership teams of 1917 and 1919 and the runner-up sides of 1915 and 1918, and represented Victoria in 1919 and 1920.
J.J. (John James) Liston, a Williamstown councillor since 1898, mayor seven times and licensee of the Customs House Hotel in Nelson Place, began his eight-year reign as president in 1923 after earlier being a vice-president, treasurer, a committeeman and one of the Club's VFA delegates. 1921 premiership captain-coach, Jim Caldwell, decided to give playing away at 36 years of age after 81 games with Williamstown and accepted a non-playing coaching position in WA with Perth in 1923. Recruits included new captain-coach Charlie Laxton from Collingwood (who resigned as captain after round 3 but continued on as non-playing coach excepting the round 12 game at Footscray when he returned for just one further game), Johnny 'Jack' Martin from Footscray (father of the star of the 1950's of the same name), former player Tom O'Halloran (who took over the captaincy from Laxton) returned after four years and 62 games with South Melbourne and a year as captain-coach of Prahran, Len Gibb from Hawthorn, Eric Humphrey from Carlton, Jack Cahill from Brunswick, T.H. Hendricks from Brighton, Charlie Gibbs from Kew, Phil Lee of Werribee, 'Digger' Thompson from Footscray VFA, Les Stone returned from Northcote after having played with Williamstown in 1919 and Bob King returned from Williamstown Juniors along with teammate George Calleson. 1922 Collingwood captain, Tom Drummond, was appointed captain-coach of Williamstown in March 1923 but, owing to a delay in the granting of a permit, Laxton was given the role.
The Herald, September 16 1921 - Collingwood's captain of 1922, Tom Drummond, was appointed captain-coach of Williamstown in March 1923 but, owing to a delay in the granting of a permit, Magpie teammate Charlie Laxton was given the role.
The new committee's first hurdle to overcome was the threat by the VFA to review Williamstown's place in the competition if the oval and its infrastructure were not considerably improved. The surface was uneven and devoid of grass in several areas and there was very little shelter for spectators and few elevated areas for viewing of games. The outside fence was hidden by an unkempt boxthorn hedge on which the Club either lost or had punctured eight balls during the match against Hawthorn the season before. The accommodation in the pavilion, which was constructed in 1888, for players and spectators had not been updated and was in a bad state. At this stage the ground was still managed by the cricket club and this development was the catalyst for the local Council to take control of the ground.
The season commenced with a 6-goal win at Williamstown over the lowly Prahran before consecutive losses at Port Melbourne and at Williamstown at the hands of Footscray, teams that would eventually play off in the grand final. A 40-point win at Kardinia Park over Geelong Association (Fred Carpenter 5 goals), a 14-point victory at Brighton (Carpenter 7 goals) and a 44-point triumph over Brunswick had the Villagers back in fourth position on the ladder by round 6. Brunswick had defeated eventual premier Footscray the week before. Losses then followed wins up until round 12, including the second defeats for the season to Port Melbourne and Footscray by 10 points and 64 points, respectively. The Argus reported that, prior to the next game against Geelong Association, 'a players meeting on Thursday night was largely attended, and the position was fully discussed, with the result that a lot of differences were straightened out and some greivances ventilated.' There was a remarkable reversal of form that saw 'Town then string together six consecutive victories to finish off the home-and-away rounds, including the season's biggest win of 60 points over Geelong Association at Williamstown (Carpenter 9 goals) and a 33-point victory over eventual finalist, Hawthorn, at Williamstown in round 16. In the final game of the home-and-away rounds at Pt Gellibrand, which the Villagers won by just 3 points, North Melbourne played more than one quarter with only 17 men after one of their players was 'unavoidably detained, and did not make his appearance until the second quarter.'
John 'Jack' Martin joined Williamstown from Footscray in 1923 after playing in the Tricolours' 1919 and 1920 premiership sides and the 1921 team that was runner-up to Williamstown. He then went to Kingsville as captain-coach after round 1 of the 1924 season but ended the season as coach of Williamstown CYMS. After coaching CY's again in 1925 he returned to Williamstown as captain-coach in 1926 before returning to CY's as non-playing coach in 1928. He also coached CY's in 1947 after the war.
The team did better than the year before, winning 12 times and losing six to finish in third place, before losing the second semi-final to Footscray at North Melbourne, 12.7.79 to 6.11.47, before a crowd of 20,000. The Tricolours got off to a good start, and led 6.3 to 2.1 at quarter time. Williamstown played better in the second term, and a goal to Carpenter right on half-time had the Villagers trailing by 26 points, 9.3 to 5.1. Rain fell during the third quarter which reduced the game to a slog but Williamstown were able to reduce the margin slightly to 24 points by the last change, 10.5 to 6.5. Footscray added two goals in the final quarter to one by Williamstown to run out victors by 32 points. Carpenter and Lee both kicked two goals for 'Town. This was the Tricolours fifth consecutive win over Williamstown.
Late in the 1923 season the Mayor and President of the Club, J.J. Liston, unveiled an honour board in the pavilion containing the names of all the local players who had gone overseas with the armed forces during the First World War.
Fred Carpenter kicked 63 goals from full-forward during the season and was second on the VFA list behind Port's George Taylor with 65. Carpenter's best return was nine goals against Geelong Association in round 13 at Williamstown. The next best on the goalkicking list was first-year player, Phil Lee, with 26. The team scored a total of 174 goals and 191 behinds (1235 points) to their opponents' 144 goals and 180 behinds (1044 points). Les Stone and Laurie Smith were both selected to represent the VFA against the WA Goldfields Association in a 3 game series at Kalgoorlie in July. The Recorder Cup was introduced during this season, which was awarded to the VFA's best and fairest player based on the field umpires votes, and became the official award for many years. The Cup was donated by the proprietors of the Association's weekly match publication 'The Recorder'. Footscray's captain, Con McCarthy, was the first recipient. Membership of the Club increased again in this season to reach 1996, comprised of 1798 adults and 198 youths. In April of this year, The Argus reported that 'members of the Williamstown cricket and football clubs were astonished to learn .... that an oil prospecting syndicate was seeking from the Secretary of Mines permission to explore the cricket ground'. Hawthorn made the finals for the first time in this season, a feat that would not be repeated until 1957 when the Hawks where in the VFL. Late in the season the Mayor and President of the Club, J.J. Liston, unveiled an honour board in the pavilion containing the names of all the local players who had gone overseas with the armed forces during the First World War. Former player, George 'Coon' Bennett, whose name appeared on the board, passed away in mid-March as a result of an accident on the wharves at Port Melbourne where he worked.
JJ Liston assumed the presidency in 1923 and would serve in that role until 1930. He then became VFA president until his death in 1944 at the age of 71.
The Argus, September 15 1923 - starting line-ups for the second semi-final against Footscray at North Melbourne, which was won by the Tricolours 12.7.79 to Williamstown's 6.11.47 before a crowd of 20,000.
Fred Carpenter was appointed captain-coach in 1924 when Charlie Laxton retired, with Aub Holten vice-captain. Arthur Whitburn transferred to Collingwood but returned in 1925 while Johnny Martin went to Kingsville early in the season before going to Williamstown CYMS as captain-coach for 1924-25 but returned as captain-coach of Williamstown in 1926. New players included Sid Conlon from Port Melbourne, Jack 'Judy' Munn, Joe Stanford of Port Melbourne, Gerry Britt from North Melbourne VFA and Leon 'Onty' Beer from South Melbourne. The season commenced positively with wins in 6 of the first 8 games, which included a 46-point victory over eventual finalist, Northcote, at Williamstown in round 3 but also a 2-goal loss to eventual premier, Footscray, at Williamstown in round 5 which attracted a crowd of 12,000. The Villagers were in second place on the ladder after this promising start to the year. Geelong Association had their first win over 'Town at their fifth attempt in round 9 by 2 points at Pt Gellibrand, but then two successive victories over Brunswick and Brighton regained second place. Two losses in the next three games, including the second defeat for the season at the hands of Footscray, this time by 10 points, saw Williamstown drop back to third place. The home-and-away rounds were played out with four successive victories, including a win over North Melbourne in round 15, the only team to defeat Footscray during the season, and the second win for the season over North. The season's largest win by 49 points over Port Melbourne at Williamstown in round 17, before a crowd of 9000, eliminated the Borough from finals contention. It was the second victory for the year over Port, the first time that had occurred since 1919. The final home-and-away game at Kardinia Park against the lowly Geelong Association resulted in a 3-goal win, but when Williamstown centreman, Hugh Munro, was knocked unconscious in a head clash with a Geelong opponent just before half-time the team had to play with 17 men for the rest of the game. Munro did not regain consciousness for 45 minutes after the incident.
Sporting Globe, May 31 1924
The team ended the home-and-away rounds in second position with only 5 losses from the 18 games, four of which were to fellow finalists. The season was highlighted by large crowds, including more than 9,000 at the Port-Williamstown match at Port, whilst the Footscray game at Williamstown attracted 12,000 and when Footscray met Port Melbourne in round 16 at Port 17,000 attended. Williamstown downed Brunswick by 11 points in the first semi-final, 8.9.57 to 5.16.46, before 23,000 at North Melbourne. There was nothing much separating the two teams all day in a low-scoring encounter, with the Villagers leading at every change by 10 points, 2 points and just 1 at three-quarter time. Brunswick got out to a 7-point lead early in the last term before Williamstown responded with three unanswered goals from Munn, Geisler and Mitchell to clinch the win. Carpenter was the leading goalkicker for 'Town with 2 and was best-on-ground, while other good players were Dick Condon, Les Stone, Stan Mitchell, Gerry Britt, Tom Geisler and Allan Geddes.
The Argus, June 16 1924 - a crowd scene from the round 8 game at Port Melbourne, won by Williamstown by 21 points, 8.14.62 to Port's 5.11.41
Australasian, June 21 1924
The Argus, August 9 1924 - selected line-ups for the round 15 game at North Melbourne, won by Williamstown by 15 points, 7.7.49 to North's 4.10.34
The grand final against Footscray, in the Tricolours last match in the Association, at North Melbourne before a crowd of 20,000 was a disaster that would banish the Club to the football wilderness for many seasons. With only six members of the 1921 premiership side remaining (Mitchell, Geisler, Carpenter, Condon, McDonald and Munro), Williamstown did not kick a goal until the end of the last quarter and, after trailing 9.9 to 0.4 at three quarter time, managed to outscore the Tri-colours with the wind in the final term but still lost, 11.11.77 to 3.4.22. The Villagers could muster just a single behind during the first quarter to Footscray's 3.5, which advanced their lead to 26 points by half-time, scoring 4.6 to 0.4, despite Williamstown having use of the breeze. The premiership was lost in the third quarter with the Tricolours adding 5.3 to NIL to lead by 59 points by three-quarter time. Ruck-rover, Gerry Britt, brought up Williamstown's first goal for the game from a free kick during the last quarter to ironic applause before Jack 'Judy' Munn added two more to reduce the final margin to 55 points. It was Footscray's eighth consecutive win over the Villagers. One of Williamstown's best years ended in the worst possible manner by the ignominious final game defeat. The Argus reported that 'seldom, if ever, has a final match proved so one-sided as that between Footscray and Williamstown. Footscray proved their superiority in every department of the game, and their form was as great a delight to their supporters as the poor showing of Williamstown was a keen disappointment to their followers.'
Williamstown's 1924 grand final team was:
Backs: Dick Condon Vic Truman Reg Ball
Half-backs: Edward J. Blanche Les Stone Sid Conlon
Centres: Hugh Munro Aub Holten (v.c.) Allan Geddes
Half-forwards: Fred Carpenter (c.c.) Leon Beer Phil Lee
Forwards: Norm McDonald Jack Munn Joe Stanford
Followers: Tom Geisler Gerry Britt
Rover: Stan Mitchell
Sporting Globe, September 20, 1924 - a scene from the Grand Final at North Melbourne
The Argus, September 22 1924 - another scene from the Grand Final at North Melbourne against Footscray
Captain-coach Carpenter headed the Club goalkicking with a total of 34 followed by Norm McDonald with 32, Judy Munn 18, Stan Mitchell 16, Phil Lee 14 and Jim McAuliffe 12. Tom Geisler was the most consistent player for the season. The team kicked a total of 174 goals and 225 behinds (1269 points) to 143 goals and 213 behinds (1071 points). Dick Condon and Allan Geddes both represented the VFA in an exhibition match played against the Jim Caldwell-coached WAFL club, Perth, at North Melbourne on August 2 which the WA team won by 2 points. Membership was 1564 seniors and 146 juniors in this season. Footscray, which had won 9 Association premierships, including 4 in the previous 6 seasons as well as being twice runner-up, then defeated VFL premier Essendon by 28 points in a benefit match, Dame Nellie Melba's Appeal for Limbless Soldiers, and gained admittance to the VFL, along with North Melbourne (six VFA pennants) and, surprisingly, Hawthorn, which had won 56 matches, lost 81 and drew 2 over the course of eight seasons in the Association. They reached the finals just once, which resulted in a heavy defeat and had one of the worst grounds in the competition. This left the VFA with just only two of its original clubs, Williamstown and Port Melbourne. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1924 season, held at the Mechanics Institute in February 1925, life membership was awarded to Tom Riley, who had been a committeeman since 1915. VFA life memberships were bestowed upon long-serving players Norm Busbridge (1912-20), Bert McTaggart snr (1911-19), Fred Harden jnr (1911-21) and Bert Amy (1908-19). The Council took control over the ground in January of 1924 after it had been under the auspices of a trust since it was opened in 1879, although cricket had been played on the ground since at least 1860.
Argus, January 7 1936 - 21yo Allan Geddes went to Richmond without a clearance in 1925 and would go on to play 182 games for the Tigers, including the 1932 and 1934 VFL premierships and captaining the Club in 1927-28 and 1930. He was also equal second in the 1926 Brownlow Medal. He played 51 games and kicked 7 goals for Williamstown from 1922-24, including the disastrous grand final in his final year, after being recruited from North Melbourne Juniors.
Coburg joined the VFA in 1925 making it an 8-team competition, the lowest number of clubs since 1899, after Footscray, North Melbourne and Hawthorn departed for the VFL, ending one of the brightest chapters in the Association's history. 1924 captain-coach, Fred Carpenter, crossed to Port Melbourne after 108 games and 235 goals following a slight disagreement with several members of the old committee following the previous year's grand final disaster. He had also purchased a business there and was living in Port. 21yo Allan Geddes went to Richmond without a clearance and would go on to play 182 games for the Tigers, including the 1932 and 1934 VFL premierships and captaining the Club in 1927-28 and 1930. He was also equal second in the 1926 Brownlow Medal. Vice-captain of 1924, Aub Holten, went to Oakleigh, then playing in the Sub Districts Association, as coach. 1921 premiership full-forward, Jim McAuliffe, also departed as playing coach of Dunkeld, then St Arnaud and later on Swan Hill before returning in 1929 for one final season. Bob King had retired during 1924 and Dick Condon, after 112 games, did not continue, along with Herb Miles and Harry Dussell. Stan Mitchell was another to drop out after 115 games and he was playing for Brighton, where he resided, by round 10 of the season. Soon after the start of the year, Norm McDonald transferred to Footscray while ruck-rover in the 1924 grand final side, Gerry Britt, transferred back to North Melbourne during the year but returned in 1929. Phil Lee and Les Stone were others to drop out.
With all the transfers and retirements, many new faces appeared in 1925, including a new coach in George King, a follower from North Melbourne. The players preferred Hughie Munro as captain and the new coach was only second in charge on the field as vice-captain, a most unusual arrangement. Other new players were locals Harold Johns, Bertie Crellin, Harry Stock and Bert Warren, C. Porter from Bannockburn, Bill Roberts from South Melbourne, Jack Ferguson from Kingsville, R.L. Malberg from Northcote, George Tory from Hawthorn VFA, De Frocq from Yarraville, A. 'Mussels' McKellin from Yarraville Juniors and Phil Smith from North Melbourne VFA. Alf Merton, who played on the wing in Footscray's 1924 premiership team which defeated Williamstown also came across. Arthur Whitburn returned from Collingwood early in the season after 4 games and one goal for the Magpies during 1924.
North Melbourne VFA ruckman, George King, was appointed coach in 1925 after a long career that started at Fitzroy in 1913, Port Melbourne in 1914 then Fitzroy again in 1915-16 before he enlisted and served in Europe during World War I. After the war he played for Essendon Association from 1919-21 and then shifted to North Melbourne from 1922-24. In an unusual arrangement, the Williamstown players preferred Hughie Munro as captain and the new coach was only second in charge on the field as vice-captain.
The season got off to a rocky start with a 75-point defeat at the hands of eventual premier, Brunswick, and should have been more except for the 'Wick's shocking inaccuracy, kicking 12.28 to Williamstown's 3.7, perhaps due to the fact that the Villagers played with no fewer than 11 new men, although 'Mussels' McKellin and Phil Smith were both named in the best players. The team bounced back to down Brighton at Williamstown narrowly by 5 points in round 2 before losing again to Port Melbourne, this time by 21 points, before downing eventual wooden-spooner, Geelong Association, by 10 points at Kardinia Park. The Villagers then lost their very first encounter with Coburg by 2 goals in a spiteful match, both on and off the field, at Williamstown in round 5. The Argus reported that 'some bitter feelings were shown between some of the players, and tripping and kicking were far too prevalent.' As regards the crowd, The Argus continued that 'disputes occurred frequently among the spectators. Blows were exchanged freely and several constables were busily engaged in quelling the disturbances. Towards the end of the game feeling ran high among the partisans, and a fight, which for a time assumed serious proportions, occurred near the goal posts. As the field umpire was leaving the ground after the match under the protection of a constable a bottle was thrown, evidently at the umpire, who was almost surrounded by a hooting, jeering, mob. The bottle missed the umpire and struck the constable on the helmet. As the crowd left the ground a party of larrikins followed .... supporters of the Coburg team towards the railway station. Stones were thrown and several people were struck.'
Tom Hernan played 7 games for the Villagers in 1925 before heading to Williamstown Juniors during the season, but returned to Williamstown as a committeeman in 1940-42 and from 1946-51, receiving life membership in 1950 before passing away in 1966.
Despite kicking the first two goals of the match in the opening 10 minutes, an 11-goal defeat at Northcote followed which had 'Town in sixth place on the eight-team ladder. The Argus the Monday after the game described the performance as 'so bad that old supporters of the team cannot recall such an inglorious display.' This loss at Northcote brought the issue of the divided control of the team to a head when captain Hugh Munro did not play due to injury and coach George King led the team. When directing a player during the match, King was given an offensive reply which called into question the discipline and morale of the side. In an attempt to quell the disharmony, a meeting of the players was held on the Thursday evening before the next match against Prahran where the matter was frankly and openly discussed. The majority of the players recommended that the services of the coach be dispensed with, but the committee would not agree. The Club's financial position was then explained to the players, who unanimously decided to continue on even if there were no further payments for the season. Future Williamstown captain-coach, Gordon Helwig, played for Northcote in this game.
The fifth home game in the initial seven rounds resulted in a 33-point win over Prahran, with coach King booting 4 goals and being named second-best player and captain Munro third best. Three consecutive defeats followed to put paid to any finals prospects, including the second losses for the season to Brunswick and Port Melbourne. The only win in the last seven games came in round 11 with a 45-point victory at Williamstown, 7.14.56 to 1.5.11, over the lowly Geelong Association. The second loss for the year to newcomer, Coburg, this time by 10 goals and two narrow defeats to Northcote at Williamstown and at Toorak Park rounded out a miserable season. This was the first time that the 'Cotes had defeated Williamstown on the Pt Gellibrand oval. Only 4 matches were won out of 14 and sixth place obtained in the 8-team competition. The Club scored 94 goals and 138 behinds (702 points) to 126 goals and 173 behinds (929 points) kicked by opponents. Norm McDonald took out the leading goalkicker award by scoring 13 before he crossed to Footscray, followed by Phil 'Snowy' Smith with 12. Gerry Britt was the stand-out performer before returning to North Melbourne at the end of June and finished third in the VFA's best and fairest award, the Recorder Cup, despite playing just nine games.
The Herald, March 31 1939 - Bob Daval was head trainer at Williamstown in the 1920's before crossing to Richmond in 1927 and becoming head trainer there in 1936.
The defection of North Melbourne and Footscray, in particular, to the VFL in 1925 affected Williamstown greatly due to both club's proximity geographically whereby support dropped to the extent that membership in 1925 was only a third of what it had been just the year before due to Williamstown supporters following these clubs to the VFL. The financial strain of this development was allegedly responsible for the departure of six or seven of the most promising players from the Club and led to the Club requesting that the VFA allocate 50 pounds out of reserve funds to all of the seven older clubs in the Association, excluding newcomers Coburg.
President from 1903-06 and vice-president in 1907-08, Alex Ramsay, passed away on August 2, aged 61. Thomas Haslam, who played for Williamstown in the 1870's, passed away in October. He was a former councillor and has a street in the town named in his honour. Popular property steward, Wally Williams, also passed away in April.
John 'Jack' Martin returned to Williamstown as captain-coach in 1926 after coaching Williamstown CYMS in 1924-25. Martin was the father of the Williamstown star of the 1950's with the same name.
Preston and Camberwell were admitted to the VFA in 1926, restoring it to a 10-team competition, and both finished above 'Town on the ladder at the conclusion of the home-and-away rounds. It was Preston's first appearance as a stand-alone entity since the merger with Nortcote in 1912. Williamstown won only four games and all by narrow margins at home, to finish last for the first time since 1892 and just five years after being premiers. Johnny Martin, who started out with Williamstown Juniors before starring with Footscray as a rover in the Tricolours' 1919 & 1920 premiership teams and the team that finished runner-up to Williamstown in 1921, had been appointed captain-coach after returning from stints as coach of Kingsville and Williamstown CYMS with Sid Conlon vice-captain. New players included local juniors Alex Mather and Tom Kenny, Tom 'Nuggett' Joyce after 28 games with South Melbourne, Ted Clauscen from St Kilda Seconds, McAulay from Prahran, Alex Quinn from Williamstown Shell, Bob 'Tiger' Lyons from Williamstown District and Frank Rigaldi from Oakleigh District. Rigaldi had played with Williamstown in 1912 before stints at Carlton, Richmond and Hawthorn VFA. Another recruit was Arthur 'Porky' Sykes from Tasmania via Parksides Juniors, who would go on to play 125 games, win three consecutive best and fairests, finish runner-up in the Recorder Cup in 1930 and become one of Williamstown's greatest players in the inter-war years as well as one of the best half-backs in the Association. Bertie Crellin transferred to Footscray but returned in 1928.
The season commenced with a 39-point loss to eventual premier, Coburg, in only its second season in the competition, at Williamstown even though the Villagers had more scoring shots but kicked appallingly, booting 2.22.34 to 10.13.73, including 1.11 in the third quarter. The windy conditions meant that 11.27 was kicked at one end while just 1.8 was scored at the other. Two further losses at Brunswick and Prahran saw Williamstown on the bottom of the ladder. Things improved with a 2-point win at Pt Gellibrand over eventual runner-up, Brighton (Frank Rigaldi 7 goals), before two further defeats at the hands of Northcote and Port Melbourne. Another narrow victory at Williamstown by 2 points over Geelong Association, 5.16 to 6.8, preceded four consecutive losses, including the season's biggest defeat by 97 points at Coburg and losses to newcomers Preston and Camberwell. The third narrow victory of the year, this time over Prahran by 3 points at Pt Gellibrand (newcomer Tom Kenny 5 goals), was followed by 5 consecutive losses including an 88-point defeat at Preston and a 6-goal loss at Geelong. The home-and-away rounds concluded with the fourth narrow victory of the year, over Camberwell by 3 points at Williamstown, 10.9.69 to 9.12.66, thanks to a mark and goal by Jack Munn a few minutes before the bell.
Frank Rigaldi was leading goalscorer with 20, while recruit Tom Kenny kicked 17, Jack Munn 15 and Hugh Munro 10. The team scored 122 goals and 182 behinds (914 points) to 216 goals and 228 behinds (1524 points) kicked by opponents. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1926 season, held at the Mechanics Institute in February 1927, VFA life membership was awarded to Jack MacDonald who had played 155 games with Williamstown from 1911-24, interrupted by war service during the period 1916-18, and including the 1921 premiership after commencing as a 14yo from Warragul. Alex Mather won a trophy for best first-year player, Jack Munn was best all-rounder and 'Mussels' McKellin was awarded the most consistent trophy.
The Herald, April 9, 1926 - Allan McColl was appointed secretary in 1926 and 1927 after being a committeeman in 1925 but had to resign the post early into the 1927 season due to ill health and was replaced by assistant secretary, Joe Black. McColl was also the Club's VFA delegate and G.H. Mills took over that role.
Representations to the Council regarding the dilapidated state of the pavilion at the cricket ground commenced in April 1926, when the various sporting groups that used the oval, including the football club, cricket club, tennis club, baseball club and harriers, complained of dripping taps and unsewered lavatories. According to the Williamstown Chronicle of May 1, 1926, concerned citizens, including a doctor, pointed out that, apart from the lack of sanitation, 'the smell was appalling and the ventilation poor. Water from the showers runs into the players dressing room, and there would be serious consequences in the event of a thyphoid outbreak.' Another said 'the conditions at the ground were a scandal. The present structure wanted burning down. It was a disgrace to invite visitors to such a place. There were no conveniences for ladies.' Residents of Morris Street had 'made complaints of the stagnant pool that existed there.' The Mayor, and president of the football club, Cr J.J. Liston, said that it would be advisable for Councillors to visit the ground and see for themselves the condition of the pavilion, which was constructed during 1887 and officially opened in December of that year in time for the football club's move to the ground from the Gardens Reserve.
Leo Drew joined Williamstown in 1927 from Kingsville and played 83 games up until the end of 1933. He transferred to Daylesford in 1931 but returned to Williamstown in 1932. He captain-coached the Seconds in 1935. He is pictured here on a W.D. & H.O. Wills cigarette card in his last senior season.
The Herald, April 29 1927
Jack Lord of Melbourne and St Kilda was appointed captain-coach for the 1927 season, replacing Johnny Martin who continued on as a player, and performed so well he (Lord) won the best and fairest award and finished runner-up in the Recorder Cup, losing by just one vote to Ernie Martin of Coburg. Leon 'Onty' Beer was made vice-captain. Tom Geisler (113 games, 1921-26, 1921 premiership, 1924 grand final) and Hughie Munro (90 games, 1921-26, 1921 premiership, 1924 grand final) both retired at the end of 1926, however Munro returned as vice-captain in 1928 for a further two seasons. 'Mussels' McKellin transferred to Footscray during the season but returned in 1929 and Reg Ball similarly went to Williamstown Juniors during the year.
New players included Jack Waterman from Port Melbourne, Leo Drew from Kingsville and his brother, Con, from Footscray Seconds, Roberts from Oakleigh, N.M. Walker from Port Melbourne, William Martin from Williamstown Juniors, Hayden from Spotswood, Fordham from Footscray Seconds, James Scoones from Maffra, G.W. Saynor from Brunswick, and Roy McKay and Len Murphy from Collingwood Juniors. Murphy would leave without a clearance the following season and go on to play 173 games for Collingwood until the end of 1937 and appear in three consecutive VFL premierships from 1928-30. He also played for Footscray in 1940-41. McKay would play 101 games for Footscray from 1930-35 and would be Brunswick's captain-coach in their grand final loss to Williamstown in 1939. G.W. Saynor transferred from Brunswick during the season, as did A.W. Parker from Prahran.
Williamstown 1927 team photo
Back row: J. Roberts, Alex Quinn, Ted Clauscen, Len Murphy, George Warren, Bill Whitburn, L. Moralle, Onty Beer
Middle row: C.J. Hill, Arthur 'Porky' Sykes, Tommy Meehan, Jack Lord (captain-coach), Alex Mathers, James Scoones
Front row: (players only) Jack Waterman, Harry Stock, Con Drew, Harold Johns
Williamstown's 1927 captain-coach and best and fairest winner, Jack Lord, pictured here in the Sporting Globe, November 26 1932, upon his appointment as secretary of the St Kilda Football Club
The team improved to win seven matches with one draw from 18 games to finish sixth on the ladder. With only one win in the first six rounds, the team was going to struggle to make the finals. The victory was over eventual wooden-spooner, Geelong Association, by 33 points and the defeats were all by big margins at the hands of eventual grand finalists, Coburg and Brighton, as well as finalist, Port Melbourne. The win by Brighton, 16.13.109 to 8.5.53, was their first at Williamstown since 1912. There was then a victory by 2 points, 4.15.39 to 4.13.37, over another finalist in Preston at Williamstown, a draw at Toorak Park, then three successive wins over Brunswick (by 33 points), Camberwell (1 point) and Geelong Association (10 points) for the second time in the season. Parker kicked 5 goals on debut with the Villagers at Geelong. In the draw with Prahran, Williamstown led by 34 points at three-quarter time before the Two Blues booted 5.6 to two behinds in the last quarter. This run of success saw the Villagers in sixth place on the ladder, a position which the team retained for the remainder of the home-and-away rounds, despite only two more wins over the final seven games. One of these victories was over Northcote, which finished one game out of the final four, at Williamstown in round 14 by 26 points. Newcomer Parker kicked 4 goals for the Villagers. Some of the losses were by sizeable margins to three of the four finalists, including a 65-point loss to eventual premier, Coburg. In the game at Brighton the following week, Williamstown led by a point at three-quarter time before the Penguins, the eventual runners-up, unleashed a 10.2 to 0.1 final quarter to win by 60 points. The wind had a dramatic effect on this encounter, as 15.16 was kicked at one end of Elsternwick Park to just 1.2 at the other end. In the round 15 game at Williamstown against Port Melbourne, the only team that defeated Coburg during the season, the Villagers led by 25 points at the last change of ends before Port booted 5.4 to NIL in the final term to win by 9 points. The final victory of the season came in the penultimate round at Williamstown with a 21-point win over Prahran after trailing by a goal at the last change. Parker kicked 5 goals against his old team to spearhead the win.
