Williamstown Football Club History 1860-1879
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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. Captain, John Wigmore, Hunter and Sutton were best for 'Town, while future president of Williamstown, the local MLA for 17 years and founder of the Williamstown Advertiser, Alfred Thomas Clark, represented the Customs team.
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 John Alexander Springhall snr (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 John Wigmore (1866), C.F. Payne (1870), Horace 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.'
Williamstown Chronicle, May 14, 1870 - the meeting organised by James Arthur Thompson in an effort to restart the Williamstown Football Club.
Williamstown Chronicle, May 14, 1870
Williamstown Chronicle, May 21, 1870
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 August 5, 1871, when it defeated Wesley College three goals to nil a week earlier (refer report below). There was also a game against an East Melbourne 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 (refer report below) '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 (refer report below). 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 John Buchanan, John Alexander Springhall jnr, W. Tickell, C. Payne and Horace 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'.
Williamstown Chronicle, August 5, 1871 - a report of the game against Wesley College on July 29 which resulting in the Villagers' first recorded victory, 3 goals to NIL. The 'J. Buchanan' referred to in the article is John Buchanan, who would later die by drowning along with five colleagues in the Spotswood sewerage tunnel disaster on Good Friday, 1895, aged 38. He was the lead engineer on the project. Buchanan captained the team for one game in September 1872 against South Yarra Seconds when the regular skipper, Horace Norman, was unavailable.
Williamstown Chronicle, August 12, 1871
Williamstown Chronicle, September 2, 1871
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 2020/2021 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. The game against East Melbourne on July 6 was moved to the Gardens (Fearon) Reserve owing to 'the wet state of the Market Reserve' as was the game against South Yarra Seconds on July 27. John Alexander Springhall senior became just the second president of the Club in 1872 for one year only, replacing Alfred Thomas Clark who had been in the role in 1870 and 1871 but Clark returned to the position in 1873.
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 increase of members'. Horace Norman was re-appointed captain for the third consecutive season at the meeting but resigned before the first practice match on April 26. 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. Alfred Thomas Clark resumed as president in 1873 and would remain in that role until 1875.
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.
Williamstown Chronicle, August 12, 1871
Williamstown Chronicle, August 26, 1871
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. A letter to the editor of the Williamstown Chronicle in the edition dated August 12, 1871 (refer above), stated that 'some years ago a site was granted to the borough council of Williamstown for market purposes, but instead .... it was let to some private person for grazing their cattle and horses on. The result is that a boy crossing the paddock on Sunday last got a kick from one of the horses and, is now .... in a very precarious state. There is only a three-rail fence around it, and no notice up cautioning persons not to trespass, and it is generally believed that the reserve is a public one. I am informed that a deputation from the local football club waited on Mr. Withers, the lessee, asking for the use of the ground to play a match on, which request was refused.' Perhaps due to the ground being also used to graze livestock, 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 Chronicle, May 26, 1877
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.
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.' The West Melbourne secretary even wrote to the Williamstown Chronicle (see below) to complain about the behaviour of the 'Town players and supporters, and stated that 'during the whole of the game the Williamstown team played very roughly, and at times very unfairly, 2 or 3 of them being very conspicuous in this part of the game. The crowd also encroached on the ground and interfered with the play, any good play on the part of our team being hooted in a shameful manner. After the game we were followed to the station by a motley crew who hooted their indignation at us for having beaten the Williamstown.'
Williamstown Chronicle, September 8, 1877
A total of 7 goals were kicked for the year, of which P. Conroy scored 5 and R. Dalton jnr and J. Rees kicked one each, while 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, including Tommy Beeching (1875-77) and R. Murray (1871-76), 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. It was reported in the Williamstown Chronicle of April 20, 1878, following the annual meeting in respect of the 1877 season, held at the Mechanics Institute on April 17, that '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, John Charles Frederick Ulbrick, who were both re-appointed at the meeting for the 1878 season, 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'. The Second Twenty were more successful, winning 5 of their 12 matches, losing 3 with 4 draws. They kicked a total of 13 goals, with F. Raymer leading the way with 3 majors and J. Rees 2. The opposition kicked 15. T. Crane was appointed captain of the Second Twenty for 1878 with C. Hernan vice-captain. Tom Monteith received a 'handsome silver-mounted emu egg ..... for the best all-round player during the season 1877'.