The Argus, July 23 1927 - starting positions for the round 13 clash with Brighton at Elsternwick Park which the home team won by 60 points, 13.9.87 to 3.9.27, despite Williamstown leading at every change of ends before the Penguins unleashed a 10-goal final quarter to just a single behind by the Villagers.
Newcomer Parker was leading goalscorer for the year with 19, despite not joining the Club until mid-season from Prahran and kicking five goals in his first game, against Geelong Association in round 11. Runner-up in the goalkicking was captain-coach, Jack Lord, with 17, followed by newcomer, G.W. Saynor, and vice-captain, Leon Beer, both with 11. The team scored 136 goals and 197 behinds (1013 points) to 183 goals and 190 behinds (1288 points) booted by their opponents.
Remarkably both the first and second semi-finals in this year were drawn, necessitating a 6-game final series, drawn out even further due to the preliminary final being postponed due to bad weather. Coburg won its second consecutive premiership despite being in the competition for just three seasons. Recruit, Roy McKay, was runner-up in the Recorder Cup in this season. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1927 season held at the Mechanics Institute in February 1928, Jack Lord was awarded the best-and-fairest player for the year, Jack Waterman the most improved player and Arthur Sykes the most consistent player. Former vice-president, committeeman and local newspaper correspondent, Jim Challis, was awarded life membership for his solid work over many years.
Plans were announced in May by the Williamstown Council for construction of a new grandstand at a cost of approximately 8000 pounds to replace the existing pavilion that was built 40 years previously when the football club moved to the ground, being officially opend in December 1887. It was planned to locate the new stand between the press box and the existing pavilion. In the Williamstown Advertiser on 31 December 1927 it was reported that an inspector of the Public Health Department inspected the cricket ground and reported to the Council on 'the filthy condition of sanitary arrangements and to the lack of proper accommoda tion in the grandstand. With a view to replacing the existing dilapidated structure by an up-to-date pavilion, an architect is preparing sketch plans for presentation to the Council.'
Photo from The Argus, 18 May, 1928 - the team pictured before the round 4 game at Elsternwick Park against Brighton on 12 May, won by the home side 9.14.68 to 'Town's 8.7.55
Yarraville, which amalgamated with the 1927 VJFA premiers, Kingsville, entered the VFA in 1928 from the VJFA after Geelong Association dropped out following six unsuccessful seasons, where they managed just 14 wins against 90 defeats and only received support when the League team was away in Melbourne. Williamstown's slight improvement in 1927 was short-lived as the team was back to second last with just three wins and avoided the wooden spoon by a mere 1.8 percent. 1927 vice-captain, Leon 'Onty' Beer, was appointed captain-coach, replacing Jack Lord who transferred to Prahran, and Hugh Munro emerged from retirement to become vice-captain. Recruits included Con Sheehan from Yarraville Juniors, R. Bromley from Warburton, Godwell and Hauser from Williamstown Juniors, former Essendon player Bill Vickers came across from Williamstown Shell as did George from Footscray Seconds. Former player, Bertie Crellin returned after stints with Footscray VFL (2 games) and Williamstown CYMS. George Taafe also came from Williamstown CYMS in this season. P.E. Outen joined from Footscray Seconds during the year as did Frew and Walker from Yarraville, former North Melbourne VFA captain Harry Clapson and J. Anderson from Brunswick Juniors. Tom Meehan transferred to Fitzroy in early June but returned the following year after 5 games with the 'Roys while Len Murphy crossed to Collingwood without a clearance and would go on to play 173 games for the Magpies until the end of 1937 and appear in three consecutive VFL premierships from 1928-30. He also played for Footscray in 1940-41.
Seven new players were included in the team for the opening game against Port Melbourne at Williamstown, which resulted in a six-goal defeat, with the Villagers adding just one behind after half-time. The first victory of the year came in round 2 at Northcote by 26 points (Beer 4 goals) followed by two defeats at the hands of Preston at Williamstown and then at Elsternwick to eventual finalist, Brighton. There was then a narrow victory at home by 7 points against eventual finalist, Camberwell (Munro 4 goals). The Villagers led by 29 points at three-quarter time before the Cobras kicked 3.4 to NIL in the last quarter to just fall short. Five successive losses followed to rule out any prospects of a finals appearance. Two of these defeats were by 108 points to eventual premier, Coburg, and by 65 points to runner-up, Port Melbourne. There was also a 1-point loss at Toorak Park in what The Argus described as a 'very rough struggle. There were many hard knocks, and on several occasions in the final quarter opposing players came to blows.' The season's third and final victory by 4 goals came in round 11 at Williamstown against Northcote (Kenny and Clauscen 4 goals each, Beer best). The home-and-away rounds concluded with 7 successive losses including sizeable defeats by eventual finalists Brighton by 64 points, Camberwell by 28 points and Coburg by 48 points. The game at Camberwell was notable for the Cobra's amazing inaccuracy in kicking 7.34 to Williamstown's 7.6. At one stage during the game Camberwell scored just one goal from 20 attempts. Both games against neighbouring newcomers, Yarraville, resulted in defeats.
Tom Kenny was leading goalscorer for the year with 18, followed by recruit Con Sheehan on 16, captain-coach Leon Beer with 14 and Hughie Munro 13. The team kicked a total of 131 goals and 188 behinds (974 points) while the opposition booted 201 goals and 285 behinds (1491 points). Roy McKay finished equal third in the Recorder Cup, while captain-coach, Leon Beer, was equal fourth. The Club reverted its guernsey design to a yellow waist band instead of the sash for this season, perhaps due to the influx of recruits from Williamstown CYMS which also wore the band, including Bertie Crellin, George Taafe senior, Alf Bliss and 1927 CY's captain J. Leader, but the Club soon reverted to its usual sash. Hughie Munro received lfe membership after completing 100 games during the 1928 season along with long-serving committeeman, Bert Moon, at the annual meeting in respect of the 1928 season held in December.
Coburg, which had been in the Association for only four seasons and had made the finals every year, won its third successive premiership having played a total of 76 matches for 63 wins, 1 draw and 12 defeats. Williamstown had lost every one of their eight encounters by an average of 10 goals. However, the 'Burgers would miss the finals in 1929 and not win another pennant until 1979. 'Town defeated Coburg for the first time in round 14 of 1929 by 6 points at Williamstown.
Former player of 1884-1897 (86 games and 11 goals), captain of 1886-87, secretary of 1888-89 and 1903, assistant secretary of 1885 & 1903, committeeman 1890-95, the Club's VFA delegate from 1887-97 & 1900, vice-president from 1904-08 and VFA secretary of 1897-99, Martin Joseph 'Tottie' Fitzpatrick, passed away on 25 May 1928 at the age of 63. He also represented Williamstown's Second Twenty as a player and captain and also played for 'Town in 1883 before it gained 'senior' status. In later life, he acted as one of the Club's honorary auditors.
The 1928 VFA Recorder, the oldest in the Club's collection, with the team lists and positions for the round 8 game against Brunswick at Williamstown which the 'Wicks won by 17 points, 8.9.57 to 6.4.40. #17 Con Sheehan kicked 3 of the 6 goals scored by the Villagers while The Argus named captain-coach, #1 Leon Beer, as best player.
The issue of a new pavilion at the cricket ground was not unanimously supported at Council as some councilors were of the view that it was not central enough to serve the city's sporting requirements and the Market Street Reserve in Newport deserved greater attention due to its location. Councilor Briggs described the cricket ground as 'a cold, bleak place, upon which it was foolish to spend money. It was in a part of the city that was dead.' Councilor Gray was of a different opinion and believed that the Football Club 'would get into the league (VFL) and big gates would follow.' Councilor Liston, the Football Club president, stated that 'the city had long borne the stigma of having the worst ground in the metropolitan area.' There were fears that the Victorian Cricket Association and the VFA may even remove Williamstown from their lists of senior teams. The Williamstown Advertiser reported on 31 March 1928 that the Health Department claimed that the pavilion 'is in such a state of dilapidation as to be unsafe and insanitary.' A reporter visited the ground 'and found the conditions even worse than reported previously. The grandstand, which was built about 40 years ago, is in a positively dangerous state. Unpainted for years, it is in the last stages of decay. Dirt and filth meet the eye at every turn, the dark and musty atmosphere give a feeling of apprehension on entering. Broken windows have been covered with bags and sheets of tin in an effort to keep out the biting winds in winter and the sun in the summer months. Wherever one walks, the floor, which in places is worn almost through, creaks ominously. The iron roof is corroded everywhere, and spouting and what was once ornamental ironwork, threaten to fall as the wind whistles through the structure. Broken electric lights and beer bottles add a further note of desolation. The sanitary conveniences are a positive disgrace. There is not even a notice on them to show which is for ladies and which for the opposite sex. Unsewered, these so-called conveniences are a breeding place for disease. Inside no facilities of any kind are provided - a state of affairs which would cause caustic comment in the smallest country town.' The Williamstown Advertiser also reported on August 25 that 'complaints had been made by visiting clubs regarding the lack of sanitary conveniences for both sexes at the cricket ground. Players had complained of the condition of the floor of the pavilion and the bathrooms, with the absence of a proper hot water service'.
Tom Kenny, played 44 games and kicked 40 goals from 1926-28 after being recruited from Williamstown Juniors, and was leading goalscorer in 1928 with 18 majors for the season.
Eventually the Council agreed in October 1928 that 8,000 pounds be allocated for the construction of a new pavilion and other improvements at the ground, despite the Town Clerk, Fred Ogden, campaigning for 12,000 pounds to be budgeted for the works. Subsequently, the conveniences for the outer reserve at the ground were dispensed with due to shortage of money, an issue that would cause a crisis in latter years. Tenders for the erection of a reinforced concrete grandstand were called for by the Council in July 1929, and Donald & Co. was accepted as the successful tenderer at a Council meeting in August. It was the lowest tender at 9,907 pounds. Construction had commenced by the end of the month and was expected to be completed by mid-January 1930. The grandstand, which was named the W.L. Floyd Pavilion in 1963 in honour of long-serving secretary, Larry Floyd, had its official opening by the Mayor, Cr. G. Paine, on April 5 1930 followed by an athletic carnival on the ground and a dance in the evening in the Town Hall. The final cost of the stand was 10,000 pounds.
John 'Barney' Lonergan joined Williamstown in 1929 and played 50 games up until the end of the 1934 season
The VFA decided to bring its strength up to 12 clubs by admitting Oakleigh and Sandringham in 1929, and also introduced a single reserve player to replace an injured teammate. The Association also began to start the season a week prior to the VFL and the first round of matches would be between neighbouring districts. 60,000 attended the first day of 1929 with a crowd of 16,000 at the Northcote v. Preston fixture. Williamstown finished eighth with 9 wins and 13 losses, including the first-ever victory over reigning premier, Coburg, in round 14 by 6 points at Williamstown. Leon 'Onty' Beer transferred back to his original club, Yarraville, and the new committee appointed George Beasley, who had played with Collingwood from 1924-28, to the vacant captain-coach position. Norm McDonald returned from Footscray to become vice-captain but later in the season when both become unavailable, Fitzroy recruit Gordon Helwig captained the team. 1921 premiership full-forward, Jim McAuliffe, attempted a comeback after playing in the country with Dunkeld, St Arnaud and Swan Hill since 1925 but without success, managing just 6 goals for the season. Gerry Britt returned from North Melbourne, Jack Ferguson came back after three seasons with South Melbourne, Tom Meehan after one season with Fitzroy, Vic Truman similarly returned from Fitzroy after having last played with Williamstown in 1925, C.F. Nagle came across from Collingwood Seconds, Heggarty from Port Melbourne was another recruit, along with John 'Barney' Lonergan and Joe Flynn. Former Essendon and Footscray forward, Jack O'Brien, also joined the Club in this season along with his younger brother, Wally, as did Ted Cahill after two years with Footscray. Former Hawthorn player, Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair, transferred from Yarraville mid-season. Jim Ward, who played in Williamstown CYMS's 1928 premiership team, also began his long career with the Villagers in this season, aged just 15yo, but unfortunately broke his collarbone.
Collingwood defender George Beasley was appointed captain-coach for the 1929 season, after playing 38 games and kicking 17 goals with the Magpies from 1924-28, including two losing grand finals in 1925 and 1926
High hopes were held for an improved season with the new coach and other high-profile players attained, and got off to a good start with a 23-point win at Yarraville in the opening match (McAuliffe 4 goals, Helwig best on debut) before a crowd of 10,000. Five consecutive losses followed to have Williamstown in tenth place on the 12-team ladder. The first of these was a 31-point defeat at the hands of new team, Oakleigh, then a 94-point loss at Coburg which didn't even make the final four. There were also losses to eventual finalists, Port Melbourne and Preston. There were then consecutive victories over the eventual two bottom teams, Camberwell by a goal and Sandringham by 7 goals, despite leading by 74 points at three-quarter time before the Zebras added 4.10 to just one behind in the last term. Recruit, Jack O'Brien, kicked eight goals and was named best player. Two losses followed to eventual finalists, Brunswick and Northcote, before victories over Prahran by 52 points and Yarraville by 27 points. Defeat at the hands of Oakleigh for the second time in their debut season was followed by a narrow win over Coburg at Williamstown. This was the first time that the Villagers had downed the 'Burgers since they joined the competition in 1925 and at the tenth attempt. Just three wins in the last eight rounds of the home-and-away games consigned the Villagers to eighth position on the ladder, six games out of the final four. The three wins were over Brighton by 17 points, Camberwell by 35 and Sandringham by 75. The worst of the losses was at Brunswick by 11 goals.
Photo from The Age, June 17, 1929, of the round 10 game at Northcote which the 'Cotes won by 29 points, 17.12.114 to 13.7.85. The Williamstown player shown is Tom Meehan, who played for The Villagers from 1926-31, which included stints at Fitzroy (5 senior games) in 1928 and Collingwood (no senior games) in 1930.
Jack O'Brien led the goalkicking with 32 despite playing just 12 games, including 8 at Sandringham in round 8 in the first clash between the two teams. Fellow first-year player, Gordon Helwig, was runner-up in the goalscoring with 24 followed by vice-captain, Norm McDonald, and Ted Cahill both with 21, Con Sheehan 17, Gerry Britt 12, and Wally O'Brien and captain-coach, George Beasley, on 11. The team kicked 205 goals and 243 behinds (1473 points), the Club's best aggregate to that time, to the opposition's 222 goals and 273 behinds (1605 points), which was also a record against the Club. Jack Waterman, who came to the Club from Port Melbourne in 1927, polled best for the Villagers in the Recorder Cup voting, which was won by Ted Bourke of Sandringham.
In just the second season of the VFA Seconds competition, Williamstown finished runners-up to Coburg by 9 points, 14.16.100 to 14.7.91, in the grand final which was played at Oakleigh. For the Villagers, future senior player, Jack Burke, kicked 5 goals while the better players were Jack George, Joe Flynn, Roy Dellar, Leo and Con Drew, Cameron, Baker, Rudd, Kellam and Burke. The successful season may be explained by the fact that the Seconds had amalgamated with Williamstown District under separate management to the senior club in March of 1929.
At the annual meeting held at the Town Hall Supper Room in December 1929 in respect of the 1929 season, life memberships were awarded to Captain James Fearon, vice-president 1906-08 & 1925-27 and VFA delegate 1928-34, and G. Hope.
The man widely recognised as the 'Father of Football', Henry Harrison, passed away on September 2 aged 92. Another to pass away in 1929 was 1907 premiership wingman and 1921 premiership captain-coach, Jim Caldwell, who played 81 games with Williamstown from 1905-08 and 1920-22. He also played 155 games with South Melbourne from 1909-19. He died on August 20 at the age of just 41 as a result of peritonitis.
The Herald, March 7 1940 - Cr George A. Paine was first elected to Council in 1927 and was Mayor from 1929 to 1931, when the new grandstand at the cricket ground was planned, built and officially opened by Cr Paine in April 1930.
In July 1929, the Williamstown Council invited tenders for the erection of a reinforced concrete grandstand at the cricket ground. In August, it was announced that Donald & Co. was the successful tenderer with the lowest quote of 9,907 pounds. Construction had commenced by the end of the month and was expected to be completed by mid-January 1930. The grandstand, which was named the W.L. Floyd Pavilion in 1963 in honour of long-serving secretary, Larry Floyd, had its official opening by the Mayor, Cr. George Paine, on April 5 1930 followed by an athletic carnival on the ground. The Williamstown Athletic Club had its headquarters at the ground and played a big part in assisting a committee that was set up to raise funds to furnish the new pavilion. There was also a dance in the evening in the Town Hall. The final cost of the stand and other improvements at the ground, including a new galvanised fence that replaced the old boxthorn hedge and the installation of turnstiles, was almost 12,000 pounds in the end.
A sketch of the proposed new grandstand at Williamstown
A badge struck in 1929 in anticipation of the new stand
Increased attendances at Association games in this season made some leaders of the VFL apprehensive, according to The Argus on October 7 1929, and 'a plan has been evolved with the object of absorbing some of the Association teams into the League. The project is to increase the number of clubs in the League to 16 by amalgamating some of the Association clubs and bringing them into the League. The clubs proposed to be amalgamated are: Preston & Northcote, Coburg & Brunswick, Williamstown & Yarraville, Brighton & Prahran. Port Melbourne is to come into the League with South Melbourne, and thus the Association will be crushed. The project provides for the reconstructed League with 16 clubs to be divided into two sections of 8 each. The discussions have been carried on secretly, and the proposal, although not yet complete, is sufficiently advanced to enable the details given above to be stated.'
Tom Byrne was recruited by Carlton from Ararat in 1929, playing 4 games before transferring to Williamstown mid-season in 1930 where he played 39 games and kicked 33 goals from 1930-33. He crossed to Fitzroy in 1934 but did not play a senior match and finished the season with Prahran. He was then recruited by Hawthorn, where he went on to play 61 games and kick 70 goals from 1935-39. He passed away in November 1984 at the age of 76.
1930 proved a much better year, with the team returning to the final four and the new grandstand opening, replacing the old pavilion which had served for over forty years. The old building was divided into two sections in June 1931, one of which was placed at Spotswood and the other at Newport. The centre portion of the old pavilion was used to provide seating at the ground. The new grandstand had its official opening by the Mayor, Cr. G. Paine, on April 5 followed by an athletic carnival on the ground witnessed by 5,000 spectators and a dance in the evening in the Town Hall. The final cost of the stand and other works was 10,000 pounds.
Despite this the Public Health Department served notice on the Council as early as January regarding the lack of public conveniences at the cricket ground, with the threat that the Department is unlikely to allow the ground to be used without such provision. The Williamstown Advertiser on 28 June reported that the Council had received a letter from the Public Health Department requiring the Council to provide 'sanitary conveniences' at the ground within one month otherwise the new pavilion would be closed to the public. This situation escalated in August when a notice 'prohibiting the further use of the cricket ground until proper sanitary services have been installed' was served on the Council by the Public Health Commission due to numerous complaints about the conditions at the ground, which the Commission considered 'primitive and totally inadequate for the large crowds visiting the ground during the football season' and that 'no attempt has been made by the Council to make suitable sanitary arrangements.' The game against Brighton scheduled for the cricket ground on Saturday August 2 was under threat but, as The Argus reported, 'seven men were employed all day yesterday (Friday) by the Council converting a number of stone buildings on the ground into conveniences. An officer of the Health Commission will inspect the work, and if he regards it as satisfactory he will issue a permit to play on the ground. Officers of the Commission said yesterday that the order to close the ground would not be rescinded until they were satisfied with the conveniences which the Council proposed to erect. If the conveniences were not satisfactory the order would stand. The Commission had no power to prevent the use of the ground, but if it were used the Council would be prosecuted'. The Town Clerk, Fred Ogden, responded by claiming that 'the ground is the property of the Crown, and the Board of Land and Works has drawn up regulations concerning its management which provide that the ground shall be open to the public from sunrise to sunset, and the provision applies whether the ground is sewered or not.' Notwithstanding this dispute, no attempt was made by the Health Commission to prevent the game against Brighton being played. However, the following Tuesday the Health Department again contacted the Council and declared 'that the temporary installation of sanitary arrangements at the cricket ground did not comply with the requirements, and that the order for the closure, temporarily lifted last Saturday, still remains in force.' The Williamstown Advertiser reported on August 16 that eventually 'the Minister of Health has agreed that if temporary conveniences were installed at the cricket ground forthwith and complete sewering undertaken at the earliest opportunity, the ground might remain open. The temporary arrangement will be put into effect at once, so that the ground will be available today.' This is in respect of the round 17 game against Preston, scheduled to be played at Williamstown on August 16.
Sporting Globe, April 8 1936 - Roy McKay left for Footscray in 1930 and went on to play to play 101 games up until the end of 1935 when he became captain-coach of Brunswick. He played 50 games for Williamstown from 1927-29 after being recruited from Collingwood Juniors and was runner-up in the Recorder Cup in 1927. He was captain-coach of Brunswick in the 1939 grand final against Williamstown at the MCG.
The previous year's captain-coach, George Beasley, departed for Oakleigh and Jack O'Brien, the leading goalscorer of 1929, was appointed to replace him with Arthur 'Porky' Sykes vice-captain. 1921 premiership full-forward, Jim McAuliffe, departed for Sandringham as captain-coach. Gordon Helwig was one of the unsuccessful applicants for the job. Former Fitzroy, Carlton and Collingwood player, Jim Shanahan, transferred to Williamstown in this season after playing at Camberwell in 1929. Other new players were H. Dorgan from Williamstown CYMS, K. McKenzie from Williamstown Juniors, Jacky Lock and Frank Melville from North Melbourne, Percy Streeter from Newport, Billy Blake from North Melbourne Juniors, Cairo Dixon from the Peninsula Association, Buchanan from Richmond Seconds and Roy Dellar from Spotswood, who had played in Williamstown's Seconds runner-up team in 1929. George Woodman from Footscray joined during the year as did Frank Melville from North Melbourne, Tom Byrne from Carlton and his brother Rex Byrne from Mildura and a left-foot place kick of some repute, Jack Barnes, after 41 games and 71 goals with South Melbourne from 1925-29. Barnes was born and lived in Williamstown and was also a fine cricketer and played one game for Victoria against Tasmania at the MCG in 1929-30, scoring 51. He later had two sons, Ken and Ted, who both played senior football with Williamstown, the former becoming captain in 1971 and playing in a premiership in 1969 after a stint at South Melbourne from 1964-67. Former player of 1926, Jack Barnett, returned after stints at Ulverstone (TAS.), Richmond Seconds and Prahran.
Arthur 'Porky' Sykes was made vice-captain in 1930 and went on to win three consecutive best and fairest awards in 1930, 1931 & 1932
Williamstown met Yarraville in the opening round for the third year in succession and the Villians were victorious by 8 points. The situation worsened when the Villagers went down to eventual premiers, Oakleigh, the following week and found themselves at the foot of the ladder. The first victory of the season came in round 3 at Williamstown with a 37-point triumph over Brunswick, brought about by a 6.3 to 1.7 final term. Another win followed at Elsternwick Park over Brighton, 12.19.91 to 9.15.69, with Ted Cahill kicking 6 goals and being named best player. There was a third consecutive victory over lowly Camberwell in round 5 by 48 points at Williamstown, 17.20.122 to 10.14.74, with Norm McDonald and Jack O'Brien both kicking 5 goals and McDonald being named best player. The Villagers were now in fourth position on the table. The team went down by 6 goals at Preston in round 6 after failing to use the strong breeze to their advantage in the third quarter. Williamstown then downed Sandringham at Pt Gellibrand by 49 points after trailing by 9 at three-quarter time before adding 9.4 to NIL in the last quarter. Jack O'Brien kicked 5 goals and he and brother, Wally, were named as best players. A narrow 1-goal win at Toorak Park was followed by a 2-goal loss at Williamstown to Northcote in round 9. The game was lost in the first quarter when the Villagers kicked 2.10 to 2.1 and finished with 7.20 to the 'Cotes 11.9. Coach and leading goalkicker, Jack O'Brien, did not play in this game.
Four successive comfortable victories followed, at Coburg, at Williamstown over Port Melbourne (Jack O'Brien 7 goals and best player), at Yarraville and at Williamstown over eventual premier Oakleigh by 22 points. This run of success saw the Villagers in second place on the ladder before two losses on the trot at Brunswick and at Williamstown to Brighton. This was the game that was under threat due to the situation with the lack of public toilets at the ground, as detailed above. The Penguins kicked two goals in the final minute of the game to secure a 13-point victory. The home-and-away rounds were completed with four consecutive wins over Camberwell, Preston by 50 points (Jack Barnes 8 goals, Con Sheehan best), Sandringham and Yarraville followed by a 2-goal loss at Williamstown to Oakleigh in the last match, when the Villagers were again without captain-coach O'Brien and first-year player, Cairo Dixon, was reported for kicking Oakleigh's George Rudolph. The team booted their highest-ever score of 21.19.145 in the game at Sandringham in round 18, although they only won by 27 points after the Zebras got to within one point during the last quarter. Newcomer, Rex Byrne, kicked 5 of the goals while Arthur 'Porky' Sykes was best player. In the game at Yarraville in round 19, The Argus reported that 'in few matches this season has such wild excitement been seen as in the last quarter of this match, when, with only points separating the teams, the game developed into a fierce, tense struggle. Women danced and screamed, and men shouted until they were almost speechless. When Yarraville was leading by 10 points, about two minutes before the bell, the umpire awarded a free kick, which resulted in a goal to Williamstown. Within a minute Williamstown obtained another goal and won by two points.'
Sporting Globe, August 20, 1930
Despite the hardships of the Great Depression, the team finished third with 13 wins from the 20 games played and met Oakleigh, the minor premiers, in the knockout second semi-final at North Melbourne before a crowd of 12,000. In perfect conditions, the Oaks had first use of the breeze and led at the first change, 4.1 to 1.5. The Villagers added only two goals with the wind but managed to take the lead by a point during the term but the Oaks responded quickly and the margin was 7 points by half-time, 5.5 to 3.10. Williamstown had much the better of the play in the third quarter but made repeated mistakes when within scoring distance and still trailed at the last change, 8.7 to 5.14. In the final stanza, Oakleigh proved too strong, adding 3.3 to 1.1 to run out 25 point winners, 11.10.76 to 6.15.51, their first victory in an Association semi-final. There were all single goalkickers for the 'Towners while best player was wingman, Wally O'Brien. Other good players were defenders, Tom Byrne, Jim Shanahan and Gordon Helwig, forwards Jack Barnes and Ted Cahill and follower, Joe Flynn. Williamstown's captain-coach of 1929, George Beasley, was one of Oakleigh's better players in this game. It would be nine years before the Club would again reach the finals.
Jack Barnes, father of Ken & Ted Barnes, came to Williamstown from South Melbourne in 1930 and played 67 games and kicked 79 goals up until he suddenly resigned during the 1934 season. He was captain for part of the 1931 & 1932 seasons and vice-captain for part of the 1931, 1932 and 1934 seasons. He transferred to Williamstown District, which was in the VFA sub-districts competition, as captain-coach after his resignation and won the league best & fairest award despite playing just six games.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1930 season held at the Town Hall in December, trophies were presented to captain-coach, Jack O'Brien, who led the goalkicking again with a total of 50, which made him fourth on the VFA list. Equal second was 'Sandy' Sinclair and Norm McDonald with 34, Ted Cahill 26, Jack Barnes 20, Billy Blake 19, Con Sheehan 14 and Tom Byrne 12. The first of three consecutive best and fairest awards went to vice-captain, Arthur 'Porky' Sykes, a feat that wouldn't be equalled until Ray Smith took out three consecutive best and fairests in 1959/60/61 and not bettered until Kim Kershaw took out four in a row in 1983-86. Ted Cahill was runner-up, most improved player was Joe Flynn, most consistent was Gordon Helwig, most unselfish was Gerry Britt while the best player in the final was awarded to Wally O'Brien. Sykes was voted the best half-back in the Association by the Sporting Globe in this season and was also the runner-up in the Recorder Cup, finishing one vote in front of Doug Nicholls of Northcote.
A new Club aggregate of 1816 points, made up of 256 goals and 280 behinds, was recorded in this season while the opponent's tally of 230 goals and 246 behinds (1626 points) also set a new record against the Club. The team exceeded the century mark on six occassions which was also a Club record and the score at Sandringham in round 18 of 21.19.145 beat the previous best score by the Villagers. The Zebra's 17.16.118 became the Association's highest losing score.
President of the Club from 1894-1902, James Hall, passed away suddenly at the age of 68 in July 1930 whilst touring Central Australia. 1905 captain and the Club's first captain-coach in 1906, Horrie Dick, who played 96 games and kicked 42 goals for the Villagers from 1901-06, also passed away on 20 January aged just 52. Syd Barker, who played three games with Williamstown in 1908 before embarking on an illustrious career with North Melbourne in the VFA and Essendon in the VFL, was another to pass away on March 23, aged only 42.
The Williamstown team of 1930, pictured before the opening game of the season against Yarraville, the first game at the cricket ground with the new grandstand which had been officially opened three weeks earlier on April 5 by the Mayor, Cr. G. Paine
The Advocate, December 11 1930 - Football club president, John James Liston, resigned from the Williamstown Council after more than three decades of service and seven terms as mayor.
By 1931 the Depression had worsened, and apart from players being out of work, the public was not in a position to financially support football clubs. Cr JJ Liston stood down as president after eight years in the role, just one short of the record run of the recently deceased James Hall, who presided over the Club from 1894-1902. Cr Liston was also out of the Williamstown Council after more than 30 years, during which time he was mayor 7 times. He was not lost to football as he served as president of the VFA until his death in April 1944. In 1945, the JJ Liston Trophy was established in his honour by replacing the Recorder Cup and VFA Medal, to be awarded to the best and fairest player at the end of each season. He gave service to the Club for nearly forty years.