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 Chronicle, May 18, 1878
Williamstown ventured to Geelong for the first time in 1878 and lost six goals to nil on the Argyle Paddock on July 6, but fielded a weakened side due to several of the best players, including John Kilgour, future captains D. Burke and J. Monteith, and J. Davidson, 'being unable to get away from business, and their places had to be filled by Second Twenty men.' The inaugural VFA premier team, Carlton, also paid a visit to The Village for the first time 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 when the Saints started off with just nine players but picked up enough substitutes to eventually muster sixteen men. In the return match at Williamstown on July 13, St Kilda sent a telegram saying they had only 11 players at the railway station and the match was abandoned.
Williamstown Chronicle, August 17, 1878
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 Johnny Rees with three, while J. Monteith kicked two and D. Burke and John Charles Frederick Ulbrick one each. The Second Twenty played 11 matches of which 4 were won, 3 were lost with 4 draws. A total of 14 goals were kicked by the Seconds and had 8 scored against them. The leading goalkickers were C. Percy, F. Raymer and D. Burke with 2 each. The Club had a total of 86 members in this season. 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. A. Fowler was elected captain of the Second Twenty with three vice-captains in Litchfield, Percy and Jamieson. Geelong won their first of seven VFA premierships in this season, ending the dominance of Melbourne and Carlton over Victorian football.
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, which were described in the Williamstown Chronicle of August 16 as being 'fitful and irregular.'
Williamstown Chronicle, May 10, 1879
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 the MCG on July 26, losing to Melbourne, 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 St Kilda on July 19 which was won two goals to NIL but, as the Williamstown Chronicle of July 26 reported, the Saints 'had a very weak team, several of their best players not turning up.' The return match against South Melbourne on August 23 was lost 3 goals to nil. In the Williamstown Chronicle of 19 July 1879, in respect of the game played the previous weekend on 12 July against Sandridge (later renamed Port Melbourne), it was reported that 'the Sandridge team were accompanied by a great many supporters, the greater portion of them belonging to that objectionable class termed larrikins who encroached upon the playing ground thereby greatly impeding the game. The language of these unwelcome visitors was anything but select at times.'
Williamstown Chronicle, May 31, 1879 - Williamstown's highest score and greatest winning margin to date was achieved in a game at Heidelberg on May 24, 1879.
An improved total of 19 goals were scored while 22 were kicked against the Villagers. 10 of 'Town's goals (plus 40 behinds) came in a match at Heidelberg on May 24 when the local team failed to score in the most decisive score and victory ever posted by the Villagers to that point in time (see report above). Leading goalkicker was again vice-captain, P. Conroy, with 6, with half of these coming in the Heidelberg match, followed by Jack Litchfield with 4, J. Goble 3, and W. Senior, C. Cardwell, A. Fowler, J. Jamieson, E.G. Moss and Worrell one each. The team finished 10th out of 17 junior teams. Membership totalled 64 in this season. The Second Twenty had a more successful season, playing 9 matches of which five were won, two lost with two draws. A total of 17 goals were scored by the Seconds with only 9 kicked against them. Leading goalscorer was J. Goble with 5 followed by J. Minto with 3, C. Percy 2 while F. Raymer, Jack Litchfield, H. Cardwell, C. Hernan, T. Wauchope, B. Vaughan and Cooper got one each. At the annual meeting held in respect of the 1879 season at the Mechanics Institute on April 7, 1880, E.G. Moss was appointed captain for the forthcoming season with J. Monteith vice-captain. The captain of the Second Twenty for 1880 was C. Hernan with C. Percy vice-captain.
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.'
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.
20yo 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
By the end of 1940, the Allies position seriously deteriorated in the war against Germany and Italy. The casualty lists were mounting after the evacuation of Greece and many people in Victoria wanted football suspended. Besides the large numbers engaged in the manufacture of munitions, many more were in industries essential to the war effort and were not permitted to enlist in the Armed Services. As a result the Government was reluctant to stop all sport because of its value as a morale booster to an anxious community. Interest in football had slipped somewhat and crowds in 1940 were smaller than previous years and the VFL felt the effects of the drop in gate receipts more than the Association. Some clubs had found the wartime match fee of 30 shillings hard to meet, and with VFA clubs paying at least 2 pounds per match many League men crossed over as there was no permit agreement between the two competitions. Williamstown was one of the stronger clubs financially but had lost players, staff and officials to the Services and essential industries and many supporters were still upset about the exit from the finals series the year before.