WA-born Jim Shanahan, who had played previously with Collingwood, Carlton and Fitzroy, was appointed playing coach but his employer, the police department, would not allow him to continue in the role and he was forced to resign a week before the opening round of matches even though he was a constable stationed at Williamstown. Gordon Helwig was appointed in his place but he too, being a member of the Air Force, found himself in the same position and had to stand down. Jim Toohey, a former Fitzroy player and coach of Williamstown Juniors, was eventually appointed non-playing coach on June 22 with Helwig captain before first, Harold Johns (who was subsequently suspended for 10 weeks after his first outing as skipper for elbowing a Prahran opponent), and then Ted Cahill took over the leadership role role at the end of June. Arthur 'Porky' Sykes was originally named vice-captain but Shanahan filled that role until Jack Barnes became vice-captain when Cahill became captain. Shanahan had played with Camberwell before joining the Club in 1930. The change of captain and vice-captain came about after the 30-point loss to eventual runner-up, Northcote, at Williamstown in round 8. For the round 9 game at Toorak Park against Prahran, selectors were so dissatisfied with the team's performances that both the captain, Gordon Helwig, and vice-captain, Jim Shanahan, as well as Con Drew were dropped due to non-attendance at training, although Helwig was engaged in Air Force duties. Ted Cahill acted as captain with Jack Barnes vice-captain, and Helwig and Shanahan returned to the side for the following game against Port Melbourne.
The Herald, January 17, 1931
Many changes occurred during an unsettled year, with Rex Byrne returning to Northcote and later playing two games for Fitzroy in 1934, Leo Drew went to Daylesford as coach soon after the start of the season and C.K. Adams, who joined in 1931 from Brighton, transferred to Moorabbin in late June. Captain-coach of 1930, Jack O'Brien, made a comeback for a few games before retiring after the round 4 game against Brighton and crossing to Newport. His brother, Wally, transferred to Footscray in late June and went on to play 49 games with the Tricolours from 1931-34 and then two games with Fitzroy in 1935. Another Jack O'Brien then joined the Club from Daylesford after having played earlier with South Melbourne and Hawthorn before the close of clearances on June 30 as did Bill O'Brien after 2 games with South Melbourne in 1930. Bill Whitburn returned from Essendon Seconds in June and brought Bert Jaensch with him while Tom Meehan also returned from Collingwood Seconds. Other recruits included N.A. Graco, Vic Donnelly and A.T. Winnell from North Melbourne Seconds, Eric Shade from Footscray, Tom 'Midgie' Hill from Williamstown Seconds, Dave Hyde from Laverton, Charlie Walsh from Williamstown CYMS, A. Farrell from Woodlands via Footscray Seconds, C. Bodycoate from Werribee, Hec Neal from North Williamstown Juniors, Jack Thompson and Joe Paul who both played 14 games with North Melbourne and Matt Goggin from Lethbridge. Arthur Sykes sought a clearance to Richmond during the year but this was refused. One of Williamstown's best and most decorated and longest-serving players in Arthur Cutting arrived at the Club in this season from Yarraville via Footscray Seconds. He would go on to play 159 games up until the end of 1945 (the official Club record at the time), including the premierships of 1939 and 1945, won the VFA Medal in 1938 and 1939, tied for the Recorder Cup in 1938 and was runner-up in 1939 and won Club best and fairests in 1938 and 1939.
Jim Toohey, pictured here when playing for Fitzroy in 1914, was appointed Williamstown non-playing coach for the 1931 season on June 22 after the original appointee, Jim Shanahan, was unable to continue due to his employer, the police department, prohibiting paid outside employment. His replacement, Gordon Helwig, was similarly employed by the Air Force and found himself having to stand down. Toohey also coached the Villagers in 1932, the first appointee to coach for more than one season since Jim Caldwell in 1921/22. He began his football career in WA and was recruited by Fitzroy in 1913 from North Fremantle, playing until 1917 when he enlisted and served in France during World War I. He continued on with Fitzroy in 1920, playing just the opening game against Richmond to eventually finish up after 78 games and 102 goals before transferring to Prahran as captain-coach. He coached and played for Prahran in 1921 before resigning in June and then playing briefly for North Melbourne before they disbanded and then became captain-coach of Williamstown Juniors in July when the original appointee, former Williamstown player Norm Busbridge, resigned. He played with the Juniors in 1922 when Bob King was captain-coach, and became captain-coach of the Juniors again in 1923 at the age of 37 when King returned to Williamstown. Toohey played in Fitzroy's 1913 premiership side and their 1917 runner-up team. He was re-appointed coach of Williamstown for the 1932 season in December 1931. He also played with and/or coached Stawell, Kalgoorlie, Subiaco, Balwyn and Kingsville.
The season opened brightly with a 32-point win at Yarraville in front of a crowd of 9,000. Goggin and Winnell both kicked 3 goals on debut with Billy Blake best player. The first home game for the year was against eventual premier, Oakleigh. Williamstown trailed by just 4 points at three-quarter time before the Oaks unleashed a 6.7 to NIL final term to run out victors by 47 points. The Villagers went down again at Brunswick the following week, this time by 33 points, despite leading by two goals at quarter time. There was another win in round 4 over lowly Brighton at Williamstown, 12.20.92 to 7.12.54, with Ted Cahill booting 4 goals and Arthur 'Porky' Sykes best-on-ground before a 2-goal loss to eventual wooden-spooner Camberwell at Pt Gellibrand where Williamstown kicked 1.9 to NIL in the last quarter to throw away another win. The Argus reported that a meeting was held on the Thursday night after training before the next match against Preston with players and the committee 'at which an endeavour was made to ascertain the cause of the unexpected failures in recent matches. In consequence the team was not announced till midnight.' The meeting achieved little as 'Town went down again, this time at Preston by 3 goals. Williamstown then lost to Sandringham for the first time since The Zebras entered the competition in 1929 at the Beach Road Oval in round 7 by 16 points. The fourth of seven consecutive defeats occurred the next week with a loss to eventual runner-up, Northcote, at Williamstown by 5 goals, 13.16.94 to 9.10.64. A further loss at Toorak Park by 4 goals now had the 'Town on the bottom of the ladder. This was the match where the captain, Gordon Helwig, and vice-captain, Jim Shanahan, were both dropped from the team. On the Monday after the loss to the Two Blues, Jim Toohey, who played 78 games with Fitzroy from 1913-17 and 1920 and 8 years in WA, was appointed non-playing coach of the team after Jim Shanahan was prevented by the Commissioner of Police from continuing as coach and his replacement, Gordon Helwig, was similarly barred from continuing in the role by the Air Force. As reported by The Argus Toohey, 'in view of the difficulties of the Club, has agreed to act in almost an honorary capacity'.
Captain Liley was a vice-president of Williamstown in 1926, 1930-31, 1939-41 and 1945-52. He was awarded life membership in 1950.
The situation was exacerbated by another defeat, this time at the hands of Port Melbourne by 32 points at Pt Gellibrand after Williamstown led by 3 points at half time but kicked just 1.4 to 7.3 in the last half of the game. The seventh successive defeat occurred at Coburg in round 11 with a 10-point loss, 6.19 to 6.9, although the Burger's inaccurate kicking prevented a bigger blowout. Arthur Cutting made his senior debut in this game, kicking two goals and featuring in the best players while Bill Whitburn made his first appearance for 'Town since May 1928. The new Jack O'Brien from Daylesford and Bert Jaensch also debuted in this game. Williamstown returned to the winner's list with a surprise victory by 3 points over an inaccurate Northcote, the eventual runner-up, at Westgarth Street, 10.6.66 to 8.15.63, with Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair kicking 4 goals and newcomer Eric Shade best player. The Villagers followed this up with a 10-point victory at Williamstown over Brunswick with Gordon Helwig booting 4 goals and Arthur Sykes best player. The trip to Port Melbourne in round 14 resulted in a 26-point defeat, followed by a narrow 8-point loss at Williamstown to ladder-leading Yarraville after the Villagers led at three-quarter time by 4 points. A 39-point defeat at the hands of Coburg in round 16 preceded the season's worst loss at Oakleigh by 15 goals, 17.28.130 to 6.4.40. Williamstown were without Arthur Sykes and Con Sheehan who were in the VFA representative squad which played NSW at the S.C.G. and won by two goals. The NSW team was captained by Williamstown's 1921 premiership centreman, Dave Elliman, in the Association's first interstate trip since a game in WA in 1923. The last round of the home-and-away matches was postponed by a week due to the heavy rain that fell prior to the scheduled fixture. The season was rounded out with a 35-point win at Williamstown over Sandringham, 14.14.98 to 7.21.63 with Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair kicking 4 goals and Billy Blake best player. The Zebras took the field with only 17 men and nobody on the bench and another player was carried from the ground in the second term but had two replacements after half-time. A Sandringham supporter, Mr John Richard Knight, collapsed and died at the ground during the game.
The Association Football Recorder, September 5 1931 - the ladder at the conclusion of the home-and-away rounds.
The season was a flop with only 5 victories out of the 18 contests and the team finished third last as against third top the previous year. A 3-point win over Northcote, eventual runners-up to Oakleigh, at Westgarth Street in round 12 was the only highlight. Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair was leading goalkicker in a disappointing season with 31. The season's aggregate fell to 166 goals and 213 behinds (1209 points) while the opposition put together 202 goals and 264 behinds (1476 points).
Arthur Sykes, who finished equal fourth in the Recorder Cup in 1931, also represented the VFA against the VFL at the MCG in June and against NSW at the SCG in August. Harold Johns also played against the VFL while Con Sheehan was in the squad that played NSW. In the first clash between the rival leagues since 1902, the Association were soundly defeated by the VFL on a wet day at the MCG, 12.17.89 to 3.9.27. The VFA were successful in the game against NSW at the SCG before a crowd of 9,000 winning 16.11.107 to 13.17.95.
The Association Football Recorder, September 5 1931 - Williamstown goalkickers list for season 1931, headed by Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair with 31.
On July 7, the Club treasurer, Will Davis, passed away suddenly. He had been in that role since 1930. Jim Toohey was re-appointed coach in December. Future long-serving senior player and 1939 premiership team member, Eddie Deller, played in the Williamstown Seconds side in this season. He would make his senior debut in 1932 and go on to play 130 games up until 1945.
Jim Shanahan, formerly of Fitzroy, Carlton and Collingwood, came to Williamstown from Camberwell in 1930 and was appointed playing coach for the 1931 season but had to resign in April, a week before the first game, when his employer, the police department, refused to let him continue with the appointment due to work committments, although he continued playing as vice-captain to skipper Gordon Helwig until both were dropped for the round 9 game at Prahran due to non-attendance at training.
1932 saw the Depression hit hard and most clubs could offer little more than reimbursement of expenses for players and attendances dropped as supporters could not afford the fares to follow their team away from home. Williamstown were fortunate to obtain the services of a wonderful player and clubman in Fred Brooks from Carlton, who was teaching at Williamstown High School. Other recruits included former North Melbourne and Essendon player, Billy Lynch, Bill McCabe from North Melbourne, Frank McGrath from Wonthaggi, Cyril Williamson from Spotswood Juniors, Roy Dellar from Spotswood, Darby Hyde from Laverton and Harry Grant from Meredith. Tommy Gubbins, Williamstown CYMS 1928 premiership vice-captain, joined Williamstown after playing 17 games with Essendon in 1930-31. Reg Taylor also began his long career with Williamstown in this season after coming from Williamstown Rovers to captain-coach the Seconds. Horrie Stanway, formerly of Footscray and Richmond, joined the Club before clearances closed on June 30. Con Sheehan transferred to Yarraville after the first round of the year following 77 games and 58 goals for the Villagers, R. Buchanan was cleared to Fitzroy, Bertie Crellin went to Sandhurst, Matt Goggin went back to Lethbridge and Bill Whitburn left for Ivanhoe during the year. Arthur Sykes trained with Richmond and again sought a clearance to the Tigers which was again denied and he returned to Williamstown.
Herald, June 10, 1932 - Bill Whitburn transferred to Ivanhoe in the VFL Sub-Districts competition during 1932 after 48 games and 15 goals with 'Town since 1922, which included stints with Collingwood (1924, 4 games 1 goal), Williamstown Juniors (1925), Carlton Seconds (1928) and Essendon Seconds (1929).
Three consecutive wins to start the season looked promising, commencing with a hard-fought eight point win at Williamstown over Yarraville, where scores were level with 10 minutes remaining before goals to captain Gordon Helwig and Tom Byrne sealed the victory. One of Helwig's two goals for the match was reportedly the result of 'a magnificent punt kick, scored a goal from 65 yards (59 metres) out. It struck, on the full, the wire on top of the outside fence. Enthusiastic supporters who measured the distance after the match declared it to be a 77-yard (70 metre) effort.'
A 10-point win at Oakleigh followed where the Oaks, the reigning premier, led by 17 points with 9 minutes remaining before the Villagers added four goals in 5 minutes to take the lead before Oakleigh goaled just before the siren. Tom Byrne kicked 5 goals and was best-on-ground. The eventual runners-up, Coburg, were then defeated at Williamstown by 6 goals, with Jim Sinclair booting 5 goals and being best-on-ground and saw the Villagers on top of the ladder. Four successive losses, at Northcote, at Williamstown against Sandringham, a narrow 3 point defeat at the hands of Port Melbourne at Williamstown followed by a 2 goal loss to Camberwell, again at Williamstown, saw the team drop to 8th position on the ladder. Twice the Villagers missed easy shots at goal in the last quarter against Port and then, two minutes before the final bell, Jim Sinclair goaled to put Williamstown three points in front. Port immediately replied to snatch victory. The Argus reported that feelings against field umpire Schaefer 'ran very high among Williamstown supporters on Saturday. Schaefer was subjected to a remarkable display of hostility when, after the match, he walked from the umpire's room through the Williamstown dressing room to the showers. There was a storm of hooting from every part of the room.' In the Camberwell game, the field umpire McKinnon 'received the rare honour of being applauded by many of the spectators' according to The Argus.
Sporting Globe, May 25 1932 - 'Porky' Sykes was selected to represent the VFA in a charity game against the VFL at Carlton on the Queen's Birthday which the Association lost by just 8 points, 15.17.107 to 14.15.99. Tom Byrne and Gordon Helwig from Williamstown also played in this match, with Helwig sustaining a knee injury and never playing for 'Town again.
The Herald, June 17 1932 - Williamstown captain, Gordon Helwig, was selected to represent the VFA in a charity game against the VFL at Carlton on the Queen's Birthday which the Association lost by just 8 points, 15.17.107 to 14.15.99. Tom Byrne and Arthur 'Porky' Sykes from Williamstown also played in this match, with Helwig sustaining a knee injury and never playing for 'Town again.
Williamstown returned to the winner's list in round 8 with a 16 point victory at Elsternwick Park over Brighton, 11.18.84 to 9.14.68, where the Villagers kicked 2.8 to 0.2 in the third quarter and should have won by more. A six-point win at Prahran followed in a game which The Argus stated that 'spite crept into the game in the third quarter, indiscriminate use of weight in the ruck causing ill-feeling, which quickly spread, and a number of players came to blows. Two of the smaller Prahran players were injured in wild play and three others had to receive attention.' Williamstown returned to fifth position on the ladder with a 9 point win at Pt Gellibrand over Brunswick. Shortly before half-time in this game a 35yo woman, Mrs Ruby Gilbertson of Railway Crescent, collapsed, was taken into the pavilion and pronounced dead when examined by a doctor. She was the second person to pass away at the ground within a year following the death of a Sandringham supporter in the last home-and-away match of 1931.
The Herald, July 8 1932 - Roy Dellar/Deller came to Williamstown from Spotswood in 1930 and played 71 games and kicked 6 goals before transferring to North Melbourne in 1936 and then Footscray in 1938. He played 30 games for North and 2 with Footscray.
A 3 point loss at Preston in round 11 was followed by a 39 point win at Williamstown over Prahran with Jack Barnes booting 5 goals and being best-on-ground before a 7 goal loss at Coburg. The year's second-biggest victory occurred at Williamstown against Brighton in round 14 with a 57 point win which had the Villagers back in sixth spot on the ladder. Hopes of a finals chance were dashed with a 6 goal defeat at Sandringham despite Williamstown leading by 3 goals at half time but adding only 2 goals to 10 in the second half. A 10 goal win over eventual finalist Preston at Williamstown with Jack Barnes booting 7 majors revived the prospects of a finals berth but that was to be the final victory of the season. The home-and-away rounds were concluded with four successive losses to Brunswick, Port Melbourne, Northcote and Camberwell, all by sizeable margins.
Con Sheehan, pictured here on a 1934 Licorice Larks trading card, transferred to Yarraville after the first round of the year following 77 games and 58 goals for the Villagers since 1928. He won a clearance on residential grounds and went on to captain-coach Yarraville in 1934.
The dismal season came to a merciful end with the Club finishing eighth with nine wins and eleven defeats The only notable performances were wins over finalists Coburg and Preston and honourable 3-point losses to Port and Preston. Jim Sinclair was again leading goalscorer with 30, followed by Jack Barnes on 27, Ted Cahill 24, Tom Byrne, Frank McGrath and Billy Blake all with 18, Harry Grant 14, Eric Shade 13 and Con Drew 12. The team scored 216 goals and 272 behinds (1568 points) against 224 goals and 267 behinds (1611 points) kicked by opponents.
Arthur 'Porky' Sykes won the best and fairest award for the third consecutive season. Captain Gordon Helwig injured his knee in a charity match against the VFL at Princes Park in June and never played for Williamstown again. Prior to being injured, Helwig's marking at full-forward, which resulted in 3 goals, delighted the crowd of 30,000. Vice-captain Jack Barnes took over as skipper for the remainder of the year with Ted Cahill acting as vice-captain. Sykes and Tom Byrne were also selected in the VFA side, that went down by just 8 points, 15.17.107 to 14.15.99. Sykes, Ted Cahill and Con Drew polled best for Williamstown in the voting for the Recorder Cup but were well behind the winner, Bob Ross of Northcote.
At the annual meeting held at the Town Hall in November, life memberships were awarded to committeeman of 1928 and vice-president 1929-32, Claude Tomkins, and Club secretary of 1929-32, Harold Hosking. Tomkins later held the office of president of the Seconds from 1945-50, while Hosking was a vice-president from 1933-35 and 1948-49 before becoming president of the Club from 1950-54.
The Williamstown team of 1932, pictured in front of the new grandstand built in 1929 and officially opened in April 1930. Fred Brooks is third from the left in the second back row. Tom Byrne is fourth from the right in the second back row and Jack Barnes is second from the right. Coach, Jim Toohey, ex-Fitzroy player from 1913-17 and 1920, is fifth from the left in the back row. 'Barney' Lonergan is the third player from the left in second front row. To the right of him is Arthur 'Porky' Sykes, then captain Gordon Helwig and then Arthur Cutting, fourth from the right in the second front row. Cairo Dixon is on the right of the front row.
Economic conditions in 1933 were every bit as bad as the previous two seasons and running football clubs was no longer a pleasure due to tight finances and lack of interest, and the Club lost a lot of officials due to their unemployment. Charlie Stanbridge, who played in Williamstown's 1921 premiership team, returned at the age of 34 to become captain-coach after giving good service to both Port and South Melbourne. Harold Johns became vice-captain. Recruits included former Footscray player Bob Addison (who was only 157cms tall), who joined from Spotswood, Fred Giles and Bill Scott who also came from Spotswood, Bob Hyde from Werribee, Jack 'Bull' Martin from Ivanhoe, Dave McDonald from the Seconds, Clarrie Hurwood from Williamstown District, Don Lavery from Newtown in Geelong, Morrie Smith and Arthur McAdam from Williamstown Juniors and Tom Orange from Newport, who would later become a vice-president in the period 1953-70. The previous year's captain Gordon Helwig was still injured following the charity match against the VFL in June 1932 and failed to play at all in this season, ruckman Jack O'Brien was cleared to Brighton after round 2 when he was guaranteed employment by the Penguins, Billy Lynch retired after round 3 to take up umpiring and Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair was cleared to Darling after round 6 but returned in 1934.
The season opened with a 5-point loss at Yarraville, 9.20.74 to 9.15.69. Williamstown led at every change and was still ahead by a point in time-on in the last quarter before Joe McGrath kicked a long goal to snatch victory for the Villians, an eventual finalist. Stanbridge was best for Williamstown in his first appearance since the 1921 grand final. Oakleigh stormed home with a 7.5 to 1.2 final quarter to win at Williamstown in round 2 by 8 points after the Villagers led by 31 points at the last change. 21.26 was kicked to one end of the ground while only 4.4 was kicked at the other end in a wind-effected match. The third consecutive loss came the next week at Camberwell with a 10-goal defeat to a team that did not even make the finals and saw Williamstown in last place on the ladder.
The season's first victory came in round 4 with a 20-point win over eventual runner-up Coburg at Williamstown, 10.14.74 to 8.6.54, with Clarrie Hurwood kicking 5 goals on debut and Bob Addison best player. Three successive losses at a water-logged Port Melbourne, at Williamstown to Brighton and then at Sandringham were followed by a win by 45 points over eventual wooden-spooner Brunswick at Williamstown, with first-year player Bill Scott booting 6 goals and Arthur 'Porky' Sykes best player. Brunswick led by 7 points at quarter time but added only 2.8 to 10.12 for the remainder of the game. In the Brighton match, Ted Cahill kicked 8 goals out of 13 in a losing score and 6 goals at Sandringham in another loss. A further loss was suffered at Williamstown in round 9 at the hands of Preston by just two points, with the Villagers having 33 scoring shots to 20 by the Bullants. The game was lost in the third quarter when Williamstown added 3.10 to 2.0, after kicking three successive posters in the first quarter. Preston's Pitts kick sailed through for the winning goal as the final siren sounded.
Sporting Globe, June 21 1933, a scene from the round 10 clash at Toorak Park which Williamstown won, 12.18.90 to 12.15.87, with Jack Barnes kicking 4 goals
The season's third victory came at Toorak Park with a 3-point win over Prahran followed by an 11-goal defeat by Northcote at the Motordrome. Another close match against Yarraville at Williamstown resulted in a 1-goal win despite the Villians leading at every change of ends. Four consecutive defeats to Oakleigh, Camberwell, Coburg and Port Melbourne, the last three by substantial margins, had Williamstown back in second-bottom position by round 16. Three players, Cairo Dixon of Williamstown and Mason and Harvey of Camberwell, were all reported on striking charges in the round 14 clash at Williamstown. Dixon had only returned to the team the previous week after serving an eight week suspension for striking and was reported a further two times before the season was out, incurring an additional two-week suspension. The Villagers returned to the winner's list with a lucky two-point victory at Elsternwick over Brighton, 9.14 to 9.12, in a match affected by a strong wind. 17.20 was kicked at one end of the ground and just 1.6 at the other. Williamstown led by 5 goals at three-quarter time and managed to kick the only goal into the wind during the match in the last term to 5.5 by the Penguins to just fall over the line.
The home-and-away rounds were completed with three successive defeats, to Sandringham, Brunswick and Preston, followed by two victories at home over Prahran and Northcote. The four-goal loss to eventual wooden-spooner Brunswick was followed by the year's biggest defeat by 97 points at Preston which had Williamstown back in 11th position on the 12-team ladder. The year's best performance came in the final game of the season with a 25-point win over eventual premier Northcote at Williamstown. The team won one less game than the previous season and slipped one rung on the ladder to ninth, although victories were achieved over three of the four finalists. First-year player, Bob Addison, was leading goalkicker with 23, followed by Ted Cahill and Billy Blake who both booted 20, then Bill Scott and Jack Barnes with 16, Bill McCabe and Charlie Stanbridge 14 and Con Drew with 12. The team scored 217 goals and 290 behinds (1592 points) to 275 goals and 306 behinds (1956 points) kicked by opponents.
Charlie Stanbridge was the Club's first Recorder Cup winner and tied with Oakleigh's Dave Withers for the newly-introduced VFA Medal. Stanbridge also took out the Club best and fairest award, beating 'Porky' Sykes who finished equal fifth in the VFA Medal.
Vice-president from 1894-1908, Captain William Henry Emmerson, passed away at his home in Morris St. after a long illness aged 81 on April 29.
At the annual meeting held at the Town Hall in November, life memberships were awarded to Mrs Rowley Sands from the welfare committee and general committeeman since 1929, Mick Maloney.
This season ticket for 1933 is the earliest in the Club's collection
The Club's tenure at the cricket ground was once again in doubt by February 1934, when a dispute arose between the VFA and the Grounds Management Association (GMA). The VFA wanted to play home-and-away games and the finals series at the Motordrome, which was situated in Olympic Park and was a speedway track but also hosted football matches. This move was opposed by the GMA, which consisted of the Councils controlling the grounds on which VFA football was played. The Councils subsequently threatened to prevent any clubs affiliated with the VFA from playing on grounds under their control. This included Williamstown Council. Eventually a compromise was reached and only the finals were to be played at the Motordrome, or Olympic Park as it was also known, and the Councils relented on their threat. The VFA had played finals matches at the ground every year from 1925-27, and then, in 1932, signed an agreement to use the venue as a neutral central ground from 1933 to 1940. Under the deal, the VFA planned to play one match at the ground each weekend during the season, with each club moving one or two of their home games to the ground each year, as well as playing the finals there. The subsequent dispute with the GMA resulted in seven of the VFA's 12 clubs being barred from using their grounds, potentially forcing those clubs to disband or move to other competitions. The agreement was rescinded shortly before the season began, and the ground was never used for VFA finals football again after 1934, although Northcote played three home games there in 1939 when its ground was being resurfaced. Williamstown also played an away game against Northcote there in 1933, the only other regular season game that was ever played at the ground.
Season 1934 was possibly the worst ever experienced in the Club's history. Against a background of public apathy, discontent among the players and committee and the burden of financial concerns, exacerbated by the first two matches being away games, membership sales were the worst on record and, like most other clubs, Williamstown could pay players little more than reimbursement of expenses. Ted Cahill was appointed captain-coach with Jack Barnes vice-captain. Charlie Stanbridge transferred to Camberwell as assistant coach in late June after his application for a clearance was twice refused by the Club, as happened with Tom Byrne who eventually crossed to Fitzroy but was at Prahran by early July and moved on to Hawthorn by 1935. Arthur Cutting transferred to Wimmera Rovers but returned in 1935. Bert Jaensch similarly crossed to Essendon but returned during 1936. Darby Hyde went back to Laverton, while Hec Neill and Bob Addison both transferred just before clearances closed on June 30 to Melbourne and South Bendigo, respectively. The volatile Cairo Dixon was cleared to Coburg after round 4 and went on to win the Burgers' best and fairest and play in the losing grand final of that season against former teamate of 1930 at Williamstown, Rex Byrne, who was then with Northcote, his original team.
William Laurence 'Larry' Floyd first appeared on the scene in this season when he was appointed assistant secretary to Dick Haxby. Floyd had previously been treasurer of Williamstown Seconds in 1932 and secretary of Williamstown District from 1928-31. He also played with both teams, being vice-captain of the latter, as well as Williamstown Juniors and, in 1925, he led the competition goalkicking with 69 majors when playing with Williamstown Scouts. He would go on to be Williamstown secretary from 1935-39, 1945-46 and 1948-49, all periods that co-incided with premierships. He was also the Club's VFA delegate from 1945-48. He became Carlton's first full-time secretary from 1951-55 before he embarked on a career in State Parliament from 1955-73.
VFA Recorder, September 8 1934 - Cairo Merlyn David Dixon came to Williamstown from the Peninsula Association in 1930 and played 29 games and kicked 15 goals until he was cleared to Coburg after round 4 of the 1934 season. He had also played with Shepparton for part of 1932. Described in the Recorder as 'a player of the vigorous type', Dixon was suspended by the VFA several times. He was banned for 8 matches in 1931 as a result of striking a Preston player in round 6 and then received another 8 weeks suspension for striking a Coburg player at Williamstown in round 4 of 1933. He was reported another 3 times after returning to the field during 1933 and was eventually suspended for a further two matches following the game against Brighton in round 17. He transferred to North Melbourne early in the 1935 season and played 18 games before returning to Coburg during 1936. Dixon then went to Eaglehawk half-way through the 1937 season but returned to Coburg in 1938 to complete 56 games and kicking 45 goals for the 'Burgers. He won Coburg's best and fairest award in 1934 and played in a losing grand final to Northcote in that season. Dixon then captain-coached Kew to the 1939 Sub-District League grand final. He attempted a comeback to the VFA in 1945 with Camberwell at the age of 34 but only managed 3 games.
New players included Charlie McGillivray from Hawthorn, P.A. Graham from Altona, Don Dilks from Spotswood, Gordon Simmons from Garden City, Cliff Cook from Yarraville, Bill Holt, Merv White, Brian Dawes and Jim Lewer from Williamstown Seconds, Jack Pitt from Castlemaine, Charles Fisher from Yarraville, Allan Harsley from Williamstown District, 'Snowie' Baker and Tom Andrews from Newport, Dudley Rogash from Newport District, Eaton from Sale and Bill Stebbins from Richmond. C.P. O'Brien from Werribee played some early games then crossed to Little River after round 5. Former player of 1930/31, Jack Burke, recovered from injury and returned to the field while Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair came back from Darling but crossed to Werribee in mid-June. Stan 'Snowie' Lawler, who had been disqualified for crossing to South Melbourne from Preston without a clearance in 1928, had his suspension lifted and he came to Williamstown in late June just before clearances closed. Bob Addison transferred to South Bendigo during the year.
Defeats were suffered in the first eight rounds, including losses by 106 points to eventual premier Northcote in round 2 and 122 to finalist Prahran in round 8. The 'Cotes score of 30.10.190 was the highest score ever kicked against Williamstown to that point in time. Three of the other defeats were by 5 goals or more. Tenth spot on the ladder in the 12-team competition after the opening round loss at Yarraville, which was captain-coached in this season by ex-Williamstown player Con Sheehan (77 games 58 goals, 1928-32), was the highest position attained all season. In the game at Northcote, the Villagers scored only 9 behinds during the second and third quarters to 13.6 by the 'Cotes but managed 7.7 in a 17-goal final term. Captain-coach Ted Cahill kicked 6 goals out of Williamstown's total of 11, while Northcote's champion full-forward Frank Seymour booted 14. The best performance was an 8-point loss at Coburg in round 4 where Williamstown led by 13 points at three-quarter time but fell away in the last term, adding only one behind to 3.4 by the 'Burgers. Cahill again did well to kick 5 goals. He kicked 5 goals the following week in a 13-point loss to Port Melbourne at Pt Gellibrand. Stan Lawler, who would go on to play 66 games and kick 226 goals until 1939, made his debut at Prahran in the 20-goal defeat. After Arthur 'Porky' Sykes withdrew just before the start of the Prahran game, Williamstown found itself without a 19th man. When Cliff Cook injured his arm in the second quarter and it seemed the Villagers would have to play a man short, assistant secretary Larry Floyd agreed to play his one and only senior match for Williamstown, kicking one goal.
VFA Recorder, May 5 1934 - captain-coach Ted Cahill
VFA Recorder September 8 1934 - Williamstown's goalkickers for the season, led by captain-coach, Ted Cahill, with 47 who also was awarded the best and fairest for the year. Assistant secretary, Larry Floyd's, one goal in his sole senior appearance for Williamstown in round 8 is included on the list.
Following a meeting on the Monday night after the Prahran debacle, the year's first victory came in round 9 at Williamstown over Brunswick by 15 points, after the Villagers were trailing by 18 points at three-quarter time before kicking 5.3 to NIL in the last term. Captain-coach Ted Cahill booted 6 goals and was named best player for 'Town. A draw followed at Williamstown the following week against Sandringham, where the Villagers led by 33 points at the last break before the Zebras stormed home with the wind, kicking 6.3 to 1.0 to tie the scores at 14.10 apiece in the last minute of the match. It was claimed by some that the behind scored by Sandringham to level the scores was an error as the ball hit the outside of the behind post but the score stood. Also, Williamstown's Bob Hyde hit the goal post twice during the game, the second time from right in front during the hectic last quarter. Another 6 consecutive defeats followed, three by 6 goals or more.
Team lists for the round 2 match at Northcote on May 5, won by the 'Cotes by 106 points, 30.10.190 to 11.18.84, the highest score ever kicked against Williamstown to that point in time. Northcote's champion full-forward, Frank Seymour (#20), booted 14 goals, which was more than the entire tally managed by the Villagers in the encounter. Captain-coach, Ted Cahill, kicked 6 for Williamstown. In the return match at Pt Gellibrand in round 13, the Villagers had difficulty in even fielding a team and had to engage the services of a local baseballer just to make up the numbers.
In the round 13 game against eventual premier Northcote at Williamstown, the Villagers had difficulty in fielding a team after three players (captain coach Cahill with an injured finger, Bill Stebbings was injured at work on the morning of the game and 19th man Jack Burke failed to appear) withdrew before the match. Emergency, Jimmy Lewer, was included as was Jack Jarrad, a local baseball player. Jarrad had acted as 19th man the week before against Sandringham without getting on the ground and played a further game against Preston in the final home-and-away game of the season against Preston. An injured Bill Holt went home and got his gear and acted as 19th man after the game had commenced. The Argus reporting on this game stated that 'wild scenes in which the field umpire (Mowlam) was stabbed in the arm with a hatpin and a boundary umpire (Lewis) was kicked on the leg marked the conclusion of the Williamstown v. Northcote match. Considerable criticism and abuse was directed at Mowlam by a section of the onlookers during the game and this culminated in an attack upon him as he left the field in company with the boundary umpires. When Mowlam attempted to enter the wired enclosure leading to the dressing rooms he was jostled by a number of infuriated spectators, including several women, and blows were aimed at him. Police hastened to his assistance and another melee occurred inside the enclosure. There was disorder for several minutes during which Mowlam was stabbed.' Gordon Simmons and Jack Pitt of Williamstown were both reported, as was Bates of Northcote. Simmons and Bates were suspended for four matches for having struck each other, while Pitt was reprimanded for having thrown the ball in the face of a Northcote player.
Williamstown again had trouble finding numbers for the round 16 game at Brunswick and started the game without a 19th man. Jack 'Bull' Martin sustained an ankle injury early in the second quarter but remained on the field. Unable to continue after three-quarter time, his place was taken by a youthful supporter named Harold Musicka. 'Snowie' Lawler kicked 5 goals in the 48-point loss. The season's second victory came in the penultimate round with a 25-point win at Sandringham, after leading at every change. Lawler was in form again with a haul of 7. The dismal season concluded with a 6-goal loss to Preston at Williamstown.
VFA Recorder September 8 1934 - Vice-captain, Jack Barnes, transferred to Williamstown District as captain-coach following the fallout from the 122-point loss at Toorak Park in round 8. He was awarded the VFA sub-districts' competition best and fairest award despite playing just six games.
Injuries took a toll and, on occassions, officials such as Larry Floyd, supporters such as Jack Jarrad and Harold Musicka, and even trainers had to take the field just to make up the numbers. After the Prahran match at Toorak Park, playing coach Ted Cahill and an official had an altercation relating to Cahill's salary of 2 pounds and 10 shillings per week (most of which he gave away to his unemployed teammates). Vice-captain Jack Barnes sided with his captain and both resigned. At a meeting on the following Monday evening, the committeeman apologised for his 'unwise remark' and Cahill withdrew his resignation, but Barnes never played for Williamstown again. He immediately transferred to Williamstown District as captain-coach where he was awarded the VFA sub-districts' competition best and fairest award despite playing just six games.
The team managed 196 goals and 203 behinds (1379 points) to 279 goals and 259 behinds (1933 points) kicked by the opposition. Cahill was leading goalkicker with 47 in a team that finished last with just two wins, a draw and 15 defeats, two and a half wins behind the 11th placed Brunswick. He also took out the best and fairest title. Other major goalscorers were Stan Lawler with 23, Jack Pitts with 13, and Jack Burke, Bob Addison and Billy Blake all with 10. Ted Cahill polled best for the Club in the voting for the Recorder Cup while Fred Brooks did best in the VFA Medal, both well behind the respective winners, Danny Warr of Preston and Jim Dowling of Brunswick. 35yo Charlie Stanbridge was selected to represent the VFA against the VFL at the MCG on June 16 just before he was cleared to Camberwell. The Association trailed at the first three breaks by 7 points, 3 points and 1 point before the League booted 7.11 to 4.3 in the final term to run out victors by 33 points, 21.17.143 to 17.8.110, before a crowd of just under 18,000.
Growing tired of the disappointments, frustrations and dissension, most of the Committee said they would not be available for the coming 1935 season and the Club was in severe debt and the future was most precarious. The assistant secretary and occasional seconds player, Larry Floyd, took over the secretary post and organised a new Committee, with only Mick and Steve Maloney from the old Committee willing to carry on. One of his first moves was to secure the services of John 'Jack' Le Brun, an experienced administrator in junior football circles, who would become the Club's VFA delegate up until the war recess in 1942 and then again from 1948-56 and a vice-president from 1936-39 and from 1946-48. Floyd had such an impact on the Club that the pavilion at the ground was named in his honour in 1963.
Former captain of 1932, Gordon Helwig, a member of the RAAF, was involved in a plane crash at Pt Cook in October, escaping from the wrecked plane with just bruises, cuts and shock. Life member and Williamstown's VFA delegate, John 'Jack' Dennis, tendered his resignation after 25 years service in October. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1934 season held in February 1935, Jim Gray (president from 1931-35) and committeeman Steve Maloney were awarded life membership.
Charlie Stanbridge played in Williamstown's 1921 premiership side before transferring to Port Melbourne the next season where he played for 3 years before joining South Melbourne for 5 seasons where he played 69 games. He then returned to Port Melbourne for 3 seasons before coming back to Williamstown as captain-coach in 1933 but went to Camberwell as assistant coach during the following year
The first move by the new committee was to appoint Fred Brooks as captain-coach with Reg 'Dodger' Taylor vice-captain for 1935. New recruits included Roy Raeburn from Brunswick Seconds, Harry Smith from Williamstown Seconds, Bill 'Tiger' Knight from Williamstown District, R. Slaughter, C.C. Baldock and Desmond Mooney from the Footscray District League, Alf Pannell and Harry Thompson from Yarraville, Pat Power from Port Melbourne, W.J. Dixon from Newport and Alan Dann from Williamstown Juniors. Arthur Cutting returned from Westmere/Wimmera Rovers and G.W. Saynor, who last played for the Villagers in 1928, also returned. Captain-coach, best and fairest winner and leading goalkicker of 1934, Ted Cahill, retired after 6 seasons, 77 games and 163 goals with Williamstown. Billy Blake transferred to Yarraville after 76 games and 82 goals from 1930-34.
Argus, April 3 1935 - Captain-coach, best and fairest winner and leading goalkicker of 1934, Ted Cahill, retired after 6 seasons, 77 games and 163 goals with Williamstown.
The season got off to a bad start with a 95-point loss to the eventual premier, Yarraville, 17.26.128 to 4.9.33. An inaccurate Villians team kicked 5.15 with the wind in the first quarter and should have won by more. The Age reported that 'the game at Yarraville was played in a quagmire, in a continuous drizzle, supplemented by lashing southerly squalls, which became more frequent as the game progressed.' The first home game was played just two days later against Oakleigh and resulted in a narrow loss by a goal. The scores were level at 10.11 apiece late in the game when the 'Oaks' Ryan scored a goal but Williamstown attacked strongly and newcomer Slaughter received a free kick on the boundary line but his kick for goal sailed wide as the final bell sounded. The Age reported that 'rushing into the arena shortly before half-time, two horses held up the game at Williamstown until chased off the ground by the players'. An 86-point loss at Camberwell followed, with 'Snowie' Lawler booting 6 of Williamstown's ten goals. The game was lost in the second quarter when the Cobras added 11.5 to 1.1 by the 'Town.
The first victory for the year came in round 4 over Port Melbourne at Williamstown by 9 points, 12.19 to 12.10. The Villagers kicked 1.9 to 2.1 with the wind in the final quarter and should have won by more. It was the first win against the Burras since 1930. A loss to Brunswick at Pt Gellibrand the following week by 15 points was due to the failure of the Villagers to take advantage of the strong wind in the last quarter, adding just 1.5 to 1.3. Roy Raeburn of Williamstown was suspended for 4 matches for striking Mitchell of Brunswick in this match. Another big defeat by 63 points at Elsternwick at the hands of Brighton followed, which would have been larger except for the Penguins' inaccuracy in the third quarter when it kicked 3.17 to 1.0.
Argus, June 12 1935 - Williamstown's parlous financial position became evident during the season and the local Council responded by making a grant of 200 pounds in October which allowed the Club to liquidate its considerable debt
By round 6 Williamstown was in a familiar position at the foot of the ladder, and The Argus reported on 21 May 1935 that 'for a considerable time, officials of the Williamstown Football Club have been dismayed by the lack of support from the district, and it has considered disbanding. The Club suffered severely during the period of depression, and its finances were at a low ebb last season. Poor attendances at home matches and a low position on the premiership list were among the causes. The Club is now struggling to regain its former prestige. The possibility of the club being forced to disband because of lack of support had been mentioned recently, but the committee and supporters are anxious to avoid that step. It has been said that several members of the committee have stated they will not continue unless more support is given to the club by the residents of the district'.
The team responded positively the following Saturday, notching up the second win of the season, downing Preston at Williamstown by 35 points in the first victory over the Bullants since 1932. This elevated the Villagers to 11th position on the ladder, the highest it would reach all year. Reality returned the next week with the season's biggest defeat, a 99-point belting at Toorak Park. Prahran led by just 9 points at half-time before adding 17 goals to 3 in the second half. Stan Lawler kicked 5 of Williamstown's nine goals for the match while Eric Grandison, the Two Blues' full-forward, booted 11.1. Another eight consecutive losses followed, with the 23-point defeat at Oakleigh in round 13 being the smallest margin. In the round 12 game at Williamstown against eventual premier Yarraville, the Villagers trailed by just 4 points at half time before adding just 3.3 in the last two quarters to 14.6 by the visitors.
Emerald Hill Record, June 2, 1934 - President 1931-35, James Taylor 'Jim' Gray, stepped down from the role at the end of the season and also left the oil company he had been managing, where he had found jobs for six or seven of the players at the time. When Gray left the Club, so did they.
The third and final victory for the season came in the penultimate round with a 28-point win over Sandringham at Williamstown. The Zebras had only 11 players at the scheduled start of the game due to several members of the team missing their train and, after a 10-minute delay, managed to take the field with 13. It wasn't until half way through the first quarter that another three players appeared. Amazingly, Sandringham led by 13 points at half-time, and former secretary, Malcolm Beith, pulled on the boots after the long break to take the numbers up to 17. The Villagers gained the ascendancy after half-time and added 9.6 to 3.1 to run out comfortable winners. The miserable season concluded with a 78-point defeat at Coburg. Only three matches were won and last place on the ladder ensued for the second year in a row, with a poor percentage of 58.86%. Sandringham and Brighton also managed just three wins but both had a superior percentage to Williamstown.
In The Argus of July 19 1935 it was reported that 'a proposal has been made that the club should shift its headquarters to the Newport Ground and play its matches there. The Newport Ground is in excellent condition, is well appointed, and has none of the degrees of isolation which have retarded the development of the Williamstown ground. It is probable that the club would gain public support if it played at Newport. Hundreds of Newport, Spotswood and Altona residents prefer to travel to Yarraville or Footscray to see football matches there rather than visit the Williamstown ground.'
The Australasian, May 18 1935 - William Henry 'Billy' Williams (22/01/1866-14/5/1935) passed away during the year, aged 69. He played one game for Williamstown in 1894 before transferring to North Williamstown the same year, and was 'Town's VFA Club delegate in 1890 and 1893-94. He also played cricket for Williamstown, topping the bowling averages in 1887/88 and the batting averages in 1889/90, 1892/93 & 1893/94, and also played against W.G. Grace's XI at Williamstown on January 13, 1892. He was the MLA for St Kilda from 1901-03 and served as a Victorian County Court judge from 1919 until his death.
Stan 'Snowie' Lawler kicked 60 goals, more than a third of the total goals scored by the team for the year, and finished second on the VFA list. Captain-coach Fred Brooks never missed a match and tied with Jim Dowling of Brunswick for the VFA Medal. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1935 season held at the Town Hall in January 1936, Brooks also won the Club best & fairest, Allan Harsley was awarded the most improved junior player for the year and Roy Raeburn the most consistent player. Life memberships were bestowed on club secretaries Larry Floyd and Arch Rennie. Games records began to be kept by Larry Floyd from this season onwards. Controversial captain-coach of 1907, Paddy Noonan, passed away on 27 January, 1935, at the age of 59, as did former stout defender from 1892-99, W. 'Mallee' McCallum, who played 83 games for 'Town after being recruited from South Williamstown Juniors. He died in early September. Following a request from the Football Club, the Williamstown Council decided in October 1935 to make a grant of 200 pounds to enable the Club to liquidate its debts.
Argus, August 20 1935
1928 Williamstown CYMS premiership vice-captain, Tommy Gubbins, joined Williamstown in 1936 after playing 17 games with Essendon in 1930-31
Fred Brooks agreed to stand down as captain-coach when North Melbourne released Neville Huggins to take up that role in 1936 and North teammate George Jerram also arrived as his deputy. In exchange, Williamstown cleared Roy Deller and Reg 'Dodger' Taylor to North but Taylor was back at Williamstown by round 12 after having played 3 senior games with the Northeners. Other new players included Des Rowan and Jack Paterson also from North Melbourne. Paterson had won Noth's best and fairest award in 1932. Allan Harris from Spotswood, Charlie Bennett from Sandringham, Arthur Kaufman from Werribee, Tommy Gubbins from Mildura and formerly of Essendon, Jack Richardson from Boronia, Colin Griffiths and Bob Willett from the Essendon District League, Thomas Hay from Yarraville, Stan Green from Red Cliffs, Albert Gilby from Carlton Seconds, Peter Robertson, the amateur, from North Melbourne Seconds, Arthur Hedley from Williamstown Seconds and Stan Raeburn from Coburg were others to join the Club. Bert Jaensch returned after stints at Essendon, Woodlands and Ararat.
Roy Deller crossed to North Melbourne in 1936 after 71 games with Williamstown since being recruited from Spotswood in 1930
The season opened at Yarraville where Williamstown jumped the Villians, after the unfurling of their one and only premiership flag, to lead by 10 points at quarter time. However, the reigning premiers had regained the lead by half-time and went on to win by 61 points, 21.15 to 12.8. Stan Lawler kicked 6 of Williamstown's goals while Fred Brooks was named best player. The first home game of the year against Brighton suffered from 'heavy rain and wind, blowing with gale-like force which swept the Williamstown ground soon after the commencement of play', according to The Age. 15.31 was kicked at the Battery Road end of the ground to just four behinds to the pavilion end. Brighton led by 45 points at three-quarter time and The Villagers then proceeded to kick a wasteful 2.13, including ten consecutive behinds, to 3 behinds by the Penguins to go down by 23 points. Williamstown found themselves 64 points in arrears at quarter-time in the round 3 game at Brunswick and failed to score a goal until the third quarter and finally lost the contest by over 20 goals. The Villagers were in the familiar position of last on the ladder, this time with a percentage of 45.3%.
The Age, April 14 1936 - Cliff Cook of Williamstown, who was recruited from Yarraville in 1934, has a flying shot at goal in the round 1 game against his former team at Yarraville. The Villians were the previous year's premiers while 'Town were the wooden spooners in 1935. Although Williamstown led by 10 points at quarter-time, Yarraville outscored them 18.11 to 7.6 over the next three terms to run out victors by 61 points, 21.15.141 to 12.8.80. The other Williamstown player shown (white shorts) is Jim Thompson, who was also recruited from Yarraville.
An improved performance in round 4 at home by a Williamstown team which included 11 new players from the season before, gave hope for better times ahead. Prahran, the eventual runner-up, only got away in the second quarter by adding 6.4 to 2.1, and that deficit had been reduced to just a goal by three-quarter time, before the Two Blues got home by 10 points. Reality struck home again the following week with an 81-point thumping at Coburg, which didn't even make the finals. A goal as the final bell rang signalled the Villagers' first win for the season, against Sandringham at Pt Gellibrand in round 6. For the last 10 tense minutes, Williamstown nursed a one-point lead before newcomer, Jack Richardson, marked and goaled on the bell. Earlier the Williamstown captain-coach, Neville Huggins, and first-year player, Thomas Hay, had car trouble on the way to the game and Williamstown took the field with just 17 men and the game was delayed by 8 minutes until Huggins arrived in his football attire and went straight onto the field. Hay sat on the bench as 19th man. A second consecutive victory followed over Port Melbourne at Williamstown, this time by two goals after the Villagers led by as much as 50 points early in the last quarter before Port added 7 goals as the game finished in semi-darkness. Stan Lawler kicked 6 goals for 'Town and full-back Fred Brooks was best player.
Neville Huggins was appointed captain-coach of Williamstown in 1936 after playing with Fitzroy in 1929 (4 games) and North Melbourne from 1931-35 (86 games). He played 36 games with Williamstown, winning the Club best and fairest in 1936 and 1937, the VFA Medal in 1936 & 1937 and the Recorder Cup in 1937. He captained a VFA representative side against the VFL at St Kilda in May 1937. He transferred to Prahran after round 8 of 1938 then to Essendon in 1939 and then to Shepparton in 1940.
Williamstown ventured out to the home of eventual premier, Northcote, the following week and returned 15-goal losers, 22.13.145 to 8.5.53. The third victory of the season came in round 9 with a thrilling 3-point win over Oakleigh at Williamstown. With seven minutes remaining, the Villagers still trailed by 3 points when Stan Lawler booted an overhead goal from a pack to give 'Town the lead. Each side added a behind and Williamstown clung to the lead. This elevated the team to ninth place on the ladder. A 76-point defeat at Camberwell was followed by two consecutive wins over Preston by 10 points and Yarraville by 16 points, both at Williamstown. The amateur, Peter Robertson, from North Melbourne seconds made his debut in the Preston game and was leading goalkicker with 3, while Stan Green's goal just before the bell secured the victory after a hard-fought last quarter. Reg Taylor returned to Williamstown from a stint at North Melbourne for the match against Yarraville, which was played in appalling conditions as the VFL called off their round of games but the Association went ahead. The Age reported that 'the Williamstown ground resembled a group of small lakes but, despite the water-logged nature of the arena, the players of both sides adapted themselves well to the adverse conditions.' The Villians failed to score in the third quarter and kicked 9 consecutive behinds in the last term to throw away a victory. The win elevated Williamstown to eighth position on the ladder, which it would maintain for the remainder of the season.
Conditions were little better the following week at Elsternwick Park for the round 13 clash with Brighton, where The Age described 'the ground, except in one small area near the grandstand, was in a shocking condition, the centre being a soggy mass of black mud and the remainder water-logged.' The Penguins led at every change and were 9 points in front at the end, 8.15 to 8.6. The undefeated Brunswick visited Williamstown in round 14 and led by only one point at half-time before adding 6.3 to 1.0 during the third term and eventually ran out winners by 22 points. The Villagers ended up with only 17 men on the ground in the round 15 game at Toorak Park against eventual runner-up, Prahran, after Eddie Deller was forced from the field with a shoulder injury during the last quarter after 19th man, Charlie Bennett, had replaced Des Rowan at the end of the third quarter. The Two Blues took advantage and extended a 28-point lead at the last change into a comfortable 47-point win. The last game at home for the season resulted in a surprise 3-goal victory over Coburg, which was in the four at the time. The win was set up by a commanding performance in the third quarter, when the Villagers added 5.4 to just one major by the 'Burgers. Stan Lawler booted 5 goals for 'Town while captain-coach, Neville Huggins, was best player. Best for Coburg was former Williamstown player, Cairo Dixon.
Argus, June 29 1936 - the game was the round 11 clash with Preston at Williamstown, which 'Town won by 10 points, 14.12.96 to 14.14.86
In the penultimate round Williamstown travelled to Sandringham, and the Zebras got away to a good start with the breeze to lead by 5 goals at quarter-time and were never headed for the remainder of the match, although 'Town managed to reduce the margin to just one goal in the second quarter. A wasteful last quarter effort of 2.7 to Sandringham's 3.0 resigned the Villagers to a 22-point defeat. Stan 'Snowie' Lawler recovered from a bout of 'flu to return to the side for the final home-an-away game of the year at Port Melbourne and booted 5 goals in the second term and 7 for the match. Eventual wooden-spooner Port lost the game in the first quarter when, kicking with what The Age described as a 'howling gale', they managed just 6 behinds from more than a dozen shots at goal. The Villagers had a 6-goal lead at half-time and extended that to a 9-goal victory, 11.11 to 2.11. Captain-coach, Neville Huggins, was best-on-ground.
Improved form saw seven victories, all at home except for the win at Port Melbourne in the last round, and an eighth finish. Stan 'Snowie' Lawler had another good season in front of goals and kicked 49. Captain-coach Neville Huggins won the VFA Medal from Bert Hyde of Preston and also the Club best and fairest award from Fred Brooks (who missed just one game in 1936, the only game he missed in six seasons with Williamstown) and newcomer Jack Richardson. Huggins also finished equal third in the Recorder Cup. Other first-year players in Bob Willett (most unselfish player), Jack Paterson (most consistent player) and Allan Harris (most improved player) also had good seasons. Membership doubled in this year from the previous season, reflecting the improvement in on-field performance.
North Melbourne's Neville Huggins was captain-coach of Williamstown in 1936/37
Neville Huggins was re-appointed captain-coach for the 1937 season, as was his deputy, George Jerram. New players included Reg Earle from Port Melbourne, Keith Rae and Gordon 'Mick' Harland from Williamstown District, Tom De Zoete from Newport, Mick Henderson from South Melbourne Juniors, Arthur Bedson from Flemington, Reg Goodwin from Little River, Bill McLeod from West Footscray, and Bill Tyrrell, Jack McCallum, Keith McIntyre and Charlie Matheson from Williamstown Seconds. 18yo Allan Hird snr crossed from Hawthorn Seconds before clearances closed on 30 June while Bert Jaensch went back to Ararat and Allan Harsley returned to Williamstown District. Norm McDonald, the 1921 premiership rover and 1924 grand final player, was appointed non-playing coach of Williamstown Seconds. McDonald played for The Villagers from 1919 until mid-1925 when he transferred to Footscray and played 51 games kicking 67 goals until the end of 1928. He returned to Williamstown in 1929 and played until 1932. He finished with 106 games and 148 goals for the Villagers from 1919 until 1932.
The season commenced as usual with the 'neighbourly' round of games which saw Yarraville visit Williamstown where the crowd of 4,500 saw 'dropped marks, haphazard kicking, inaccurate passes and much scrambling play' according to The Age. An inaccurate Villians side booted 9.19 to 7.6 by the 'Town, although Williamstown got within 2 points of the lead in the last quarter after a goal from Stan Lawler. Peter Robertson kicked 4 goals from centre half-forward for the Villagers and was best-on-ground.
Sporting Globe, April 14 1937 - Williamstown president from 1923-30, John James Liston became president of the VFA from 1929 until his death on April 12 1944, during the war recess, at the age of 71.
'Town ventured out to Preston the following week and trailed by just 2 points at half-time before the Bullants piled on 13 goals to 4 in the second half to win easily by 56 points, although Williamstown were just 8 points down early in the final quarter after George Hedley and Bob Willett goaled. Hedley kicked 5 goals straight in his first full game. This defeat left the Villagers in last position on the ladder.
Eventual runner-up Brunswick visited Williamstown in round 3 and left victors by just 7 points. In a wind-affected match, 17.25 was kicked at the Gellibrand Fort end of the ground and just 1 goal, kicked by Colin Boyd of Brunswick in the third quarter, at the grandstand end. 'Town led by 17 points at the last change, despite having 12 more scoring shots, but failed to score in the final quarter while the 'Wicks added 3.6, hitting the front just 3 minutes before the final bell. Future VFA president, Alec Gillon, kicked 4 goals for Brunswick in this game, including the major which secured the victory.
The game at Camberwell in round 4 commenced with the home side not having a 19th man until half-time, and Williamstown took advantage to lead by 3 points at quarter-time. In fact, 'Town led at every change before finally going down by just 8 points, the second narrow defeat in a row. Stan Lawler kicked 9 of the Villagers' 14 goals for the game without a miss, despite sustaining a dislocated finger. It was Camberwell's ninth consecutive win over Williamstown.
Due to games records not being kept prior to 1935, champion full-back and former captain-coach, Fred Brooks, became officially the first Williamstown player to reach 100 senior Club games in the round 5 match at Williamstown against Brighton, although it is likely others had achieved this milestone earlier. In his six seasons with the Club, Brooks had missed just one game. Brighton didn't join in on the celebrations and had three goals on the board before 'Town opened their scoring. This margin was maintained for most of the game and the Penguins ran out winners by 21 points.
Argus, May 3 1937 - former captain-coach, best & fairest winner and VFA Medal recipient, Fred Brooks, played his 100th senior game for Williamstown in the round 5 match against Brighton, which was lost by 21 points.
The season's 6th successive defeat occurred the following week at Sandringham when Williamstown failed comprehensively, going down by 57 points in the year's biggest loss, despite leading by 8 points at quarter time. The Zebras kicked 16 goals to the 'Town's 5 goals over the last three quarters, with the Villagers kicking just two behinds against the wind in the second term and 1.4 in the last. Stan Lawler continued his good form with another 6 goals.
The season's first victory came at Williamstown in round 7 against eventual wooden-spooner, Oakleigh, by 62 points. The Oaks kicked the first 4 goals of the game but 'Town was in front by 8 points by half-time after limiting the visitors to just one behind when kicking into the wind in the second quarter. The breeze dropped a little after half-time and the Villagers outscored Oakleigh in the third quarter to lead by 3 goals at the last change before unleashing a 7 goal to NIL last quarter to win comfortably and almost kick the highest score of the round. Lawler's 6 goals took his total for the year to 31 and he became the first Williamstown player to lead the VFA goalkicking list for many years.
The season's third defeat by eight points or less occurred at Coburg in round 8 against the equal-second side, when the home team got home, 8.20.68 to 9.7.61, in a closely-contested game. Captain-coach, Neville Huggins, sustained a knee injury and was carried from the ground with 10 minutes remaining in the match, and the 'Burgers were able to add a goal in the temporary disorganisation. Stan Lawler, starring in his 50th Club match, replied with his 6th major of the game to get the Villagers back within 7 points by the final bell. Williamstown centreman, Keith Rae, was best-on-ground.
The Villagers ventured out to Westgarth Street the following week to take on the equal second-placed team, Northcote, and led at every change of ends before the 'Cotes booted 7.2 to 0.3 in the final quarter to run out 38-point winners. This was Northcote's ninth win out of the last ten encounters with Williamstown and kept 'Town in second last place on the ladder. The Villagers recorded their second win for the year with a third consecutive victory over Port Melbourne at Williamstown in round 10 by 20 points, with Stan Lawler's 6 goals taking his season tally to 45. Recruit, Keith McIntyre, was reported for kicking MacBeth of Port Melbourne during the first quarter, but when MacBeth failed to appear at the tribunal the charge was dismissed. Two consecutive defeats followed, by 15 points at Toorak Park and by 26 points in the wet at Yarraville against the ladder leaders.
The Herald, May 21 1937 - Councillor John Anthony 'Jack' Dennis was one of the Club's delegates to the VFA from 1909 until 1934. He then served as a vice-president in 1935 and also had a stint as president in 1919 & 1920. Dennis also had a lengthy role as VFA treasurer and was Mayor of Williamstown in 1918-19 and 1933-34.
Williamstown returned to the winners list in round 13 with a 39-point victory over Preston at Pt Gellibrand after leading all day, which enabled 'Town to leapfrog both Port and Preston and move up to 9th position on the ladder. When Preston defeated the Villagers in the second game of the year they kicked the highest score of the round, but on this occassion they managed the lowest score of round 13 and had kicked only 1.5 by half-time. Stan Lawler steered through 5 goals from 10 shots on a windy day. Another windy day greeted Williamstown when they ventured to Elsternwick Park to take on Brighton, where 16.30 was kicked to one end of the ground and just 2.9 at the other. The Penguins kicked 5.10 to NIL with the aid of the wind in the first quarter and still led by 25 points at half-time. This lead was extended to 57 points by the last change despite Brighton playing with 17 men for part of the third quarter after a player was injured. The game petered out to a 39 point victory for the eventual preliminary finalist. This was Brighton's 7th consecutive win over Williamstown.
The final win for the season came in the penultimate home-and-away round at Pt Gellibrand against Sandringham with a comfortable 28-point victory after taking the lead in the second quarter and never being headed, 'Town's fourth successive triumph at home for the year. Like two weeks previously against Preston, Sandringham also kicked the lowest score of the round even though they received 49 free kicks to Williamstown's 30. Fred Brooks was best-on-ground while 'Town's George Miller was suspended for 10 weeks after being reported for kicking an opponent late in the game. He was one of six players suspended as a result of this encounter. The season concluded with a 7-goal defeat at Oakleigh to the eventual wooden-spooner who won the same number of games as Williamstown but had an inferior percentage.
Captain-coach, Neville Huggins, missed 4 games following a knee injury suffered at Coburg in round 8 but played well enough to win the Recorder Cup with twice the number of votes of the runner-up and tied with Jack Lowry of Prahran for the VFA Medal. Huggins also won the Club best and fairest for the second time with Fred Brooks runner-up. Huggins also captained the VFA representative side in a game at St Kilda in May against the VFL which the Association lost by 104 points. Stan 'Snowie' Lawler, who finished second on the VFA goalkickers list, continued to play brilliantly in front of goals and broke the Club record of 63 held by Jim McAuliffe since 1921 with 69 majors for the season and also brought up his 200th career goal in the last home-and-away game. This was a superb effort in a team that finished 10th of 12 with just 4 wins from 16 games, a fall of two rungs from the 8th place in 1936 but there were two less matches in 1937. Stan Green was awarded the most consistent player trophy, while Eddie Deller won the most effective player award and Jack Paterson was best clubman. Keith Rae was best first-year player. At the annual meeting in respect of the 1937 season, held in January 1938, life membership was awarded to long-serving volunteer, Joe Connery.
The Herald, August 7 1937
The Herald, September 4 1937
Argus, September 6 1937
The incumbent president of the Football Club and Mayor of Williamstown, Cr John Robert Bell, passed away in the Williamstown Hospital at the age of 49 after a long illness on December 3 and was succeeded by Cr Ernest Jackson for the 1938 season. The end-of-season trip was to Maryborough on August 14.
Williamstown Chronicle, December 11 1937 - Williamstown Mayor and President of the Williamstown Football Club in 1936 and 1937, John Robert Bell, passed away at age 49 on December 3.
Williamstown Chronicle, September 3 1948 - Cr Ernest W. Jackson became president in 1938 following the death of his predecessor, John Robert Bell, on December 3 1937. Bell had been president in 1936 and 1937.
Williamstown signed Carlton's star full-forward, Harry 'Soapy' Vallence, as captain-coach prior to the 1938 season but the Blues refused to clear him and eventually 1937 vice-captain, George Jerram, was appointed
1938 saw the introduction to the VFA of the controversial 'throw-pass' and the scrapping of the permit agreement with the VFL that had been in force since 1931. This latter move meant players could move between the two competitions without a clearance and, as a result, South Melbourne champion Laurie Nash transferred to Camberwell as captain-coach at the end of March without a clearance. This development would prove to have a profound effect on Williamstown in 1940 and 1941, and lay the foundations for an almost continual run of success that would last for a quarter of a century.
Furthermore, The Argus announced on February 8 that 'Harry Vallence, the leading Carlton forward, has been appointed playing coach of the Williamstown Football Club.' Vallence had been in dispute with Carlton since the year before when he returned from representing Victoria in the ANFC carnival in Perth to find himself selected at centre half-back in the Seconds. Williamstown were confident that because of 'Soapy's' long service to the Blues (185 games and 641 goals), a clearance would be granted. Three days later the Argus reported that Carlton had refused to grant Vallence a clearance due to new coach of the Blues, Brighton Diggins, insisting on the star forward being retained. 'Soapy' returned to Carlton, kicked 81 goals and played in the premiership victory over Collingwood and then a grateful committee released him to Williamstown for the 1939 season at the age of 33.
The Age, April 4, 1938
Overtures were also made by Williamstown to Collingwood's young forward, Ron Todd, after a Williamstown councillor, Allan Deacon, who worked with the 21yo Collingwood full-forward, told the Club that Todd was interested in any offer from Williamstown. Todd was interested enough to apply for a transfer but it was refused by the Magpies and he would not leave without a clearance. However, the Argus reported on April 12 that Todd 'was prepared to risk disqualification by transferring to Williamstown without a clearance but he was hindered by the prospect of losing monetary interest in the Collingwood players provident fund. The Collingwood secretary (Frank Wraith) expressed astonishment at the story that Todd contemplated leaving the club and going to Williamstown. I knew nothing about it until I read it in The Argus this morning, he added.' In the end the Club was not in the financial position to compensate Todd with a lucrative contract and negotiations ceased for the time being but would be resurrected two years later. An approach was made to obtain the services of former Footscray captain and best & fairest winner, Allan Hopkins, who was almost 34 years of age but nothing came of it.
The Age, April 11, 1938
Vice-captain of 1937, George Jerram, was elevated to captain-coach narrowly over Neville Huggins, who was thought to be an individualist and would be an even better player without the burden of captaincy. Huggins was made vice-captain but was replaced by Arthur Cutting when he (Huggins) transferred to Prahran after round 8, but he only played three senior games with the Two Blues after re-injuring his knee against Coburg in round 5 when still with Williamstown. Huggins also applied for the captain-coach position at St Kilda in March without success and trained with Yarraville, North Melbourne and the Saints in the pre-season and with South Melbourne in May when he was 'temporarily retired' due to his knee problems. Full-forward, Stan Lawler, also sought a clearance to Prahran after round 4 in a 'desire to make a fresh start' after 62 games and 213 goals since 1934, but had a change of heart after just two games with the Two Blues and was back at Williamstown by round 9, playing in the Seconds. Former triple best and fairest winner, 31yo Arthur 'Porky' Sykes, made a comeback in this season after four years out of the VFA, including stints at North Melbourne (1935) and two years at Hartwell (1936-37), but this time with Camberwell, to which he was cleared in May. Sykes was described by Club secretary of the time, Larry Floyd, as 'the finest footballer to play with Williamstown since the (First World) war.' Sykes played 125 games over 8 seasons from 1926-34. He debuted in round 9 for the 'Wellers against Brunswick but only played a handful of games. 1935 captain-coach and best and fairest winner, Fred Brooks, retired before the start of the season after being transferred to South Melbourne Techical School in his employment. Remarkably, Brooks played 111 out of a possible 112 games during his six seasons with Williamstown.
Argus, April 12 1938
New recruits included Reg Thomas (South Melbourne), Colin Wilcox (Melbourne Seconds), Cliff Johnson (South Bendigo), Jack McDonagh (Footscray), Jim Quinn (Hawthorn Seconds), Ted Cahill's brother, 18 y.o. Pat (Footscray District League), and George Fitch and Stan Jamieson from local side, Williamstown District. Amateur, Peter 'The Cad' Robertson, transferred to Canberra in his employment and played for Acton. Allan Hird snr, grandfather of future Essendon champion James Hird, was cleared back to Hawthorn in May after 12 senior games with 'Town. Thomas came without a clearance from South Seconds where he was playing coach.
Back Row: Mick Maloney, Frank Hewson, Bill Thomson, George Flett
Middle Row: George Rodgers, Bert Paterson, Alex Bond, Fred Harden, Jim Foley, Ern Pinckney, Albert Wilkins
Front Row: Joe Connery, Bert Moon, Larry Floyd (secretary), Ernest Jackson (president), Jim McConville (treasurer), Fred Harsley, Alan Harsley
After surprisingly winning the opening wind-affected game at Yarraville against one of the previous year's finalists by two goals, only one more victory occurred and the last eleven matches were lost in succession and the team finished on the bottom of the ladder, 3 games behind Sandringham. After leading Yarraville by 46 points at quarter-time due to the strong breeze, the Villians fought back and took the lead with 10 minutes remaining in the last term but the Villagers managed to get home thanks to 5 goals from Stan 'Snowy' Lawler. It was 'Town's first round one victory away from home in 8 seasons, the first win at Yarraville since round 1 of 1931 and the first victory away from Williamstown since the 9-goal win at Port Melbourne in round 18 of 1936. Camberwell visited Williamstown in round 2 with South Melbourne recruits, captain Laurie Nash and Terry Brain, dominating and led by 80 points at the last break before the Villagers reduced the margin to 49 points by the final bell. In another wind-affected encounter, 18.27 was kicked at one end of the ground and just 2.2 at the other. Williamstown failed to score in either the first or third quarters and only managed 1.7 to 1.2 with the wind in the second quarter. Recruit George Fitch booted 4 goals while Brain kicked 5 and Nash 4 for the victorious Tricolours. This was Camberwell's 11th consecutive win over Williamstown.
Williamstown led at Oakleigh by 3 goals at the last change in another wind-affected match in round 3 before the 'Oaks added 6.8 to 2.3 in the last term to sweep to victory by 11 points. Oakleigh's poor accuracy kept the Villagers in touch and the final margin should perhaps have been much larger than the final score of 13.28.106 to 14.11.95. At one stage of the game, Oakleigh's scoreline read 7.22. Lawler kicked another bag of 5 and was Williamstown's best player while captain-coach, George Jerram, sustained a broken collarbone and Allan Hird snr a broken thumb. Port Melbourne broke through for their first win of the season at Williamstown in round 4 with a 16-point victory after the Villagers once again led at three-quarter time, this time by 3 points before Port added 3.7 to 1.0 in the last term. Stan Lawler transferred to Prahran during the next week following this game but after just two games with the Two Blues he was back at Williamstown.
The highlight of the season came in round 5 at Williamstown with an 8-point victory over Coburg, 'Town's second and final win for the 1938 season. 'Town led at the end of each quarter by ever-diminishing margins and the 'Burgers hit the front with ten minutes remaining in the last term before a goal to Des Rowan broke a run of 16 consecutive behinds since the first quarter by Williamstown. Jack Paterson regained the lead with a major then Rowan with another sealed the victory. Arthur Cutting was best for the Villagers while Neville Huggins re-injured his knee early in this match and was carried from the ground. Stan 'Nugget' Jamieson, a nephew of 1921 premiership star, Jim 'Corker' Jamieson, debuted in this game. The win elevated Williamstown to ninth position on the 12-team ladder.
The first of 11 consecutive defeats took place at Sandringham the following week in a match that would result in the highest combined score to date in the VFA's history. Williamstown's 21.16.142 fell two goals short of Sandy's 22.22.154 despite the Villagers leading by 23 points at the last change of ends before the Zebras unleashed a 9.6 to 4.1 final quarter blitz, including four goals in as many minutes at the end of the term. Sandringham also featured in the previous highest combined score of 284 in a game against Oakleigh in 1933. This record would be broken in round 10 of 1939 when Brunswick scored 31.15.201 to Oakleigh's 17.21.123. Harold Jones of Brunswick booted 16 goals. Warrnambool recruit, Alex Burnett, was called into the team to replace the injured Neville Huggins and kicked 5 goals on debut for 'Town, while future games record holder, Colin Wilcox, also debuted in this game. Burnett, however, played the following game, sustained a serious ankle injury and then returned to Warrnambool later in the season. Three Williamstown players in Jack Richardson (elbowing, 4 weeks suspension), Reg Thomas (chopping with a clenched fist, reprimanded) and Stan Raeburn (twice for kicking, 4 weeks suspension) were reported in this game.
Eventual preliminary finalist, Northcote, visited Williamstown for the round 7 encounter and led by 81 points at three-quarter time before the Villagers kicked 6.4 to 1.4 in the last term to reduce the final margin to 51 points, with the 'Cote's only major for the quarter coming right on the final bell. This was Northcote's 7th consecutive victory over 'Town and their 14th victory in the past 16 clashes. After the game, former captain-coach, Neville Huggins, announced his temporary retirement from football due to ongoing issues with his knee which prevented him from playing regularly and two weeks later he was cleared to Prahran.
Former captain-coach of 1936-37, Club best & fairest winner of 1936-37, VFA Medal winner of 1936-37 and Recorder Cup winner of 1937, Neville Huggins, was cleared to Prahran in early June two weeks after announcing his temporary retirement due to a recurrent knee injury but only played three senior games with the Two Blues
The season's biggest defeat was suffered in round 8 at Toorak Park against eventual finalist, Prahran, going down by 103 points, 26.27.183 to 11.14.80. The Two Blues had kicked 16.11.107 by half-time against the weakest Williamstown side fielded for many years due to injuries, disqualifications and unavailability. Colin Wilcox was married on this day and a teammate was best man. The next game against Preston at Williamstown saw 'Town trailing by just one point at three-quarter time before the visitors added 9.6 to a solitary goal by the Villagers to run out 55 point victors. Keith Rae kicked 5 goals for Williamstown until three-quarter time before being moved to the centre after booting 8 for the Seconds the week before and Arthur Cutting was best player.
Williamstown travelled to Elsternwick Park in round 10 to take on eventual runner-up Brighton before a crowd of 6,000. Despite having four players unavailable due to injury, the Penguins led at every change to run out 38 point victors with Keith Rae again kicking 5 goals and Arthur Cutting best player for 'Town once again. Stan Lawler, who returned to the Villagers after a brief stint with Prahran, played in the Seconds and booted 12 goals in a 136 point victory. This was the Penguins' ninth victory over Williamstown in their last ten encounters. The unbeaten Brunswick visited Williamstown in round 11 and, in a wind-affected match, the eventual premiers triumphed by 38 points despite 'Town leading by 16 points at the last change of ends. The margin should have been far greater as the Villagers kicked six consecutive behinds before kicking a goal in the third quarter, while Brunswick failed to score at all. The 'Wicks booted 8.7 to 0.1 in the last quarter with the advantage of the strong breeze which saw 21.25 scored at one end of the ground and just 3.7 at the other. Colin Wilcox was best for 'Town. It was Brunswick's sixth consecutive victory over the last-placed Williamstown.
The closest match of the year came in round 12 when neighbouring Yarraville visited Williamstown and led at every change before getting home by just 3 points to avenge the earlier defeat at Yarraville in round 1. Future Williamstown premiership player, Matt Cave, booted 3 consecutive goals for the Villians in the last quarter to put them 23 points in front halfway through the term and the game seemingly out of 'Town's reach. The Villagers fought on and, when Reg Thomas goaled, only five points separated the teams. Williamstown added two further behinds, with Jack Richardson, back in the team after four weeks, missing the easiest of shots as the bell rang. Hawthorn Seconds recruit, Jim Quinn, was named best player for 'Town.
South Melbourne's Laurie Nash and Terry Brain again dominated at Camberwell in the round 13 encounter, with captain-coach Nash booting 8 goals and Brain 5 as the 'Wellers romped home by 59 points after Williamstown led by 8 points at quarter time. First-year player, Cliff Johnson, was reported by a boundary umpire during the last quarter with kicking a Camberwell opponent and was subsequently suspended for 12 matches. Eddie Deller was best for 'Town. The season's second largest defeat occurred at Westgarth Street the following week where Williamstown, playing their worst football for the season, found themselves nine goals down at quarter-time against Northcote, 65 points behind at half-time and 95 points in arrears at the last change of ends. 'Town outscored Northcote in the last term to reduce the margin to 87 points by the final bell. Rover, Jack Paterson, was leading goalkicker with 3 and was best player for the Villagers. Stan Lawler made his comeback in this match after crossing to Prahran earlier in the season but returned after just two games with the Two Blues.
The final home game for the season was against Prahran, which had inflicted the year's largest defeat by over 100 points at Toorak Park in round 8. Williamstown got away to a flying start to lead by 3 goals with the aid of the breeze by quarter time, but the Two Blues had regained control by half-time to lead by 8 points. With the wind at their backs, 'Town added 5 goals to 1 in the third term to lead by 15 points at the last change of ends but Prahran ran out victors by 17 points, which should have been a bigger margin due to the visitor's inaccurate shooting at goal. The Two Blues kicked 5.10 to the Villagers' 1.2 to make the final scores 14.27.111 to 14.10.94. Stan 'Snowy' Lawler returned to form against his former team, booting 5 goals, while 19yo ruckman, Pat Cahill, was named best player. It was estimated that a goal kicked by Cahill in this game traversed a distance of 70 yards (64 metres).
Billy Donlen, committeeman in 1925-26 and 1936-37, passed away in June of 1938.
The miserable season came to a merciful conclusion at Preston City Oval in round 16 with a 33-point defeat in yet another wind-affected match, with 25.23 being kicked to one end of the ground and just 4.10 to the other. Williamstown booted 4.8 to 1.1 in the first quarter to take a 25 point lead into the break. Preston kicked 8 goals in the second quarter to lead by 16 points at the long break before 'Town used the wind to advantage to lead by 2 goals at three-quarter time. Preston banged on 7.5 to just two behinds by the Villagers in the last term to run out easy winners. Williamstown kicked themselves out of the game with shocking inaccuracy in the first half, resulting in a half-time scoreline of 5.14.44 to Preston's 9.6.60. Lawler booted another 6 goals for 'Town while Jack Paterson was best-on-ground. The team finished last on the 12-team ladder with just two wins and 14 defeats and a percentage of 70.7, three games behind 11th-placed Sandringham and the worst season in the Club's long history until 1995.
Arthur Cutting announced his retirement after 87 games in the week following the final match but did pre-season with Footscray and was back again at Williamstown in 1939. Reg 'Dodger' Taylor did retire after 91 games and 8 goals since joining the Club from North Melbourne in 1932 early in the 1939 season. He was vice-captain in 1935. Club secretary since 1935 and assistant secretary prior to that, Larry Floyd, also indicated his intention to stand down at the annual meeting scheduled for January 1939 but he had a change of heart by December and stayed on.
39 players represented the senior team during the season. Jack Paterson led the goalkicking with 31 and Arthur Cutting tied with Bill Downie of Northcote for the Recorder Cup and won the VFA Medal outright as well as the Club best and fairest with recruit, Colin Wilcox, runner-up. This was the fourth year in a row that a Williamstown player had taken out the VFA Medal and the fifth time in six years, following the sucesses of Charlie Stanbridge (1933), Fred Brooks (1935), Neville Huggins (1936-37) and now Cutting. Cutting would repeat the win in 1939 and Des Fothergill would take it out in 1941. Williamstown were also successful in the Recorder Cup, with Stanbridge (1933), Huggins (1937) and now Cutting also taking out that award. Des Fothergill would also be the recipient of the Recorder Cup in 1941.
Former secretary of the Club from 1905-07 and vice-president in 1908, Oscar Jenkins, and former committeeman, Billy Donlen, both passed away in June, while former player of 1895-1901, Henry Douglas 'Dick/Ironsides' Hall, also passed away on July 13 at the age of 65. Hall was vice-captain in 1900 and played a total of 57 games and kicked 6 goals. His three brothers, Eddie, Tommy and Walter (Dolly), also played for Williamstown, and Dick, Eddie and Walter are all life members. The Club's Seconds made the finals for the first time since 1929 but were eliminated by Brunswick in the first semi-final at Preston, 12.14 to 10.6.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1938 season, held at the Town Hall in January 1939, the president, Ernest Jackson, and Cr Jack Dennis both addressed the issue of the Club playing at Newport instead of the cricket ground, neither of whom were in agreeance with the suggestion. Trophies were also presented at the meeting to Arthur Cutting (best and fairest), Colin Wilcox (runner-up), Pat Cahill (best first-year player), Eddie Deller (most consistent player), Reg Thomas (most effective player), Jack McDonagh (best clubman), Reg Thomas and Reg Taylor (best attendance at training), Keith Rae (most popular player) and Jack Paterson (special services). Framed photographs were also presented to Arthur Cutting, winner of the VFA Medal and Recorder Cup in 1938, to Charlie Stanbridge, winner of VFA Medal and Recorder Cup 1933, to Neville Huggins, winner of the VFA Medal in 1936 and 1937 and Recorder Cup 1937, and to Fred Brooks, winner of the VFA Medal 1935.
The end-of-season trip was a two day excursion to Kyabram by a party of 30 players and officials.
Argus August 1, 1938
1938 vice-captain, Arthur Cutting, capped off a great season by tieing for the Recorder Cup, winning the VFA Medal and taking out the Club best and fairest. He had announced his retirement after the last home-and-away game after 87 games for Williamstown but changed his mind and returned to become the Club games record-holder until overtaken by Colin Wilcox in 1949.
The Age, May 22 1939 - former 134-game Melbourne & Victorian back pocket, Gordon 'Butcher' Ogden, was appointed 1939 captain-coach in February from amongst a field of 11 applicants. Ogden had captain-coached Warracknabeal the year before.
Club management of 1939, from left Fred 'Pop' Harsley (president), Larry Floyd (secretary), Jim McConville (treasurer) and Jack Le Brun (VFA delegate)
1939 saw the appointment of Fred 'Pop' Harsley as president and Bill Dooley as a vice-president along with the reformation of a Ladies Committee, headed up by the President, Mrs S. Rae, the secretary, Mrs Evelyn Spicer, and the treasurer, Mrs E. Hanrahan. Following the retirement of George Jerram as a player (who was appointed coach of Williamstown District), a search for a high profile captain-coach began and, in The Argus of 17 February, 1939, it was announced that former 134-game Melbourne & Victorian back pocket, Gordon 'Butcher' Ogden, had been appointed for 5 pounds a week from amongst a field of 11 applicants. Ogden had captain-coached Warracknabeal the year before. The committee then went after Carlton star, Harry 'Soapy' Vallence, after 204 games and 722 goals for the Blues, who nearly joined up the season before. He came to wooden-spooner Williamstown for less money (2 pounds plus 2/- a goal and no contract) than what he was on at the VFL premiership-winning Blues but he was almost 34yo at the start of the season. More than 500 spectators turned up to watch his first night at training on March 23. He kicked 16 goals in the first practice match against Port Melbourne Seconds on April 8.
Argus March 22 1939
Another star recruit was Melbourne's Eric 'Tarzan' Glass along with 6'3" Mattie Cave from Yarraville, who had played with both Footscray and St Kilda. Bill Spokes (Preston) and Doug Menzies (Footscray) along with locals Bert McTaggart jnr (Williamstown District), Norm Chisholm (Spotswood) and Tom Ward (Williamstown Juniors) were others to join the Club. International cricketer, Tom Leather, who had played 16 games for North Melbourne, was another newcomer. Stan Lawler headed to Preston with Vallence's arrival after 66 games and 226 goals, Pat Cahill went to Footscray without a clearance after round 1, Reg Taylor retired after 91 games when he wasn't selected in the seniors in the first three rounds and went to Williamstown District, and Keith Rae and Mick Harland went to Carlton in June, but Harland was back at Williamstown during 1940. Reg Thomas was appointed vice-captain to Ogden.
WFC general committee of 1939
Bobby Willett played his 50th consecutive game in the opening round against Yarraville at Williamstown. A crowd of 8,000 turned out to see 'Soapy' Vallence's debut and he did not disappoint with a haul of 5 goals, 4 of which came in the first 15 minutes of the third quarter when he was moved from centre half-forward to full-forward. After an even first half, mainly due to the Villagers kicking seven consecutive behinds in the second quarter, 'Town dominated the match after the long break and added 11.14 to the Villians' 3.8 to record a 47-point win. Young ruckman, Pat Cahill, was Williamstown's best but he went to Footscray without a clearance during the following week.
Vallence's recruitment looked promising when he kicked 9.2, including six in the last quarter in a losing side at Camberwell in round 2 by just 3 points, 12.26.98 to 14.11.95. The wayward 'Wellers kicked only 3 goals from 15 scoring shots in the second quarter and could have had the match wrapped up at half time. Camberwell still led by 28 points at the last break before Williamstown added 7.6 to 3.5 in the final term to almost pinch the win. Mick Harland played an outstanding game on Laurie Nash, keeping him to 4 goals and outmarking him several times. Eric 'Tarzan' Glass made his debut for 'Town in this match, kicking two goals, after being cleared by Melbourne during the previous week. This game-of-the-round attracted another crowd of 8,000. It was Camberwell's 13th consecutive victory over Williamstown.
Vallence kicked 5 behinds in the first quarter before registering a goal in the third round clash against Oakleigh at Pt Gellibrand, but went on to boot 8.9 in a six-goal victory, 15.26.116 to 11.15.81. Right on the bell for three-quarter time, Vallence slotted a goal that was estimated to have travelled 70 yards (64 metres). He was second on the VFA goalkicking list after this game with 22. Defender, Arthur Cutting, was best-on-ground. Williamstown now found themselves in the 'four' after round 3 for the first time in many years. Stan Lawler was cleared to Preston, one of his former clubs, after 66 games and 226 goals following round 3 when it became clear that opportunities for him would be scarce with Vallence and Glass ruling the goalsquare. Reg Taylor also resigned after 91 games when he failed to be selected in the senior team over the first three rounds and was subsequently cleared to Williamstown District.
Vice-presidents of 1939
Back: Henry Hall and Edward Duncan 'Peter' McIntyre
Front: Fred Harden jnr, Horrie Hocking, James Hocking and the legendary Bill Dooley snr
Colin Wilcox in defence was the star in Williamstown's 9-point win at Port Melbourne in round 4, where 'Town led at every change of ends and should have won by more except for poor kicking at goal once again. Port reduced the 5-goal margin at three-quarter time to just 3 points going in to time-on before Jim Quinn snapped a goal for the Villagers to ensure the victory, 13.17.95 to 13.8.86. The crowd of 7,000 was the largest seen at the ground for many years. It was also the 100th meeting between the bayside rivals.
Williamstown trailed all day at Coburg in round 5 after the 'Burgers got away to a great start with the wind blowing strongly to the grandstand end and found themselves 39 points up at the first break, leading 7.10.52 to 2.1.13. In the last quarter the wind had died down but 'Town nevertheless came from several goals down to get within nine points of the lead but an ankle injury to 'Tarzan' Glass and four quick goals by Coburg consigned the Villagers to a 32-point defeat, 21.16.142 to 16.14.110. Vice-captain, Reg Thomas, returned to form by booting 6 goals and being best player for Williamstown. Des Rowan was cleared to Richmond the following week, after 30 games and 9 goals from 1936-38 after being recruited from North Melbourne.
The two bottom teams from 1938, 'Town and Sandringham, met in the wet in round 6 at Pt Gellibrand where the Villagers led by 33 points at three-quarter time before the Zebras reduced the margin to 15 points and threatened to steal the points. Two doubtful umpiring decisions resulted in goals to Williamstown and sealed a 25-point victory, 14.22.106 to 12.9.81, 'Town's fourth win of the year. After two quiet games, 'Soapy' Vallence returned to form with a six-goal haul, giving him a total of 31 for the season and second place on the goalkickers list, three behind George Hawkins of Prahran. Jack McDonagh at full-back was best for 'Town while Norm Chisholm made his senior debut in this match. Eight Sandringham players were injured in this game and secretary of the Zebras' Seconds, Des Walls, acted as 19th man to make up the numbers.
Williamstown travelled to Northcote the following week in the match-of-the-round, which resulted in a 3-goal victory to the top-of-the-ladder 'Cotes. Northcote led at every change of ends, albeit by small margins, and the Villagers hit the front by a point in the final quarter after a goal from Jack Paterson but the 'Cotes responded with four quick goals to lead by 20 points with ten minutes remaining. Williamstown then kicked six consecutive behinds before Vallence marked and goaled to give 'Town some hope of a miraculous victory. Northcote responded with a goal a minute before the bell to settle the issue, 11.13.79 to 7.19.61, on a ground described by a Williamstown official as a 'sludge heap with offensive odours'. Paterson was best for the Villagers. There was consternation in the 'Town rooms before the match when 'Tarzan' Glass did not arrive until 10 minutes before the start of the game due to him having difficulty in locating the sodden Westgarth Street ground.
Prahran, which had replaced Northcote on the top of the table, visited Williamstown in round 8. Vallence injured his back the previous week at Northcote and was replaced by Keith Rae who booted 5 goals. Rae, along with Mick Harland, were cleared to Carlton during the week following this game. Vallence's rival on the goalkicking list, George Hawkins, kicked 7 goals for the Two Blues in this game, Prahran's eighth consecutive win over 'Town. The Villagers kicked themselves out of the game by booting just 5 behinds in the second quarter and 2.11 with the wind in the third quarter, adding just 3 goals to the quarter-time score and 19 behinds to go down by 27 points. Over the past two matches Williamstown had kicked a total of 15.45 in losing both games. Bobby Willett was dropped after 56 consecutive games in the seniors. Colin Wilcox was best for the Villagers.
Training staff 1939
Bob and George Major were brothers, and Bob became head trainer from 1952 until 1957 and from 1959 until 1970. He acted as treasurer in 1958. Kelly Brent took over the role as head trainer from Bob in 1971.
Williamstown were victorious at Preston for the first time since 1911 in the round 9 clash with the Bullants. Vallence returned to the team and booted 7 goals in the 35-point win to take his tally for the season to 41, twelve behind George Hawkins. Stan 'Snowie' Lawler kicked 4 goals for Preston in his first encounter with his former team. Defender, Arthur Cutting, was best for 'Town in his 95th senior outing. 1938 runner-up, Brighton, visited Williamstown in round 10 and 'Town were victorious over the Penguins for the first time since 1933, with a 31-point win as the match ended in semi-darkness. Vallence kicked another 7 goals as the Villagers returned to the top four for the first time since round 3. Centreman, George Fitch, was best player for Williamstown. Jim Quinn, who worked for a local baker, was late arriving for the game due to the horse on his breadcart bolting. Former Williamstown player of 1932-33 (38 games, 2 goals), Cyril Williamson, played for Brighton on newcomer from Melbourne Seconds, Clive Fairbairn, in this match.
Williamstown travelled to Brunswick without captain, Gordon Ogden, due to influenza the week after the top-of-the-table 'Wicks scored 31.15.201 against Oakleigh, just 10 points short of the VFA's highest-ever score to date of 30.31.211 kicked at Glenferrie by Hawthorn against Prahran in round 15, 1922. Reg Thomas skippered the team with Arthur Cutting acting vice-captain. The Magpies were led by former Williamstown player of 1927-29 (50 games, 3 goals), Roy McKay. 'Town recovered from a 32-point quarter-time deficit to level the scores by half-time, but the 'Wicks booted 13 goals to just 5 by the Villagers in the second half to run out victors by 54 points, even outscoring Williamstown in the last quarter when kicking into the wind. After booting 16 goals the week before in Brunswick's huge score, Harold Jones added another 9 majors in this encounter while 'Soapy' Vallence kicked 7 goals for the third week in a row. One of Vallence's goals was the result of a one-handed mark during the second quarter followed by a 70-yard (64 metre) torpedo punt, one of his 4 goals in a 7 minute period. He now had 55 goals for the season. Centre half-back, Colin Wilcox, was best for Williamstown. It was the 'Wick's 7th consecutive win over 'Town and left the Villagers with a winless record at Brunswick since round 15, 1923. The crowd was estimated at 8,000.
Herald, May 26, 1939
Doug Menzies, who played 14 games with Footscray from 1937-39, debuted for Williamstown in the round 12 game at Yarraville. Cliff Johnson, who was suspended for 12 matches after being reported for kicking a Camberwell opponent in the round 13 clash of the previous season, also returned to the team. A comfortable victory was expected for the 5th-placed 'Town against 9th-placed Yarraville but the Villians surprised to lead by 17 points at quarter-time. The game evened up over the next two quarters before Williamstown unleashed a withering burst of 11.3, including 5 goals in 6 minutes, in the last term to Yarraville's 2.5 to romp home by 78 points. 'Soapy' Vallence had been held to only two goals before booting 6.1 in the last quarter to give him 8 for the match and 63 for the season but suffered a knee injury late in the game. Colin Wilcox was again best for the Villagers. The Herald reported on July 10 that 'amusement was aroused among the crowd at Yarraville when Gordon Ogden had his pants torn in two during the third term. Quite unconcerned, the Williamstown skipper played on and took a beautiful one-handed mark while waiting for the trainers to re-clothe him.'
With seven victories, Williamstown went into its clash with Camberwell at Pt Gellibrand in round 13 with its equal best win-loss record since 1930 and having lost only one game at home, to Prahran in round 8 and that was due to shocking inaccuracy in front of goal. The blustery wind spoilt the match as a spectacle but the pace of the game and the generally good marking of both sides kept the large crowd of 9,000 entertained, the biggest at Williamstown for many years. After the Tricolours led by 3 goals at half-time, the Sporting Globe reported that 'the crowd at Williamstown was kept in a constant roar during the third term when the home team staged a glorious revival. At the interval, Camberwell appeared certain to win easily, but Williamstown crept up to take the lead, in spite of rugged opposition from the Tricolour defenders.' Laurie Nash kicked 8 goals, including 4 from free kicks, to lead the 'Wellers to a 20-point victory. Reg Thomas kicked 5 goals and Cliff Johnson was Williamstown's best.
Arthur Cutting played his 100th senior game for Williamstown in the round 14 clash at Oakleigh and celebrated with an 86-point victory. 'Soapy' Vallence booted a Club record 18 goals in this match, 10 more than his previous best outing since joining 'Town from Carlton. He also became just the second 'Town player to kick 10 or more goals in a game, joining Bob Briggs who booted 10 against North Melbourne at Arden St. in 1908. He also passed the most goals in a season by a Williamstown player, previously held by Stan Lawler who booted 69 majors in 1937, as he moved to 83 for the year but still trailing Prahran's George Hawkins by nine majors. Eight of the goals came in the third quarter as the Villagers added 11.8 to 1.3 by the 'Oaks. The Argus reported that 'he was guarded by three Oakleigh players in the last quarter and, after kicking two goals within the first three minutes of play, had to leave the field with a groin injury.' The bottom-of-the-ladder 'Oaks were no match for the Villagers and trailed by 17, 28 and 93 points at the respective breaks, before outscoring 'Town in the last quarter to eventually go down by more than 14 goals, 25.24.174 to 12.16.88, Williamstown's highest score since gaining Association senior status in 1884. The previous highest score was set just two weeks previously against Yarraville. This was the 8th victory for the season and the best return since 7 wins were registered in 1936. It was also the first time that Williamstown had defeated Oakleigh twice in a season since the 'Oaks joined the VFA in 1929 and the first victory at Oakleigh since 1932.
The Age, July 24, 1939
Williamstown hosted Port Melbourne before a crowd of 7,500 in round 15 which witnessed an even struggle in the first half, with Port leading by 4 points at the first change of ends and 'Town 2 points ahead at the long break. However, the Villagers ran away with the game in the second half, adding 11.8 to 3.6 to run out winners by 52 points. Vallence added another 6 goals to his season tally, with 5 of them coming in the last quarter. Arthur Cutting was best player for Williamstown. Fifth-placed 'Town was at home again the following week against finals rival, the sixth-placed Coburg, with only one win separating the two teams. After an even first half, the visitors had edged ahead by just 6 points by the long break. However, the 'Burgers added only 2 goals in the second half to go down by 35 points, 16.16.112 to 10.17.77, thereby avenging the five goal defeat at Coburg earlier in the year. This was 'Town's third successive victory, a feat not achieved since 1932 when it occurred twice. Camberwell's defeat by Northcote saw Williamstown enter the top four for the first time since round 10. Vallence added a further five goals to his tally giving him 94 for the season. Wingman, Doug Menzies, was best-on-ground. Coburg were without their star full-forward, Lance Collins, who was third on the goalkicking list behind Hawkins of Prahran and Vallence but missed this game due to a back injury.
Williamstown's run of success continued with a 4th consecutive victory at Sandringham in round 17, which hadn't occurred since 'Town last made the finals in 1930. It was also the first time that the Villagers had won at Sandringham since 1934. Vallence required six goals for his first century at any level and had five of them before half-time, including 4 in the second quarter, but the Zebras' full-back, Dave Withers, held him goalless in the second half despite 'Soapy's' teammates making every effort to get him the goal that he needed and wasting many scoring opportunities. Sandringham reduced the three-quarter time deficit of 27 points to just 14 before Bill Spokes, 'Tarzan' Glass and then Jack Paterson goaled to ensure a 30-point victory, 16.13.109 to 12.7.79. The Age reported that 'at the conclusion of the Sandringham game, when umpire Parris was entering the race, the crowd surged around him in a threatening manner, and it is alleged that a woman struck him. The appearance of a constable quickly cleared the crowd.' Williamstown wrote to the VFA the following week complaining about the performance of the umpire, and at a hearing Parris confirmed that he had received a blow on the back of the neck after the match, and when he looked around he saw a woman. The Williamstown Chronicle also noted that 'bad umpiring upset the temper of the crowd and only the good nature of the players prevented the game developing along the wrong lines.' Colin Wilcox, who had debuted on this ground the previous season, was best for 'Town.
'Soapy' Vallence was reportedly suffering from a cold heading into the round 18 game at Williamstown against Preston but took his place in the team, requiring just one further major to register his first-ever century of goals in a season. Former 'Town forward, Stan 'Snowy' Lawler, kicked 4 goals for the Bullants in their clash earlier in the season but had since been relegated to the Seconds. Vallence became the first Williamstown player to boot 100 goals in a season at the 12-minute mark of the first quarter after a relayed free kick downfield. He was presented with a trophy by President, Fred 'Pop' Harsley, of a silver football and goal posts during the half-time break which had been donated by vice-president, Bill Dooley. Scoring was difficult with a strong breeze blowing straight across the ground, and the Villagers booted seven consecutive singles during the second quarter. Williamstown led at every change of ends before Preston managed to reduce the three-quarter time deficit of 23 points down to 10 before former Preston player, Bill Spokes, and Vallence goaled to make the game safe for the Villagers, with the final scores 10.12.72 to 7.6.48. Centreman, George Fitch, was best player, especially in the second half.
Matt Cave and Ingy Norman of Preston were reported in this match for striking each other. Wally Miller of the Bullants was also reported for kicking 'Town's Reg Thomas and was subsequently suspended until late June, 1940.
Herald, August 19, 1939
Harry 'Soapy' Vallence being congratulated by captain-coach, Gordon Ogden, after kicking his 100th goal of the 1939 season in the game against Preston at Williamstown in round 18. He became the first 'Town player to boot a century of majors and it was the first time he had achieved the personal milestone at any level of football, despite kicking over 700 goals for Carlton in 204 games. The photo appeared in the Argus on Monday, August 21, 1939
A virtual play-off for fourth position on the ladder and a finals spot occurred at Elsternwick Park in the following round against 5th-placed Brighton, which was 4 points and considerable percentage behind Williamstown but had won the last eight matches at home. This game had been postponed by a week because of torrential rain as were all other League and Association fixtures for the first time since July 1936. 'Town led at every change of ends and eventually ran out victors by 44 points, 14.23.107 to 9.9.63, but inaccuracy in front of goal meant the margin should have been greater. In the second and third quarters the Villagers added a total of 4.15. Vallence kicked another 5 goals to bring his season total to 107 while full-back, Jack McDonagh was best-on-ground. Williamstown were in the finals for the first time since 1930 when it lost the semi-final to Oakleigh. 'Town had scored more than 2,000 points in a season for the first time in the Club's history. Due to the escalating situation in Europe, Arthur Cutting was detained on duty by the Air Force and was unavailable for the Brighton encounter. Australia declared war on Germany the day after this game, September 3, and entered World War Two.
The final home-and-away game was at Williamstown opposed to Brunswick, who had kicked a Victorian senior football record score of 37.16.238 the previous week against Oakleigh, overtaking the VFA's previous highest-ever score to date of 30.31.211 kicked at Glenferrie by Hawthorn against Prahran in round 15, 1922. The winning margin was 186 points while their full-forward, Harold Jones, kicked 20 goals, the highest tally of the season. There was drama before the game when repairs had to be made to the ground fence which had blown down in a gale the night before the game. A crowd of 9,000 witnessed 'Town get away to a good start with the wind advantage and led the top-of-the-table Magpies by 26 points at the first break which the 'Wicks had reduced to a goal by half-time.This was extended to 16 points at the last change of ends but Brunswick again narrowed the margin to just 5 points during the last term before late goals to Bert McTaggart jnr and 'Soapy' Vallence secured a 23-point victory, Williamstown's seventh successive win, and fourth place on the ladder with 14 wins and 6 defeats, the same as third-placed Northcote. Prahran headed the ladder followed by Brunswick who dropped one place due to the loss to the Villagers, the first since 1934. Arthur Cutting, back in the team after being released from Air Force duties, was best for Williamstown while Harold Jones was blanketed by Cliff Johnson and Jack McDonagh and kicked only one behind for the match. Vallence booted 6 goals which gave him 113 for the season.
Only one change was made to the selected team for the first semi-final against Northcote, which Williamstown had not defeated since 1933, at Toorak Park, 'Town's first final since 1930, with the injured wingman, Doug Menzies (ankle), being replaced by Tom Ward. However, Reg Outen's car broke down on the way to the ground and he was replaced as 19th man by Bob Willett due to his (Outen's) late arrival and he was relegated to emergency. Northcote won the toss and kicked with the wind to the southern or High Street end of the ground and had 2 goals quickly on the board from free kicks and the 'Cotes were 10 points in front at the first break. Jim Quinn sustained a broken finger in the first quarter and was replaced by Willett at quarter-time. The Villagers led for first time 5 minutes before half-time after goals from Thomas and Vallence, his fourth, and took a 3-point lead into half-time. The wind dropped in the third quarter and the lead changed several times before Northcote found themselves up by just 2 points at the last change of ends. McDonagh's marking and other defensive work at the start of the last quarter stopped the 'Cotes from taking a commanding lead and were 9 points up in a low-scoring match before Vallence, Paterson and Vallence again goaled to put Williamstown in front by 10 points. Frank Seymour of Northcote goaled to reduce the margin to only 4 points which had the crowd of 10,000, the biggest first semi-final crowd since the pre-depression days, in a frenzy. Stan Jamieson added two further behinds to make the difference at the end just one goal, 11.14.80 to 10.14.74. This was Williamstown's first semi-final win in 15 years and the 8th victory in succession. It was also 'Town's first win at Toorak Park since 1933 and the first victory over Northcote in their last ten encounters. Rover, Jack Paterson, with 3 goals was best afield while Vallence's seven for the game game him 120 for the year. Other good players were McDonagh, Deller, Ogden, Cutting, Wilcox, Chisholm, Willet, Fitch, Jamieson and Thomas. The Villagers had seven injured players as a result of this clash - Quinn (dislocated finger and chipped bone) was the worst of them but recovered in time for the preliminary final. Glass (thigh), Wilcox (knee), Ogden (thigh), Jamieson (wrist), Cave (cut above an eye) & Cutting (ankle) were others under a cloud.
Sporting Globe, 16 September, 1939
After Brunswick snatched victory from Prahran in the last few minutes of the second semi-final to win by 4 points after trailing all day, Williamstown met the Two Blues in the preliminary final at Toorak Park for the right to play the Magpies in the grand final. There was one change to the team with Tom Ward relegated to 19th man, replaced by Bob Willett. This would be 'Town's biggest game since the 1924 grand final. The venue for the final was in doubt all the week leading up to the game due to a Supreme Court case over use of the ground. Prahran Cricket Club had sought an injunction to restrain Prahran Council, owners of the ground, from using it for football as the cricket club feared it was in danger of losing its affiliation with the VCA by not having the ground ready for the start of the cricket season. It was alleged that the Council had physically prevented the curator from preparing the centre wicket which, under the terms of the lease, the Council was not entitled to do, according to the cricket club. The injunction was eventually refused late on Friday and the game went ahead as planned the following day.
Harry 'Soapy' Vallence outmarks Phil Murray of Prahran during the 1939 preliminary final
It was estimated that 700 people watched Williamstown's final training session on the Thursday night before the game as excitement grew in The Village. Captain-coach, Gordon Ogden, won the toss and kicked with the wind to the Toorak Road end of the ground. 'Soapy' Vallence kicked three successive goals within the first 15 minutes of the match, which helped Williamstown to lead by 23 points at quarter time, 4.8 to 1.3. The Two Blues' prolific full-forward, George Hawkins, booted four goals in the second quarter to have Prahran in front by 9 points at the long interval, 6.13 to 5.10. The breeze picked up in the third quarter and 'Town had scored within 30 seconds of the start and found themselves 4 goals up at the last change of ends, 11.16 to 7.16. 15 goals out of the 18 scored in the match to that point had been kicked to the Toorak Road end. Goals to Vallence, Spokes and Jamieson at the start of the last quarter had 'Town 43 points in front and in a seemingly unassailable position. However, three goals to Hawkins and two others from free kicks had Prahran two goals down with 14 minutes to go and with the breeze at their backs. Vallence hit the post before Prahran goaled again and were now only trailing by 7 points. Another goal off the ground to Hawkins had the Two Blues only 1 point in arrears when Ian Fleming of Prahran was free-kicked within scoring distance. Willett appeared to go over the mark but the umpire took the ball off Fleming for time-wasting and, from the resultant free kick, Fitch passed to Vallence who goaled followed by a behind from Jamieson. In time-on, goals to Prahran's Doug Rolfe and Hawkins again had them 5 points in front with two minutes remaining as the crowd went frantic. With 20 seconds remaining Vallence marked and goaled to regain the lead (for which he received the princely sum of 5 pounds from vice-president Bill Dooley) and then Jamieson goaled again as the bell rang to end the epic match with The Villagers in front, 17.19.121 to 16.18.114. It was claimed by some that neither central umpire Hayes or the boundary umpires could hear the siren due to the crowd noise and that Jamieson's kick actually came after the final bell. In a miraculous final term, 15 goals were kicked, 9 by Prahran and 6 by Williamstown. It was the first time 'Town had beaten the Two Blues in their last 9 encounters, and the first win at Toorak Park since 1933. Two of the defeats during that period were by over 100 points and another by 99 points. It was 'Town's 9th win in a row since being defeated by Camberwell at Pt Gellibrand in round 13 by 20 points. Ruckman, Bill Spokes, was best for Williamstown while fellow ruckman, Mattie Cave, Eric Glass, Jack Paterson, Bert McTaggart jnr, Harry Vallence (8 goals), Reg Thomas, Stan Jamieson, Colin Wilcox, Gordon Ogden, Jack McDonagh, Jim Quinn, George Fitch, Norm Chisholm and Arthur Cutting were other good players. Prahran's George Hawkins kicked 9 goals (4 in the second quarter and 5 in the last) for a season total of 164, an Australian senior goal-kicking record, which would be broken by South Melbourne legend, Bob Pratt, just two years later when playing with Coburg with 183. The crowd was 15,000. Rover, Jack Paterson, collapsed in the rooms after the game following a severe blow to the head early in the last quarter. Williamstown became the first team in League or Association football to come from last the previous year to play off in the following year's grand final, although Footscray did it in 1919 after finishing last in 1918, a season where only 6 teams competed over 10 home-and-away rounds in a truncated resumption after World War I.
'Soapy' Vallence (#8) flies for a mark against Bill Johnson of Prahran in the 1939 preliminary final at Toorak Park which 'Town won by 7 points, 17.19.121 to 16.18.114. Vallence kicked 8 goals
The 1939 Williamstown grand final squad and starting positions v. Brunswick at the MCG on Saturday, October 7
Grand Final day 1939 was Williamstown's first appearance on the MCG since round 5 1896 v. Melbourne, the final year before the formation of the VFL. It was Brunswicks's sixth time since admittance to the VFA, having featured there in 1897, the 1908 grand final, the 1909 first semi-final, 1911 and 1928. They were the previous year's premiers. It was also the 82nd time these two teams had met, 'Town and Brunswick's both having 40 wins with one draw but it was their first meeting in a play-off. This game was the first VFA final at the MCG since the 1929 grand final between Northcote and Port Melbourne.
There was just one change to Williamstown's team - Doug Menzies, who injured his ankle in the final home-and-away round against Brunswick, came into the side on the wing and Bob Willett was relegated to 19th man. Emergencies were Ossie Moloney, Reg Outen and Tom Ward. The teams had only met in a final once before, the 1924 first semi-final, which Williamstown won by 11 points. 'Town had only appeared in two grand finals previously, in 1921, which they won, and 1924, when they lost badly to Footscray. They finished on top of the ladder in 1907, won the final against West Melbourne and a challenge was not necessary. Brunswick had played in many grand finals, the last three including this one for one flag in 1938 and a defeat by just two points by Prahran, and won three premierships. Brunswick was captain-coached by former Williamstown player, Roy McKay (1927-29, 50 games and 3 goals).
There was a slight breeze favouring the Punt Road goals and light showers half an hour prior to the game made the surface slippery. Arthur Cutting was presented with his VFA Medal prior to the game, the first VFA player to receive the Association's main award on the MCG and the fifth Williamstown player in succession to win the medal. Brunswick had two quick goals on the board and led at quarter time, 4.5 to Williamstown's 3.2., with two of Brunswick's goals coming from free kicks. The Magpies got out to a lead of 28 points in the 2nd quarter after taking 15 minutes to kick the first goal of the term while Williamstown kicked 7 behinds. Jack Paterson kicked 'Town's only goal for the quarter as the Villagers trailed at half-time 8.7 to 4.9. Heavy rain fell as players left the ground and during half-time and made the surface even more slippery.
Brunswick was captain-coached by former Williamstown player, Roy McKay (1927-29, 50 games and 3 goals).
The Williamstown Chronicle of October 14 reported that 'a fighting address by the coach at the interval, interspersed by massage and shampoo treatments, sent the side into the field again practically as fit and fresh as at the start.' The third quarter was played in continual rain, but Thomas goaled twice followed by Menzies, and when Vallence kicked his second for the game from a free kick 50 yards out Williamstown led by a point. The 'Wicks scored a point to level the scores at 9.11 each and then captain-coach McKay goaled again before Jamieson and Vallence both added majors. Williamstown added 4 behinds and then Vallence's 4th right on the siren put the Villagers 16 points up at the last change, 12.15 to 10.11. Vallence had kicked three goals in the quarter, including one from 70 yards (64 metres) out on the boundary. Heavy rain fell in the last term, but when Paterson goaled Williamstown were up by 19 points halfway through the quarter. Harold Jones replied with 2 goals for Brunswick, after which Paterson missed from a few yards out after marking and then Dowling of the Magpies goaled from a free, which made the difference just 1 point. Reg Thomas then kicked to Vallence who marked in front and goaled. Two further behinds were added, including a poster, and 'Town led by 9 points, 14.20.104 to 14.11.95, when the final siren sounded. The best players were centre half-back Colin Wilcox, winger Doug Menzies, Reg Thomas, Jack McDonagh, Eddie Deller, captain-coach Gordon Ogden, rover Jack Paterson, Bill Spokes, Mattie Cave and Stan Jamieson. Harry Vallence was leading goalkicker on the day with 5, giving him a total of 133 for the season. He was one of 5 century goalkickers in the VFA that year, the others being George Hawkins of Prahran (164 - a senior Australian record), Lance Collins of Coburg (108), Harold Jones of Brunswick (103) and Laurie Nash of Camberwell (100). Vallence announced his intention to retire following the game after 14 seasons of senior football. He had played on the MCG in consecutive grand finals for two premierships with different clubs in different competitions. He was persuaded to continue and would play two more seasons with the Villagers until the war intervened.
Williamstown's 1939 premiership team was:
B. Eddie Deller Jack McDonagh Cliff Johnson
HB. Arthur Cutting Colin Wilcox Gordon Ogden (c.c.)
C. Doug Menzies George Fitch Norm Chisholm
HF. Stan Jamieson Bert McTaggart jnr Jim Quinn
F. Bill Spokes Harry Vallence Reg Thomas (v.c.)
Foll.Matt Cave Eric Glass
It was the 10th consecutive win by Williamstown, and heralded 'Town's first premiership since 1921. The crowd of 48,238 was the biggest VFA attendance since 41,000 witnessed the 1908 grand final between Brunswick and Footscray and the attendance and gate takings were both VFA records. It was the 'Wicks third successive grand final for just one premiership in 1938 and losses by two points in 1937 and 9 points in 1939. Since the 'Page' system of finals had been introduced in 1933, no team other than those finishing first or second on the ladder after the completion of the home-and-away rounds has won the premiership in League or Association football until this season. Williamstown was also the first Association or League team to go from last to premiers in one year, although Footscray did it in 1919 after finishing last in 1918, a season where only 6 teams competed over 10 home-and-away rounds in a truncated resumption after World War I.
The Australasian reported on October 14 that 'the first half of the game on Saturday was most uninteresting and disappointing. It was a muddling, scrambling game, much below the standard of senior football. The players may have been over-anxious.' Constrastingly, the Sporting Globe on October 11 reported that 'the second half was the most thrilling display of Australian Rules football, played through continual rain, that the Victorian public has ever seen.' It went on to say that the game was 'the greatest display of football entertainment seen on the Melbourne ground for years.' It continued 'after half-time it was entirely different. The pace increased, and with it the skill. The thrilling third quarter, in which Williamstown scored 8.2 to 2.4 had stirred the crowd to a high pitch of excitement. I have not seen a crowd so roused in many years.'
Ted Fay (#15 Brunswick) punches the ball clear of 'Soapy' Vallence during the grand final
Brunswick defenders close in on the ball to repel a Williamstown attacking move during the grand final
Both photos from the Sporting Globe October 7, 1939
Charlie Challenger (Brunswick) tackles Jack Paterson of Williamstown while teammate Mattie Cave and Brunswick captain-coach and former Williamstown player, Roy McKay, look on during the grand final
The Age, October 9, 1939
'Soapy' Vallence flies for a mark with Brunswick's Jack Davis during the grand final. Davis injured his shoulder during the second quarter and was replaced at half-time by Bert 'Bluey' Powell
Age, October 9, 1939
Bill Spokes' 1939 premiership medallion
Williamstown's 1939 premiership squad
Back row: Martin Phelan, Rodger Hagan, Ossie Moloney, Tom Ward, Reg Outen, George Fitch*, Stan Jamieson*
Third Row: Eric 'Tarzan' Glass*, Jim Quinn*, Bert McTaggart jnr*, Mattie Cave*, Jack McDonagh*, Colin Wilcox*, Clive Fairbairn, Doug Menzies*
Second row: Cliff Johnson*, Eddie Deller*, Harry 'Soapy' Vallence*, Gordon Ogden (captain-coach)*, Reg Thomas (vice-captain)*, Arthur Cutting*, Bill Spokes*
Front row: Norm Chisholm*, Jack Paterson*, Bob Willet*, Maurice Hartney
*= played in grand final v. Brunswick, Saturday October 7, 1939
It was reported in The Herald on December 15, 1939, that Gordon Ogden had been reappointed captain-coach of the team for the next two seasons at a salary of 5 pounds per week. It was also reported in The Age on December 18 that Ogden had stated in a speech made two days earlier at a smoke night at the Williamstown Town Hall, put on in appreciation of the players winning the premiership, that 'the Association should keep the throw-pass, which had made the game such an attractive spectacle, even to the extent of patenting it. If the League were to adopt the throw pass, it would follow that many unattached patrons, now attending Association matches as onlookers, might be attracted to League matches.'
It was also reported in the The Herald on 8 February, 1940, that secretary of the past 5 seasons, Larry Floyd, was retiring due to business reasons. Under his watch, the Club had a record income of 3,000 pounds and membership of 1,000 in 1939. At the annual meeting held in respect of the 1939 season at the Town Hall in February 1940, trophies were presented to Arthur Cutting for best and fairest winner, Jack Paterson as runner-up and Jim Quinn for third place. Most consistent was captain-coach, Gordon Ogden, most effective Mattie Cave, Jack McDonagh for best attendance at training, Colin Wilcox for best player in the grand final, Jack McDonagh and Arthur Cutting for best in the final series. Harry 'Soapy' Vallence received three trophies for leading the Club goalkicking, for becoming the first Williamstown player to kick 100 goals in a season and for kicking a Club record 18 goals at Oakleigh in round 14. The Club's highest-ever score of 25.24.174 was kicked in that game. Best first-year player was awarded to Bert McTaggart jnr, most improved Stan Jamieson and most reliable Cliff Johnson. Most useful was awarded to George Fitch. Long service awards were given to Reg Taylor (91 games, 1932-38) and Eddie Dellar (78 games, 1932-34 & 1936-39). Best and fairest of the Seconds was Tom Ward while Eric 'Tarzan' Glass received a trophy for 'special service'.
It was the first time in the Club's history that three of the team kicked over 40 goals and four over 30 (vice-captain, Reg Thomas 43, Stan Jamieson 41 and Jack Paterson 36 were the others). Arthur Cutting won his second VFA Medal (beating Camberwell's Laurie Nash), the fifth consecutive such award for a Williamstown player. He was also equal runner-up in the Recorder Cup. Life member and former captain, Bert Amy, who played 129 games and kicked 118 goals from 1908-1919, passed away during the year., as did former player from 1885-94, Jack Ward, in WA at the age of 72.
A proposed end-of-season trip to Tasmania, which would have been the Club's first interstate, with an exhibition match against Coburg at Devonport was abandoned in August when the prospect of a finals berth became a reality. A party of 52 players and officials went to Bairnsdale for a weekend in mid-October.
Sporting Globe March 6 1940
Photos from Ron Todd's first training session at Williamstown - both photos from The Herald, March 29, 1940
Argus, April 1, 1940
An early-season sensation occurred when the 1938 negotiations with now 23yo Ron Todd were resumed after Councillor Allan Deacon, who worked with Todd, advised the Club's VFA delegate, Jack Le Brun, that the Magpie spearhead was there for the taking, and Larry Floyd and Bill Dooley decided to pursue the matter. It was subsequently announced on March 6, 1940, in the Sporting Globe that he had signed with Williamstown for a 200 pound sign-on fee and 6 pounds per game for 3 years with a clearance and for 5 years without a clearance. He trained with Williamstown for the first time on Thursday March 28 and a crowd estimated at 2,500 attended the ground to see him. The VFL threatened legal action to restrain Todd and influential Collingwood supporters, including John Wren and the Galballys, eventually convinced him to return and Todd said he would donate 100 pounds to a wartime 'comfort fund'. He played in Collingwood's last practice match on April 13 and seemed certain to stay there, but Todd announced on radio 3DB the night before the VFA's first round that he would be playing with Williamstown the next day at Yarraville and 18,000 people turned up to see him play his first Association match.
Sporting Globe, April 20 1940
Ron Todd's first game for Williamstown at Yarraville, round 1 1940, before a crowd of 18,000. Todd kicked four goals from centre half-forward while Harry 'Soapy' Vallence kicked 15 from full-forward in a 148-point victory
Sporting Globe, April 20 1940
Sporting Globe, April 24 1940
Gordon Ogden was re-appointed captain-coach, but missed 7 games due to injuries and illness. Harry Vallence became vice-captain. The only player missing from 1939 was Bert McTaggart jnr who had transferred to Carlton. In the first match at Yarraville, the VFA's highest-ever score was missed by two points with a score of 36.20.236 to 12.16.88, including 12 goals in the first quarter and 13 in the third. This was then a Club record score. Vallence kicked 15 goals, Todd and Jamieson 4 each. Mrs JJ Liston unfurled the first premiership flag for 18 years the next week at the first home game of the season, before the team defeated Brighton 20.19.139 to 8.15.63 to head the ladder for the first time in years. A Club record of 14 consecutive victories were achieved from round 14, 1939, to round 5, 1940, when Northcote won by just 9 points. This record was not broken until 1956/57. The first seven games of the season resulted in 151 goals being scored, and eight games were won out of the first nine (one by 83 points, two by 76 points and another by 53 points apart from the 148-point triumph over Yarraville) before a surprising upset at Oakleigh in round 10. Williamstown, atop the ladder, went down to the 10th placed Oaks, which had won just two games, 26.14 to 18.19, set up by a second quarter blitz by Oakleigh of 11.8 to 3.3.
The loss was a mere aberration for the Villagers who won their next six games before going down by 5 goals to Prahran at Toorak Park in round 17, 13.14.92 to 7.20.62 before a measure of revenge was obtained two weeks later in defeating Oakleigh by 15 goals at Williamstown. The home-and-away rounds were completed by a narrow defeat at Brunswick. The team finished on top of the ladder with 16 wins from their 20 matches, two games clear of second-placed Port Melbourne, and the only blemish was the electrocution death of 1939 premiership player, Bobby Willett, at his work on the morning of the round 7 match against Sandringham. He had been selected for his first game of the season in this encounter. Willett had played 62 games over 4 seasons from 1936-39.
The Age, June 3 1940 - Bobby Willett had been selected for his first game of the year in the round 7 clash at Sandringham but was sadly electrocuted on the morning of the match.
Captain-coach, Gordon Ogden, did not play in the second semi-final at Toorak Park against Port and 'Town were badly beaten, 24.14.158 to 13.14.92, with Port full-forward, Ted Freyer, booting 12 majors while Williamstown's Vallence was held to 4 goals and Todd 3. The preliminary final, played in wet conditions against Prahran again at Toorak Park, was little better and the season was over after the 15.21.111 to 11.16.82 defeat. The Two Blues, who finished runners-up to Port, had visited Williamstown in round 6 and lost by 83 points after the Seagulls kicked a record 15 goals 2 behinds in the third quarter. Vallence kicked 111 goals for the year and Todd got 99, the highest tally for a player that finished second on a club list. They finished second and third on the VFA list behind Port's Freyer who booted 157 majors. Norm Chisholm took out the best and fairest award. Former 1921 premiership rover, Norm McDonald, was coach of the Seconds in this season.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1940 season held at the Town Hall in February 1941, it was announced that the Club had 2459 adult members in this season along with 388 juniors. Trophies were presented to the following players: Norm Chisholm (best and fairest player), Colin Wilcox (runner-up best and fairest) and George Fitch (third place best and fairest). Ted Ryan was best first-year player, Eric Glass most consistent player, Eddie Deller most effective player, Ron Todd best clubman, Reg Thomas most improved player, Cyril 'Curly' Cooper best attendance at training and Harry Vallence the goalkicking award. Todd and Vallence were voted equal most popular player.
Former 1907 premiership half-forward, Frank 'Jinner' Worroll (played 1896-1900 and 1907, 57 games 23 goals), passed away on September 19 at the age of 63. Former teammate, champion ruckman Fred Houghton, who played 91 games and kicked 28 goals from 1900-1905 and was vice-captain in 1902-03, also passed away during the year as did former president of 1911, vice-president of 1914 and secretary of 1908-10 and 1912-13, Arthur Johnson senior, and G. Miles, a former committeeman of 1926.
The 1940 Williamstown team at one of the losing finals at Toorak Park -
Back row: (from left) Arthur Cutting, Ron Todd, unknown, unknown, Colin Wilcox, Doug Menzies, Matt Cave, unknown
Middle row: (from left) Jack Patterson, Eddie Deller, Norm Chisholm, Gordon Ogden, Harry Vallence, George Fitch, Eric Glass
Front row: (from left) Cliff Johnson, Reg Thomas, Stan Jamieson
Des Fothergill of Collingwoood joined his best friend and cricketing teammate, Ron Todd, at Williamstown for the 1941 season. Fothergill was made vice-captain and led the team for much of the year due to captain-coach Gordon Ogden missing half the season through illness, injuries and business reasons. Fothergill had a brilliant season, winning the Recorder Cup and the VFA Medal as well as the Club best and fairest from Colin Wilcox. He also kicked 78 goals.
Sporting Globe, February 26 1941
Ron Todd's best friend and Northcote Cricket Club teammate, 20yo Des Fothergill, joined Williamstown without a clearance in 1941 after being joint winner of the Brownlow Medal with South's Herbie Matthews the previous season and winning Collingwood's best and fairest 3 times. This was the third year running that the Club recruited a high profile VFL player. Another Northcote cricket product, Ivan Miller, who played 4 first-class matches for Victoria between 1933-36 and VFA football for Northcote in 1936-37, also came across. Gordon Ogden was re-appointed as captain-coach but missed half the season due to illness, injuries and business reasons while Fothergill was made vice-captain but led the team in Ogden's absence. Other newcomers were Lou Salvas (Auburn), Bob Spargo (after 65 games with Footscray), 16yo Andy Taylor from the local high school, 1939 premiership centre half-forward Bert McTaggart jnr (back from Carlton), George Pattinson (after 64 games with Essendon) and Ossie Bownds (Albury). Bownds had one arm only half its normal length but could still take chest marks and occasional one-handed grabs and could run bouncing the ball one-handed. 1939 premiership rover Jack Patterson retired at the end of 1940 after 77 games and 109 goals.
After starting the season with eight wins in the first ten games, including victories by 167 points over Sandringham at Williamstown in round 7 (Vallence 20 goals) and by 120 points at Williamstown over Yarraville in round 1 (Vallence 11 goals, Todd 7 goals), their form fell away in the second half of the season when they won only four of the last ten home-and-away games. The team missed the finals by finishing in sixth position with 12 wins and 8 losses, a disappointing result considering the recruitment of Fothergill to play alongside Vallence and Todd. However, the war had a great deal to do with the team's performance as many players were not able to train due to being in camp and being employed in munition works. Eventual runner-up, Coburg, was defeated twice and a Club record score of 29.19.193 was posted in the round 7 clash with Sandringham at Williamstown. Vallence kicked 20 of the goals, 10 in each half, a new Club record, and brought up his 1000th VFL/VFA goal during the second quarter after marking, kissing the ball and kicking truly. 722 of these came from his 204 games with Carlton. Ron Todd broke his ankle and kicked only 39 goals in his 11 games, Arthur Cutting missed a number of games with illness and 1940 best and fairest winner, Norm Chisholm, was out injured for half the year with a bad knee. Fothergill had a brilliant season even with being burdened by the captaincy for half the season, winning the Recorder Cup and the VFA Medal as well as the Club best and fairest from Colin Wilcox, who was runner-up for the third time in four years. Fothergill polled 62 votes in the Recorder Cup win while the runner-up, Brunswick's Ted Fay, got 33 which would have won the trophy in most seasons. Fothergill also kicked 78 goals. It was Williamstown's fourth Cup and seventh Medal. Vallence scored 93 goals to lead the Club goal-kicking, giving him 337 goals from his 61 games over 3 seasons with 'Town. He finished in fifth place on the VFA list for the season.
The Herald, March 18 1941 - Apart from Vallence, Glass, Todd and Fothergill, Williamstown also tried to recruit Melbourne's triple premiership player, Ron Baggott, in 1941. He stayed on with the Demons until 1945, completing 133 games and 308 goals, leading the goalkicking in 1937 and winning the best & fairest in 1940. He later became captain-coach of Brunswick.
The season finished on a sour note with a 20-point defeat at the hands of eventual preliminary finalist, Prahran, despite 'Town leading at every change, by 6, 4 and 22 points, before the Two Blues unleashed a 7.3 to 0.3 final quarter. The Williamstown Chronicle of 12 September 1941 reported that 'the defeat can be entirely laid at the door of incompetent and unimpartial umpiring of Prendergast, whose decisions caused dissatisfaction amongst both players and supporters for the greater part of the game, culminating in one of the most bitter and voluble demonstrations ever witnessed at the local ground after the final bell.' Williamstown had only 19 players when captain-coach, Gordon Ogden, was a last-minute withdrawal owing to injuries received the week before at Brunswick, and an ill Eddie Deller had to take the field in borrowed boots just to make up the numbers. An injured Ron Todd was commissioned to go to Deller's house in Newport to collect his boots, but did not arrive back at the ground until nearly half-time due to a tyre blow-out. This was 'Soapy' Vallence's last game for 'Town, and he managed 3 goals in his final appearance. Eric Glass was reported early in the match, which was also expected to be his last but 'Tarzan' returned as vice-captain in 1945 after the war recess to play in another Williamstown premiership team before finally retiring.
Sporting Globe, March 19 1941
Steve Warner from the Reserves was killed in Second World War action during the year, and the Seconds also won the premiership, beating Coburg 18.17.125 to 10.21.81, their first pennant since 1919 as Williamstown Juniors. They were also premiers in 1916 and 1917 and runners-up in 1918. Williamstown were never headed for the entire game with rover, George Woods, best-on-ground and kicking 3 goals, closely followed by Bill McTaggart. The other players in the team were Dave Harris, Cyril 'Curly' Cooper, Tom New, Bert Ridley, Alan Saker, Jack Sexton, Brian Hall, Ron Lowe, Harold Ryan, Stan Jamieson, Ian McTaggart, Jack McMillan, John 'Mick' Ryan, captain-coach Jim Quinn, Bill Olver and 17 y.o. Andy Taylor (5 goals). Taylor also booted 6 goals in the second semi-final win over Coburg. The Seconds had three different coaches during the year due to military duties, firstly Jim Quinn, then Stan Jamieson and finally Bert McTaggart. Quinn obtained leave to play in the grand final. Coburg had won the last six premierships in the Seconds and had never been out of the finals since being admitted to the VFA in 1925, but were defeated 3 times by 'Town during the season. Former Seconds player, Gordon Drew, began his 20-year reign as secretary of the Seconds in this season. Andy Taylor and Ron Lowe tied for the Seconds best and fairest.
Williamstown Chronicle, October 10, 1941
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1941 season, held in February 1942, trophies were awarded to Des Fothergill for his best and fairest win and to Colin Wilcox for being runner-up, while 17yo Andy Taylor was considered the best first-year player, with 'Tarzan' Glass awarded the most consistent player and Cliff Johnson the most improved. Another newcomer, George Pattinson, was awarded the best utility player for the season and Arthur Cutting received a trophy for his long service to the Club, which commenced in 1931 and included 142 senior games. Frank Mason, a committeeman and worker for the Club for 20 years, was awarded life membership.
Life members and former committeemen, A. Moon and J. McDonnell, both passed away during the year.
Sporting Globe, September 17 1941
Incumbent president, Percy Masters, stepped down from the role after just one season due to a move to Ivanhoe, and Bill Dooley snr was elected to replace him at the annual meeting in respect of the 1941 season, held in February 1942. Mr Dooley announced at the meeting that, as a result of the patriotic football matches arranged by him during 1941, a total of 400 pounds had been raised to assist Australian prisoners-of-war held in Germany. The ladies committee had raised a further 200 pounds. However, due to increasing enlistments, the VFA suspended the competition in April 1942, and many players went to VFL sides. Harry Vallence was appointed Carlton reserves coach and took Andy Taylor with him, Norm Chisholm and Bert McTaggart went to Footscray, Bob Spargo snr to Melbourne, George Pattinson returned to Essendon, Jack Scott went back to Richmond, Reg Ryan crossed to Collingwood and Lou Salvas went to Hawthorn. By 1944 the VFA reserves competition resumed and Williamstown appointed Gordon Ogden as coach and reached the semi-finals before losing to Camberwell by two goals. JJ Liston passed away during the recess, on 12 April, 1944, as did fellow life members Jack Dennis, Captain James Fearon, and former captain Bert Amy, who played 129 games and kicked 118 goals from 1908-1919. Three former full-forwards in 1921 premiership player and leading goalkicker, Jim McAuliffe (1919-24 and 1929, 56 games 124 goals), twice leading goalkicker and Test cricketer Jimmy Matthews (1903-06 and 1909-13, 81 games 134 goals) and 1924 grand final player, Jack 'Judy' Munn (1924-27, 37 games 47 goals), who was killed in action during the war, also passed away. Former secretary of 1921-22, Les Thompson, and former vice-president and member of the training staff, Harry Cox, were others who passed on during the recess.
In the latter half of 1944, talks were held between League and Association officials regarding a possible merger after the war. Agreement could not be reached on a promotion/relegation system, with the VFA in favour of the premier in the lower division being automatically promoted to the higher competition and taking the place of the last-placed side which would drop back to the lower grade. The League was of the view that the lower grade premier should play a game against the last-placed team to win promotion. The talks broke down when the Association refused to become a VFL seconds competition.
The Age, October 15 1943
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1944 season, held in December, it was announced that, at the suggestion of the president, Bill Dooley snr, the Club had decided to adopt the seagull as the Club emblem and for the team to be known as 'The Seagulls', although 'Fair Dinkum', the football correspondent for the Williamstown Chronicle, was referring to the team as the Seagulls as early as 1921. The team had been known as 'The Villagers' up until this time, and the seagull insignia was really borrowed from the Williamstown Athletic Club, which had always used it since its inception in 1925. There was also a reference by a journalist in the Melbourne Punch of June 8, 1893, to a Williamstown and Collingwood game the previous weekend whereby 'the Magpies displayed more bottom than the Seagulls'.
The Seagull emblem was officially adopted by the Club in 1944, after borrowing the idea from the Williamstown Athletic Club
The Age, December 7 1944 - the legendary Dick Reynolds mentioned as a potential coach of Williamstown after the resumption of the VFA following the Second World War
Arthur Cutting, recruited from Yarraville in 1931, would go on to play 159 senior games for Williamstown until the end of 1945, by which time he was 36yo. He played in the 1939 and 1945 premiership teams, won the 1938 and 1939 VFA Medal (narrowly beating the great Laurie Nash of Camberwell) and tied with Bill Downie of Northcote for the 1938 Recorder Cup, the predecessors of the JJ Liston Trophy. He also won the 1938 and 1939 Club best and fairest awards. His record of 159 games was the most by a Williamstown player until surpassed by Colin Wilcox in 1949.
Ron Todd's post-war contract, signed March 19 1945, for the sum of 5 pounds per match
Upon the resumption in 1945, Bill Dooley snr accepted the presidency and Larry Floyd the secretaryship after an absence of five years, replacing Jim McConville who resumed as treasurer. The Recorder Cup and VFA Medal were merged into one award named the JJ Liston Trophy in honour of the great VFA, Club and municipal leader who passed away in April 1944. Maurie Hearn, vice-captain of Fitzroy's 1944 premiership team, was appointed captain-coach and 'Tarzan' Glass was made vice-captain. Other pre-war players Arthur Cutting, Colin Wilcox and Cliff Johnson returned to the Club, while Des Fothergill went back to Collingwood for family reasons after the VFL declared an amnesty on all players who had left clubs without a clearance. The now 28yo Ron Todd wanted to do likewise as his contract with Williamstown had expired but he was met with an obstinate Magpie committee who were still bitter over his departure in 1940, and Todd eventually re-signed with Williamstown after being 'expelled' by Collingwood, a club for which he had not played since 1939. Harry Vallence transferred to Brighton where he was living and working, while Mattie Cave and Reg Thomas retired. Jack Sexton, who played in the Seconds premiership side of 1941, and Bill Green, who had played previously with Essendon in 1939 and 1940, both transferred to the Bombers. Reg Featherby, Reg Harley and Fred 'Snowy' Matthews were promoted from the Seconds and became regular senior players for a long time. Gordon Ogden, captain-coach of the seniors from 1939-41, played just 7 matches but then retired due to injury after 56 games since 1939. He played a big part in the reforming of the Seconds in 1944. Hugh Torney, who had finished third in the 1940 Brownlow Medal, Jack Vinall and Jack Cockburn, the 1935 Margarey Medal winner with South Adelaide (all Essendon), Geoff Spring and Doug Dowling (both RAAF) and Bruce Chapman (South Melbourne Seconds) were new recruits, while George Archibald transferred from Melbourne and Dick Harris was acquired from Richmond during the year. Athol Teasdale and Stan Fox were local recruits and Norm Chisholm returned from Footscray as did Jack Scott from Richmond.
Victory was attained in the first 6 rounds, the best start to a season since the 9 wins in 1900. This included a 37-point win at Yarraville to begin the season and then a four-point victory at Williamstown over eventual grand final combatant, Port Melbourne. In the match at Preston in round 3, Todd kicked 5 of Williamstown's 7 goals in the first ten minutes of the game before finishing with a score of 11.7 to 1.2 at quarter-time and going on to a 6-goal victory. Todd finished with 13 majors for the game and had notched up 57 goals in the first five rounds, including 20 at Oakleigh in a 130-point win. The first of only three losses for the year came in round 7 at Camberwell, with the Seagulls going down by 6 points to the eventual fourth-placed 'Wellers. There was a 9-goal win over Northcote at Williamstown before they met the undefeated Coburg at Coburg in round 9 in a top-of-the-table clash before a crowd of 21,000 (bigger than five of the six VFL games that day), a record to that point for a VFA home-and-away game. The Lions won by 27 points, 18.16 to 15.7, after kicking 7 unanswered goals in the second quarter. Todd kicked 10.1 from 12 kicks for Williamstown and Jack 'Skinny' Titus 8 for the 'Burgers. Ten consecutive wins followed, including a 90-point victory at Sandringham and a 131-point win over Oakleigh at Pt Gellibrand before Williamstown's first win at Brunswick since 1923 in round 17 and the first victory at Northcote since 1930 in round 19, before the still-undefeated Coburg came to Williamstown in the last home-and-away game. 14,000 spectators (a record for the ground) saw Coburg triumph again, this time by 3 goals, to inflict just the third defeat for the year on the Seagulls. Todd kicked 6 of Williamstown's 12 goals. 'Town would not lose another home game at Pt Gellibrand until round 7 of 1947. Arthur Cutting played his 150th senior match for Williamstown in the round 13 clash with Port Melbourne at Toorak Park (Port's ground was occupied by the armed forces at this time) in a 54-point victory. Former Richmond champion, Dick Harris, made his debut for 'Town in this game and booted 5 goals. The dual VFL premiership player had kicked 548 goals in 196 games with the Tigers from 1934-44, leading the club goalkicking on three occassions and the VFL goalkicking in 1937 when he booted 64 majors.
Ron Todd booted 188 goals in the premiership year of 1945 to set a new Australian record
A record crowd of 17,000 attended the second semi-final at St Kilda when these two teams met again, and this time Williamstown led all day apart from a brief period just before half-time and triumphed, 12.16.88 to 8.23.71, but the previously unbeaten Coburg were without Titus, who missed due to sciatica, on this occasion and kicked 1.12 to the Seagulls' mere two behinds in the last quarter. Port Melbourne knocked Coburg out of the finals the following week in the preliminary final, winning narrowly by just two points, and met Williamstown in the grand final at St Kilda before a crowd of 39,000, the fourth highest attendance in the ground's history. This was the first time that Williamstown and Port Melbourne had met in a grand final despite the fact that they had been competing against each other since 1886.
The Seagulls, despite the absence of Hugh Torney who was out with a knee injury, were untroubled in defeating Port, apart from the Borough kicking the first two goals of the game and the third term when they reduced the margin to just 6 points at one stage. Williamstown failed to goal in the third quarter and the margin was only 7 points at the last change, before they ran out winners by 37 points, 16.21.117 to 10.20.80, thanks to Dick Harris' 3 last quarter goals and with Todd kicking 6 goals to break Bob Pratt's VFA record 183 for Coburg in 1941. The crowd of 40,000, the third largest in Association history, saw 'Town win their fourth premiership and Todd become the new record holder in the second quarter with his second goal amid great applause. 20yo Geoff Spring was the Seagulls' star with three goals, while Reg Ryan, Arthur Cutting, Maurie Hearn, Reg Featherby, Norm Chisholm, Cliff Johnson and Ron Todd were prominent. Todd was in possession of the ball when the final bell rang, and he elected to 'souvenir' it rather than add another goal to his tally, a decision that would have ramifications in the 1949 play-off.
Williamstown's 1945 premiership team was:
B. Reg Harley Reg Ryan Bruce Chapman
HB. Arthur Cutting Colin Wilcox Cliff Johnson
C. Norm Chisholm Reg Featherby Ben Le Seuer
HF. Geoff Spring Maurie Hearn (c.c.) Fred Matthews
F. Eric Glass (v.c.) Ron Todd Dick Harris
Foll. George Archibald Jack Cockburn
Rov. Doug Dowling
Res. Athol Teasdale
Todd's 188 goals made him the first Williamstown player to head the Association's goalkicking at the end of a season since Len Mortimer in 1905, something even the great Harry 'Soapy' Vallence couldn't achieve. The feat was also an Australian senior football record. Over the 22 games for the season, he averaged 8.5 goals and his return of 20 at Oakleigh in round 5 equalled the Club record, shared with Vallence. In the return match at Williamstown he kicked 13 and in the sole meeting with Sandringham he booted 11, the same total he kicked in the round 8 clash with Northcote. He also got 10 against Brunswick on the two occassions they met during the year. Although Todd had the advantage of playing against some inferior defences, he kicked 48.9% of the team's total scoring for the year and booted at least 5 goals in every game except the second semi-final against Coburg when he played at centre half-forward and was held to three by Coburg's Ron Wilson on a wet day where it hailed during the second quarter.
36yo Arthur Cutting (159 games, 1931-45, the Club record) and 35yo Eric 'Tarzan' Glass (82 games, 1939-45) both retired after the grand final, although Glass became coach of the Seconds in 1946, and the Club's first interstate trip was undertaken, to Broken Hill for a 10-day visit and an exhibition game against Coburg for the Silver City Challenge Cup, won by the 'Burgers 16.18 to 12.8. Secretary in 1921 and for part of 1922, Les Thompson, collapsed and died while watching a football match in Canberra in August.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1945 season, which was held at the Town Hall in February 1946, trophies were presented to the following players: Fred 'Snowy' Matthews (Club best and fairest in his senior debut year), Colin Wilcox (best and fairest runner-up, for the fourth time), George Archibald (best utility player), Ron Todd (goalkicking record), Norm Chisholm (most consistent), Bruce Chapman (most improved), Reg Featherby (special services) and Geoff Spring and Reg Harley (best first-year players).
The 1945 Williamstown grand final squad and starting positions v. Port Melbourne at St Kilda's Junction Oval on Saturday, October 6, crowd 40,000
Todd kicked 6 goals in the grand final to give him an Australian record of 188 for the 1945 season
Argus, October 8, 1945
The Age, October 8 1945
The Age, October 8 1945
Weekly Times, October 10 1945
Williamstown undertook their first interstate end-of-season trip to Broken Hill in October 1945
The Coburg team included future Richmond star, Des Rowe (#11), and former Richmond star, Jack Titus (#12), as well as future Club games record-holder, Dave Starbuck (#16)
The Herald, May 1 1946
Maurie Hearn moved on to Port Fairy where he took over a hotel, and Collingwood vice-captain, Alan Williams, after 115 games for the Magpies since 1938, was appointed in his stead for the 1946 season with Ron Todd as vice-captain. Hearn would go on to have the the distiction of playing in three successive premierships for different teams in different competitions, ie Fitzroy in 1944, Williamstown in 1945 and Pt Fairy in 1946. Other than Arthur Cutting and 'Tarzan' Glass, Hugh Torney, Eddie Deller (130 games and 1939 premiership player), Ben Le Sueur, Jack Cockburn and Cliff Johnson all moved on, although Johnson did play one senior game during the year. Gordon Ogden had retired during 1945. Geoff Spring trained with Richmond but decided to stay at Williamstown but Doug Dowling went to South Melbourne and played just 4 games, spending most of the year in the Seconds. Reg Ryan went to North Melbourne in June without a clearance after 10 games for the Club, only the second Williamstown player to do so in the past 20 years. Bill 'Bomber' Wells joined after 14 games with North Melbourne and 22 with St Kilda, Lou Salvas returned from Hawthorn, 16yo rover Mal MacPherson from West Footscray and Gordon 'Kisser' Cameron from Carlton were other newcomers. Locals Theo Greenland, Harold Peacock and 19yo Murray McRae were other additions. 1939 premiership player, George Fitch, made a comeback but then transferred to Yarraville as did Jack Scarffe. Jack Sullivan came to 'Town from Richmond before clearances closed on June 30. 'Soapy' Vallence, at almost 41 years of age, also played against Williamstown in this season for Brighton and kicked 6 goals in the round 2 game at Elsternwick but only two in the return clash at Williamstown. He retired at the end of the season, despite kicking 11 in his last game and booting 77 for the season. The Seagulls won both games against Brighton. Vallence had played only two games in 1945 due to a back injury, neither of which was against Williamstown.
Gordon 'Kisser' Cameron joined Williamstown in June 1946 after 17 games with Carlton, following a 'serious difference of opinion with coach Perce Bentley'. He played with The Seagulls until 1950, then went to Wagga North as playing coach in 1951 before returning in 1952 to make two more appearances before retiring after 81 games. He played in the 1948 grand final and the 1949 premiership team.
The Age, April 15 1946
The premiership flag of 1945 was unfurled by Muriel Dooley, wife of president Bill Dooley, prior to the opening home match of the season against Yarraville on April 13. Williamstown were victorious by 88 points, with Ron Todd booting 13 goals
The Age, April 15 1946
The season commenced promisingly with four consecutive victories where a total of 91 goals were kicked by 'Town, including 27 against Yarraville in an 88-point victory, 29 over Brighton in a 43-point win and 20 against eventual premier, Sandringham, in round 3 at Williamstown in an 89-point triumph. The score of 29.12 at Elsternwick was the highest score by any club during the 1946 season. Another 15 goals were kicked in a 10-point win at Preston before going down at Coburg by a solitary behind, 12.14.86 to 11.19.85, in round 5. There was a 6-goal defeat at Port Melbourne, 19.21.135 to 12.28.100, in round 9 which was lost in the first quarter when Williamstown kicked 2.12 with the wind before a draw at Pt Gellibrand with eventual runner-up, Camberwell, in round 10 before a crowd of 11,000. This preceded a surprise loss at Brunswick the following week before five consecutive victories, including a second win over eventual premier, Sandringham, this time by 38 points.
The round 18 clash at Williamstown with fellow finalist, Port Melbourne, which resulted in a 7-point victory thanks to a last-minute goal from Bill 'Bomber' Wells, was eventful in that it was discovered after the game that two of Williamstown's premiership pennants were missing. When it was reported that two men had been seen leaving the ground with suspicious bundles under their coats, Wells and Ron Todd went in pursuit of the two suspects and, when they were located, a short scuffle ensued before the flags were returned to the ground by the two players. Todd once again bought up a century of goals with a haul of 9 majors in the round 16 game against Coburg at Williamstown in a 34-point victory. He also created another record by booting 36 goals in the first three games of the season (13 v. Yarraville in round 1, 11 v. Brighton in round 2 and 12 v. Sandringham in round 3), which had never been achieved previously in either League or Association football.
The Argus, August 26 1946
Williamstown v. Sandringham, round 3 1946 at Williamstown, won by the Seagulls by 89 points, 20.16.136 to 7.5.47 with Ron Todd booting 12 goals and Dick Harris best player. This saw Todd kick 36 goals in the first three games of the season, following bags of 13 in the opening round against Yarraville at Williamstown and 11 against Brighton at Elsternwick Park the following week. Williamstown players shown in the photo are Fred 'Snowy' Matthews on the left and Mal Macpherson on the right.
The team was never far from the top all season and finished in second spot at the completion of the home-and-away rounds but lost the second semi-final at St Kilda to Camberwell, 12.19.91 to 11.14.80, after looking the winner until half-way through the last quarter, when the Cobras broke away to establish a handy lead. The Seagulls fought back magnificently and almost snatched the game after Harris and Macpherson goaled before Wells missed from 5 yards out. When Salvas scored a major with a 70-yard kick, Williamstown were just 4 points in arrears. Camberwell scored a behind before Todd, who failed to kick a goal all day, marked on the half-forward line and elected to throw-pass the ball instead of taking a shot at goal. Camberwell swooped on the ball and rushed it upfield for a goal to end the game. Todd injured an ankle in this game and missed the preliminary final against Sandringham.
Williamstown senior team 1946, pictured before the round 4 match at Preston, which Williamstown won by 10 points, 15.10.100 to 12.18.90 (Todd 8 goals, Williams best player)
Back row: George Archibald, Reg 'Dodger' Ryan, Hugh McPherson, Lou Salvas, Colin Wilcox, Andy Taylor, Bruce Chapman, Jim Ronald
Centre row: Reg Featherby, Geoff Spring, Fred 'Snowy' Matthews, Alan Williams (captain-coach), Ron Todd (vice-captain), Bill 'Bomber' Wells, Stan 'Nuggett' Jamieson
Front row: Mal Macpherson, Reg Harley, Jack Henry, Dick 'Hungry' Harris
The preliminary final, also at St Kilda, drew a record preliminary crowd of 24,000 and, after an 8 goal to 1 third quarter, the Seagulls were 40 points in front at the last change against Sandringham, in their first finals appearance since joining the VFA in 1929. Aided by a strong breeze, the Zebras rallied with 7.7 to Williamstown's 1.2 to win by just one point, 16.19.115 to 16.18.114. Dick Harris and Mal MacPherson both kicked 5 goals in Ron Todd's absence through injury, and Lou Salvas, Colin Wilcox, Reg Harley and Harris were best for 'Town. Williamstown had beaten Sandringham by 89 points at Williamstown in round 3 and by 38 points at Sandringham in round 13. Todd kicked 13, 11 and 12 goals in the first three rounds and ended up with 114 to lead the Association goalscorers once again. Dick Harris was third with 87. Harris, a rover, kicked 10 against Preston at Williamstown in round 15. 21yo Reg Harley won the first of two successive best and fairest awards in just his second season of senior football from Fred Matthews. At the end of the season, Williamstown played and defeated Camberwell in Launceston on Caulfield Cup Day, the second such interstate end-of-season trip undertaken by the Club. During the season, the bootstudder, M. McGregor passed away, as did life members M. Roach and G. Williams. Colin Wilcox played his 100th senior game for the Club during the season.
One highlight of the season was Williamstown winning the inaugural VFA lighting premiership at St Kilda on June 29 and receiving the JJ Liston Shield, named in honour of the late 'Town and Association president who had passed away during the war recess on April 12, 1944. It was contested by all twelve teams, and the Seagulls defeated Port Melbourne by two points (16-14) and Oakleigh by 19 points (26-7) to advance to the grand final against Prahran, which was won 4.3.27 to 1.3.9. Due to its position on the home-and-away ladder at the time, Williamstown did not contest the first round of games and played one less match than the Two Blues, who had lost their captain-coach, Keith Stackpole senior, to a knee injury earlier in the day and only had a 10-minute break before contesting the final. The lightning premiership was not seen again until the period 1972-79.
The Age, July 1 1946
The 1946 season was marked by a number of serious injuries, most notably the severely broken leg sustained by 1945 premiership ruckman George Archibald at Williamstown against Brighton in round 13, which ended his career with the Seagulls. Andy Taylor also suffered a severe leg injury, while Reg Featherby, Colin Wilcox, Jack Sullivan, Harold Peacock, Ron Todd, Geoff Spring, captain-coach Alan Williams, Norm Chisholm, Gordon Cameron, Lou Salvas, Stan Jamieson and Frank Hughes jnr were all regular players who missed games through injuries. In the game at Sandringham in round 14, only the full-forward of the entire goal-to-goal line of the previous week was available.
The Argus, June 18 1946 - a scene from the round 10 clash at Williamstown which ended in a draw and played in front of a crowd of 10,000-12,000. Todd kicked 7 goals out of a total of 13.12.90 to Camberwell's 12.18.90. 21yo back pocket, Reg Harley (#9), was the best and fairest player for 'Town in 1946.
Alan Williams and Ron Todd were re-appointed captain-coach and vice-captain, respectively, for the 1947 season, and new recruits included Alf Sampson after 60 games with Footscray and Doug Dowling returned from South Melbourne. Keith Abberton, Norm Bernard, Joe Lyon and Ken May were promising juniors who joined. Norm Chisholm, after more than 90 games, transferred to Newport as captain-coach during the season, as did Dick Harris at Yarraville after playing 5 games in 1947 and 37 in total for the Seagulls and registering 145 goals. Bill Wells went to Murtoa as captain-coach, Jack Sullivan crossed to Hobart as captain-coach, Hugh McPherson dropped out and Stan Jamieson finally retired after 69 games.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1946 season, held at the Town Hall in January 1947, incumbent president, Bill Dooley snr, announced his resignation after being in the role since 1942, due to his racing committments. He was replaced by Alf Urban, who deputised for Dooley during his unavoidable absences at games throughout the previous season. Urban had been a vice-president in 1945 and 1946. Secretary since 1945 in his second stint in that position, Larry Floyd, also stepped down due to his municipal duties and many public interests. Harry Black, who was a committeeman in 1945 and assistant secretary in 1946, was elected in his stead.
1947 was similar to the year before with four consecutive victories to open the season, including a 76-point win over Northcote at Williamstown in round 3, before going down by 5 goals at Port Melbourne to the eventual premier. They bounced back to down eventual runner-up, Sandringham, by 50 points at Williamstown in round 6, before two narrow wins at Coburg (1 point) and Preston (2 points) preceded a loss at Oakleigh by 2 points. Five consecutive victories followed, including a 20-point win over Port at Pt Gellibrand, followed by 3 losses in the last six home-and-away games, including a 12-goal thumping at the hands of Brighton, which did not even make the finals, in round 21. The team sat in either first or second position on the ladder all season and eventually finished with 16 wins by the end of the home-and-away rounds to finish in second spot behind Port, who they lost to in the second semi-final by 5 goals, despite leading by 28 points at quarter-time and being level at three-quarter time before falling away as Port came home with the wind and added 6.10 to 2.5 for 'Town to go down by 29 points.
Captain-coach Alan Williams could not play in the preliminary final against Sandringham due to injury. This game was almost a repeat of the previous year's meeting, with Williamstown leading by 31 points at the last change, which increased to 39 points early in the last quarter, before the Zebras, with the advantage of the wind, added 7.8 to the Seagulls' 2.4 to hit the front shortly before the siren to run out winners by three points. Williamstown's score of 16.18.114 was exactly the same as the year before. Despite the narrow defeats in the 1946 and 1947 preliminary finals, since the resumption of VFA senior football after the war recess, Williamstown had won 49 of 68 matches played with one draw, and many of the 18 losses were by small margins and only two of the defeats were at Pt Gellibrand. These were the losses to Coburg in the last home-and-away game of 1945 and to Prahran in round 7 of 1947. The draw was with Camberwell at Williamstown in round 10 of 1946.
Advertisement from the Emerald Hill Record, August 9, 1947 of a women's football match at Port Melbourne
Once again, injuries played a big part in the team's fortunes during the season, with captain-coach Alan Williams having two absences including the vital preliminary final, Fred Matthews suffering head, kidney and foot injuries, while Gordon Cameron broke a finger then suffered a leg injury at Prahran and then fractured ribs at Port Melbourne. Others to miss were Bruce Chapman (cut head and badly bruised chest and shoulder), Norm Chisholm (head injury), Dick Harris (facial injury), Reg Featherby (broken finger), Colin Wilcox (knee injury), Alf Sampson (leg injury), Mal Macpherson (hip), Harold Peacock (knee), Geoff Spring (shoulder) and 17yo Henry Taylor in his senior debut suffered a badly jarred ankle.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1947 season, held at the Town Hall on January 28 1948, Alf Urban was re-elected president, while life memberships were awarded to George Flett and Jack Le Brun for the current season and to Jim McConville, Bill McLeay, Bill Dooley and Fred Harsley in respect of the war recess. Trophies were presented to 22yo back pocket player, Reg Harley, who was again best and fairest for the year from Doug Dowling while Harold Peacock was best first-year player and Geoff Spring was the most effective player. Harley had not missed a game since making his debut in 1945 and was also voted the VFA's best player in a public poll conducted by The Sporting Globe. Ron Todd won the Club's goalkicking honours for the third consecutive season with 82, which was fifth on the VFA list, whilst Mal MacPherson kicked 58 and Doug Dowling 55. Todd played his 100th senior game for Williamstown in the losing preliminary final and kicked his 500th goal during the season. President of the Club in the first premiership year of 1907, Bob Ferguson, passed away in 1947 as did former players, William Fagg 'Jasper' Jones on March 9 aged 84yo (118 games, 1885-86, 1888-91, 1893), Alick 'Roodie' McKenzie (74 games, 1903-06 and 1909-11) and Charlie 'Jigger' Viney (50 games, 1899-1903). Former committeeman, Bert Clasper, also passed away. Former senior player, Jack Vinall, was in charge of the reserves, which reached the finals and beat Port in the first semi but was beaten by eventual runner-up, Prahran, in the preliminary.
Sporting Globe, September 17 1947
Apart from winning the Club best and fairest award for the second year running, 22yo back pocket player, Reg Harley, was also voted the VFA's best player in a public poll conducted by the Sporting Globe
Williamstown Chronicle, January 23 1948 - Doug Dowling was runner-up in the 1947 best and fairest award but lost form badly in 1948 and played his last senior game in round 5 before being cleared to Oakleigh
The 1948 team at Williamstown before the round 1 match against Yarraville with captain Ron Todd at the front, followed by vice-captain Lou Salvas, Theo Greenland, Alf Sampson, Colin Wilcox, Murray McRae, Harold Peacock, Alan Williams, Bruce Chapman, Reg Featherby, Jack Danckert, Mal MacPherson, Gordon Williams, Henry Taylor, Gordon Cameron, Danny Knott, Les Gardner and Doug Dowling. 19th man Joe Lyons is not shown. The Seagulls won by 56 points, 18.24.132 to 10.16.76, with Todd kicking 10 goals and Alan Williams best player.
Alan Williams bought a guesthouse at Healsville during the off-season which prevented him continuing as coach in 1948 but he indicated that he would be able to play on. 1939 premiership captain-coach, Gordon Ogden, was appointed to the vacant post from a big field of applicants, the first non-playing coach since Jim Toohey in 1931-32. Ron Todd and Lou Salvas were selected as captain and vice-captain respectively. After 68 consecutive games, Reg Harley went to South Melbourne in exchange for Jack Danckert and Fred Bishop, while Geoff Spring, after 51 games with 'Town, transferred to Richmond in exchange for Danny Knott and Ted Ryan returned from Collingwood while Les 'Bubba' Gardner transferred from St Kilda. Good locals who joined up included Gordon Williams, Johnny Walker and Bill Sheahan. Bill Redmond came later as a result of a dispute between Carlton and North Melbourne which led to him being disqualified as a VFL player and Williamstown swooped on him. Best and fairest runner-up in 1947, Doug Dowling, lost form badly and was cleared to Oakleigh early in the season after 44 games, and Norm Bernard dropped out during the year. Larry Floyd returned to the secretary's post in this year after Harry Black stepped down from the role due to his career in the banking industry but continued on as a vice-president.
The season got off to a shaky start, and three successive defeats in May saw the team in seventh spot on the ladder, its lowest placing since 1938, and defeats were suffered in 4 of the first 7 games. One of the victories was over Yarraville for the eighth consecutive season in round one and at Brunswick, which finished second on the ladder, by 7 points in round 2. A run of wins, triggered by a 101-point victory over Prahran at Williamstown in round 8, carried the team back in to the four by round 10. This stretch of victories extended to 13, including victories over the three other finalists, Brighton (19 points), Northcote (63 points) and Brunswick for the second time (22 points), to give the Seagulls top place on the ladder at the conclusion of the home-and-away rounds, for the first time since 1940, on percentage from Brunswick following their loss to Oakleigh in the final home-and-away game. The Seagulls were the only team of the previous year's finalists to make the four, something which had only occurred once before in VFA history in 1929. Port Melbourne, the premier team of 1947, tumbled down to 11th place in 1948. In 1924 both the previous year's grand finalists missed the final four.
Williamstown's reserves premiership team of 1948, which narrowly defeated Oakleigh in the grand final, 15.16.106 to 14.18.102
Although Williamstown had won both contests during the season, the 'Wicks were flag favourites leading up to the second semi clash at St Kilda. 15,000 people saw 'Town win easily, 17.13.115 to 9.20.74, equalling the previous Club record of 14 consecutive victories in 1939/40 and would not be bettered until the 20 successive wins of 1956/57. Best players were Colin Wilcox, Alan Williams, Murray McRae, Ted Ryan, Harold Peacock, Gordon Cameron and Freddie Matthews. This was the Seagulls first win in a final since the 1945 premiership. The Seconds also defeated Coburg, 12.19.91 to 12.14.86, earlier in the day.
Williamstown's 1948 grand final team was:
B. Jack Danckert Alf Sampson Murray McRae
HB. Colin Wilcox Gordon Cameron Theo Greenland
C. Bill Sheahan Ted Ryan Reg Featherby
HF. Ron Todd (c.) Harold Peacock Fred Matthews
F. Lou Salvas (v.c.) Bill Redmond Alan Collins
Foll. Alan Williams Bruce Chapman
Rov. Mal Macpherson
Res. Johnny Walker Danny Knott
Coach Gordon Ogden
The Williamstown-Brighton grand final attracted a crowd of just 18,000 due to the drawn VFL grand final being re-played the same day. After getting away to a good start in the drizzling conditions to lead by 11 points at quarter time, the Seagulls then found themselves trailing for most of the game after the Penguins added 5 goals in the second quarter, despite their star full-forward, Keith Warburton, being carried off with concussion. They got back to within a point of Brighton in the last quarter after a goal from vice-captain, Lou Salvas, before the Penguins replied and then managed to hold on to win their first VFA premiership by 9 points, 13.16.94 to 13.7.85. Williamstown's fortunes dived when ruckman and former captain-coach, Alan Williams, was stretchered from the field at the start of the third quarter with the recurrence of a leg injury. Former 'Town player, Tom New, who played 7 senior games in 1941 and won the Seconds best and fairest in that premiership year for the Reserves team, was named amongst the best players for Brighton. Best for Williamstown was rover Mal Macpherson, whilst Alf Sampson, Jack Danckert, Ron Todd and Murray McRae were other good players.
This was the first time that Williamstown had been runners-up since 1924. Todd kicked only one goal and lost form and confidence during the season and ended up playing on a half-forward flank and kicked just 55 goals for the year, which included 10 in round 1 against Yarraville. 19yo Mal Macpherson led the Club goalkicking with 59 which gave him 10th place on the VFA list, while Colin Wilcox finally won the best and fairest award from Alan Williams, after being runner-up on four occassions previously. The Seconds won the premiership, beating Oakleigh in the grand final by just 4 points, 15.16.106 to 14.18.102. Former senior player of 1945/46, Jack Vinall, was captain-coach with Jimmy McKnight the vice-captain. Bill Turnbull was awarded the Roy Smith Trophy for the best full-back in the VFA Seconds, a feat he would repeat in 1949. The VFA introduced an extra reserve player in this season, bringing the number to two on the bench.
Sporting Globe, October 6 1948 - Former St Kilda player (165 games, 44 goals 1937-46) Colin Williamson was Brighton's captain-coach in the 1948 grand final against Williamstown, coached by Gordon Ogden and captained by Ron Todd. It would prove to be the Penguins' first and only VFA premiership.
Argus, October 11, 1948
Former vice-captain of 1936-37 and captain-coach of 1938, George Jerram, passed away on May 20 at the age of 43 after suffering a fractured skull from hitting the footpath following an incident outside the Cricket Club Hotel in Clarendon Street, South Melbourne. He played 45 games and kicked 19 goals from 1936-38. Other former players in Eddie Hall (1899-1906, 71 games) and Vic Manderson (1901-06, 60 games), both life members, as well as former vice-president and committeeman, Harry Roberts, passed on during the year. Another interstate end-of-season trip was undertaken to Adelaide and Port Lincoln in late October.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1948 season, held at the Town Hall in February 1949, life memberships were awarded to Bill Thompson, a committeeman since 1937 and also property steward, and Albert Wilkins, a committeeman from 1936-38, assistant secretary from 1939-40, treasurer 1941-42 then vice-president 1945-49. At the meeting secretary, Larry Floyd, outlined the Club's position on the move to drop the VFA's unique rules in an attempt to join the Australian National Football Council (ANFC). He pointed out that there was no amalgamation with the VFL proposed or a promotion/relegation system between the two Victorian bodies, but rather it was an attempt to get the VFA to fall into line with the other States under the one organisation. The only advantages would be that the Association would no longer be an outcast, would be permitted to have a voice (but not a vote) within the ANFC and would be allowed to send teams interstate without the hostility that presided at the time. In return the VFA would have to drop its unique rules such as the throwpass, revert to its permit agreement with the League and cease to be the virile body it had previously been in football politics and become a second state eighteen behind the VFL. The 1940's were finished and with the closing of the decade went one of the VFA's brightest eras.
Previous experience under the ANFC banner had almost impoverished the Association and, since going alone, had established a reserve of thousands of pounds. Mr Floyd stated that the Club would only support an amalgamation with the VFL on an equitable basis where the VFA premier team was promoted each season to replace the lowest League team. Anything else was of no interest to the Club and Williamstown was one of three Association clubs (Oakleigh and Yarraville being the other two) to vote against the motion to affiliate in August 1949, which was ultimately carried 18-7, and in November the VFA joined the ANFC.
Williamstown's team, pictured prior to the round 11 game against Preston at Williamstown on July 10, 1948, which the Seagulls won 15.16.106 to 9.11.65, with Mal Macpherson kicking 5 goals and Gordon Cameron best player
Back row: Bruce Chapman, Ted Ryan, Harold Peacock, Murray McRae, Alf Sampson, Theo Greenland, Reg Featherby, Mal Macpherson
Middle row: Bill Sheahan, Colin Wilcox, Johnny Walker, Lou Salvas (vc), Ron Todd (c), Gordon Cameron, Jack Danckert, Alan Williams, Jack Gabriel
Front row: Bill Redmond, Fred Matthews, Alan Collins
The disappointment of three unsuccessful seasons was swept away in 1949 when the Club won its fifth pennant and the third since 1939, defeating Oakleigh at St Kilda in an epic grand final. The team finished the home-and-away rounds on top with 16 wins from 21 matches, once again under the coaching of Gordon Ogden and with Ron Todd as captain in his last season, and the last year that the VFA used the throw-pass. Colin Wilcox became vice-captain after Lou Salvas was occupied with his foot running until early in the season. Alan Williams retired to concentrate on his Healsville guesthouse, Harold Peacock went to America for seven months for work while visiting his sister who had moved there after the war (but returned and was controversially included in the last home-and-away game against Yarraville without any training) while Ted Ryan transferred to Stawell, Joe Lyons became captain-coach of Kaniva Districts FC and Dan Knott moved on. Alan Strang came across from South Melbourne, while local talent in John Molyneux, Charlie McLaren, Lou Barker and Max Hughes joined the Club. Bill 'Bomber' Wells returned from coaching Murtoa (1947) and East Ballarat (1948) and opened a business in Port Melbourne and asked for a clearance to the Borough. This was granted, but after 8 inconspicous games, including one against Williamstown in round 3, he was cleared back to the Seagulls and was soon starring and played a magnificent game in the return clash with Port at Williamstown in round 14 in a 10-point victory.
Williamstown met Preston in the opening round after having played Yarraville in round 1 every season since 1929, in the VFA's 'neighbourly' first game tradition. A 13-point win at Preston was followed by a 2-goal victory against Brunswick at Pt Gellibrand before the season's first defeat at Port Melbourne in round 3 by 14 points, which saw the Seagulls drop to fifth on the ladder. Four successive wins followed, including one over fellow-finalist, Coburg, by 8 points in round 5. A defeat by 21 points at Oakleigh, the eventual runner-up, preceded another string of four victories, including one over the eventual third-placed, Brighton, by 50 points in round 11, to set up the season with 8 wins in 9 games. Three defeats over the next six weeks, including surprising losses to Prahran and Northcote which finished third and fourth last at season's end, saw 'Town drop to second on the ladder. Top spot was regained by the end of the home-and-away games with three consecutive wins, including one over eventual runner-up, Oakleigh, by 7 points at Williamstown played in gale-force conditions, where 14.42 was kicked to one end of the ground and 3.3 to the other. The year's highest score and biggest victory (by 88 points) came at Camberwell in round 20 (Todd 11 goals), after the Cobras led at quarter-time in what was regarded as a danger game for the Seagulls. The final match against the eventual last-placed Yarraville was eventful in that Williamstown led by 11 goals at three-quarter time after kicking 8.8 to NIL in the third quarter before the Eagles added 10.5 to 1.1 to almost snatch the game, before the Seagulls fell over the line by 8 points. This marked the first time that the Club had appeared in 5 consecutive final series, and the team had finished either first or second in every season since the resumption after the war recess. Furthermore, Williamstown was unbeaten at home in 1949, a feat it had also achieved in 1940 and 1946, although there was a draw against Camberwell in round 10 of the latter season. In 1945, 1947 and 1948 only one home game was lost and in 1941 three defeats occurred at Pt Gellibrand. Taking into account the Second World War recess, the Seagulls had played 70 home games across the decade for 63 victories, 6 defeats and the draw.
Williamstown Chronicle, September 16 1949, list of available players for second semi-final team v. Oakleigh
Williamstown met Oakleigh in the second semi at St Kilda in front of 23,000 spectators. The Oaks, who were the only finalist to beat 'Town during the season, led at every change by 20, 26 and 22 points and it was only the Seagulls' compact defence, led most notably by 'Bomber' Wells, that kept the lead within bounds, but with Oakleigh's mounting injury toll the Seagulls fought back and Ron Todd's 7th goal in time-on in the last quarter gave them the lead and they hung on to win, 14.13.97 to 13.14.92. Oakleigh then beat reigning premier, Brighton, by 15 points in the preliminary to face 'Town in the grand final.
The Age, September 19, 1949
Grand Final day provided some early thrills for the 40,000 spectators, the third highest in VFA history, when Port seconds staged a great last quarter (after being held scoreless in the third quarter) to draw with Williamstown reserves, 9.17.71 apiece. The senior game was almost a repeat of the second semi with Oakleigh leading at every change, by 7, 25 and 3 points at three-quarter time, after Todd booted three goals for the term. 'Town took the lead in the last quarter through goals to Todd and Keith Abberton but Oakleigh fought on and regained the lead when its captain-coach, George Smeaton, goaled from the boundary.
With time almost gone in the last term and the Oaks leading by 3 points, 'Bomber' Wells accused Oakleigh opponent, Vic Hill, of wasting time after receiving a free kick on Oakleigh's half-forward line and then placing the ball on the ground and pulling up his socks. The umpire agreed and, after reversing the free kick, Wells' roost went deep into the forward line where, after a ball-up, Todd gained possession and handballed to Freddy Matthews who passed it to Johnny Walker who then emerged with the ball and kicked a goal from a very narrow angle with 22 seconds remaining to take the lead for Williamstown. There was only time for the ball to be returned to the centre and bounced before the siren sounded to herald a Seagull win by 3 points, 10.5.65 to 8.14.62, with Walker collapsing with severe cramp and exhaustion and being stretchered from the ground. Many considered Lou Salvas to be the real hero of the victory with his ruck-work in the third term which kept Williamstown in the game. Others to play well were Theo Greenland, John Molyneux, Keith Abberton, Jack Danckert, Bill Wells, Gordon Cameron, Colin Wilcox and Billy Sheahan.
Ron Todd needed six goals in the grand final to give him 1,000 in senior VFL/VFA football but he kicked 5.3 to leave him stranded on 999. He considered playing on in 1950 to reach the milestone but an overseas trip stopped him. It was argued that Todd was deprived of a goal in a game in 1940 and, had Club officials got the records corrected, Todd would not have only been celebrated with 1,000 career goals but the Club would have had two century goalkickers in the one season, Todd and 'Soapy' Vallence, a record that surely would never have been beaten. Todd also missed 4 games in his final season when suspended earlier in the season for striking Sandringham's Ian Brown and finished with 95 goals, runner-up to Keith Warburton of Brighton with 101. Mal MacPherson celebrated his 21st birthday on grand final day and by season's end had registered 78 games and 192 goals in three seasons with one premiership. Reg Featherby, considered by some observers to be the best exponent of the throw-pass at Williamstown, won the Club's best and fairest from Alf Sampson and Bill Wells. John Molyneux was best first-year player. The Club's record since the resumption after the war was being finalists 5 years in a row, which was a Club record to that time, and from 113 matches since 1945, 84 were won, 1 drawn and 28 defeats suffered, with only 3 of those defeats occurring in the 52 games played at Williamstown. During the season, Colin Wilcox passed Arthur Cutting's record of 159 senior games and had 173 by season's end. The Seconds, still under the control of coach, Jack Vinall, lost the grand final replay to Port, 12.25.97 to 11.8.74. John Leonard won the reserves best and fairest award while Bill Turnbull won the Roy Smith Trophy for the best full-back in the VFA Seconds for the second consecutive season.
Sporting Globe, September 28 1949 - the grand final was Ron Todd's last game of football before embarking on an overseas trip to the USA and UK
The Argus, October 1 1949
The Age, October 1 1949
Ron Todd flies for a mark in the grand final while Lou Salvas #2 looks on
Williamstown's Norm Bernard attempts a spectacular mark during the grand final
Ron Todd #1 attempts to mark in the grand final while Mal Macpherson, who turned 21 years old on the day, waits for the ball to drop.
The Herald, October 1 1949 - Murray McRae and Oakleigh's Alan Scott in a contest for the ball in the grand final
The Herald, October 1 1949
The Argus, October 3 1949
Captain Ron Todd and coach Gordon Ogden embrace after the final siren
Williamstown Chronicle, October 7 1949
Sporting Globe, October 1 1949 - the total for 1948 should read 55 rather than 65
1949 premiership squad
The 1949 premiership flag, pictured here in 2021
Williamstown's 1949 premiership team was:
B. Jack Danckert Alf Sampson Theo Greenland
H.B. Bill Wells Gordon Cameron Colin Wilcox (v.c)
C. Lou Barker Reg Featherby Bill Sheahan
H.F. Gordon Williams Allan Strang Johnny Walker
F. Keith Abberton Ron Todd (c.) Johnny Molyneux
Foll. Murray McRae Lou Salvas
Rov. Mal Macpherson
Res. Norm Bernard Fred Matthews
Coach: Gordon Ogden
The tragedy of the season was the passing of Andy Taylor, who had joined the Club as a 16yo from Williamstown High School in 1941. A knee injury sustained in the war stopped him playing regularly after the cessation, and he put his legs in irons for 12 months in an effort to get fit again. He played some games with the Seconds in 1949 and was selected in the seniors for a game at Coburg in round 16 on July 30 but was forced off the ground in the third quarter with a recurrence of the knee problem. He then passed away tragically on September 20, less than two months later, at the age of just 25 after 26 games and 15 goals. The Club's best and fairest award was named The Andy Taylor Memorial from 1951 until 1999, inclusive. The Club's first-ever premiership captain in 1907, Ted/Ned Alley, who played 160 games and kicked 20 goals with the Club from 1905-15, also passed away on July 18 aged 67, as did former president of the Club in 1939/40 and life member, Fred 'Pop' Harsley, in early May after a long illness. Former players, Harry Stock (1925-29) and Cyril 'Pompy' Blunt (1921), were others the Club lost during the year. The fifth consecutive interstate end-of-season trip took place in October, when 63 players, officials and supporters, aboard the vessel 'The Spirit', travelled to Wollongong and Sydney and an exhibition match was played at Wollongong against a combined Illawarra-Sydney team in continuous rain on October 9.
Sporting Globe, October 1 1949
Ted/Ned Alley, pictured here on a 1909 Sniders & Abrahams trading card, was Williamstown's first premiership captain in 1907 after the incumbent captain-coach, Paddy Noonan, sensationally resigned prior to the first final against Footscray. Alley played 160 games and kicked 20 goals with the Club from 1905-15, and was also captain-coach for part of 1911 and captain in 1915, the season before the World War I recess, his final year with the Villagers. Alley passed away at his home in Canterbury on July 18, 1949, aged 67.
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.
For a more detailed analysis of the period from 1950 onwards, please refer to the respective decades under the 'HISTORY' tab on the website
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 skillful and well coached by Carter and Callahan and the string of premierships was fair reward for an era of good management and hard work.
Gerry Callahan, champion ruckman and defender of the 1950's, played in five premiership teams, two as captain-coach
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 – leading goalkicker (1964) and best and fairest winner (1966) 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 Papley, recruited as captain-coach in 1968 and took Williamstown to three grand finals, winning in 1969
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.
Captain-coach, Terry Wheeler, with Club president, Tony Hannebery, and new recruit, Barry Round, at Round's first night at training 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.
Scenes in the rooms after the 1990 grand final with Jack Aziz, Brian Patterson, trainer John Hogg, a young David Round and father Barry with the cup
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 spirit of the players who remained with the Club in that period, such as Tony Pastore, Saade Ghazi, Adam Bugeja, Richie Hore, Adam Hough, Tommy McGowan and Troy West, amongst others, was quite remarkable, as many others left for 'greener pastures'.
Grim headlines at the end of the winless 1995 season, the worst year in the Club's long history
The cycle turned in 1996 with the appointment of new President Greg Swann and General Manager Brendan Curry who procured 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.
Successful Williamstown coach, Brad Gotch, with co-captains, Troy West and Brad Lloyd, and the 2003 premiership cup
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 and recipient of the Norm Goss Memorial Medal.
Williamstown captain Ben Jolley with coach Andy Collins and the 2015 premiership cup
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 (2008-2018)
Goals record holder: Ron Todd 672 (1940-1949)
Most premierships as coach: Wally Carter 3 (1954-55-56)
Longest-serving coach: Gerry Callahan 202 games (1958-67, 118 wins, 81 losses, 3 draws)
Longest-serving captain: 6 seasons, Gerry Callahan (1954-59) and Ben Jolley (2012-17)
Most premierships as player: 5 Gerry Callahan, Ray Smith, John Ramsay (1954-55-56-58-59)
Longest-serving president: Trevor Monti 17 years (1999-2015)
Longest winning sequence: 22 (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)
*The award was then known as The Recorder Cup. Stanbridge also won the VFA Medal the same year, as did Neville Huggins in 1937, Arthur Cutting in 1938 and Des Fothergill in 1941.
** The award was then known as The VFA Medal.
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
To see williamstown football club team of the century click on the link below
Williamstown team of the century
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