Percy Masters, a newcomer to the district and one who had not much experience in running a football club was elected president after Fred Harsley stepped down following two years in the role. Many thought it odd that Bill Dooley, who had rendered generous and valuable service as a vice-president since 1939, was not approached. Some thought Dooley 'grandstanded' himself over the Ron Todd affair but Larry Floyd was adamant that Todd would have returned to Collingwood without Dooley's intervention. Dr Roy Krantz stepped down as a vice-president after 6 years of service due to him leaving the district, while another vice-president, Horrie Hocking, was in Palestine with the Army. Former committeemen, Alex Bond and George Rogers, were away with the Navy.
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 from Avenel. 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 19yo 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), Bill Green (Essendon), Reg 'Dodger' Ryan (Carlton Seconds), Ben Le Seuer (Collingwood), Tom New (Carnegie), Alan 'Nipper' Marsham from Geelong, Jack Scott from Richmond, Ian McTaggart (West Melbourne), Bill Crane (Abbotsford), Frank George (Footscray Seconds), Gordon Beckman (North Melbourne Seconds) 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. The throw-pass was his downfall because he was not able to dispose of the ball with a two-handed pass when tackled. Local players, Alan Saker (Williamstown District), Jack Sexton (Williamstown CYMS), Jack McMillan (Spotswood Under 18's) and Roger Hagan (Spotswood), were others to debut during the year. Charlie Bennett, who had last played for Williamstown in 1937, returned after a stint with Oakleigh. Kevin Rohleder also joined the Club from Altona and would go on to play 5 games with St Kilda in 1943 during the war recess.
Sporting Globe, March 19 1941
The greatest loss was that of courageous 1939 premiership rover, Jack Patterson, who retired at the end of 1940 after 77 games and 109 goals. Gordon 'Mick' Harland was at Northcote by round 6 after 52 games since 1937 with 'Town, Hec Neill and Tom Ward crossed to Yarraville while 1939 premiership follower, Bill Spokes, returned to Preston and would eventually end up at Fitzroy where he played in their 1944 Seconds premiership team. 1939 premiership full-back, Jack McDonagh, went to West Melbourne as coach, while another 1939 premiership team member, Jim Quinn, took over as captain-coach of the Seconds at Williamstown. Another premiership player in Doug Menzies retired and joined the Navy in 1940 but returned to the Club in 1945, while Clive Fairbairn also enlisted. Ted Ryan crossed to Collingwood without a clearance after round 2 but would return during 1948. Reg Thomas only played 4 senior games due to his war-related employment while Mattie Cave spent most of the season in the Seconds and only managed two senior appearances.
The pursuit of VFL players by various groups on the committee caused some angst amongst the playing group as it appeared there was indiscriminate chasing of anyone on a League list whether they fitted into the team structure or not. For instance, Melbourne's star goalkicker, Ron Baggott, was sought out despite the fact that the Club already had Todd and Vallence. Players who had battled to lift the Club on flat payments were upset by all this activity and captain-coach, Gordon Ogden, made it known that he was none too pleased with the turn of events. Des Fothergill was made vice-captain unnecessarily as the extra fee for that position could have been used to keep one of the loyal older players happy. This unrest and resentment of some players towards Todd and Fothergill may well explain the relatively poor performance of the team, considering the apparently star-studded list that had been assembled. However, their presence in the team enabled the committee to pay higher match fees to disinterested and mediocre players than otherwise would have been possible.
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.
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 and the money outlayed on all the other importations. This was emphasised by the losses at Preston in round 8 and at Northcote in round 16 when these two teams were virtually playing as amateurs, although the Bullants made the finals but Northcote finished in 8th place, 20 match points behind 'Town. Apart from the huge victories mentioned above, there was also an honourable loss to eventual premier, Port Melbourne, at Williamstown in round 13, 17.21.123 to 19.6.120, 'Town's highest losing score at home to that point in time and the end of a run of 20 home game victories since the last defeat in round 13 of 1939 at the hands of Camberwell. Four of the visitors, Ted Freyer, Austin Robertson snr, Tommy Lahiff and Ron Reynolds, were reported on 8 charges arising from this match. The runners-up, Coburg, were defeated twice, by 5 points at Williamstown in round 3 and by 11 points at Coburg in round 14.
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.' The shocking display by Prendergast culminated in him giving the Two Blues' Roy Lyons two extra shots at goal due to alleged interference by the man on the mark. The resultant goal had no impact on the final result but spectators rushed the ground and one was fined for striking the umpire. 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 and then coaching the Seconds in 1946.
Captain-coach, Gordon Ogden, played only 9 games due to illness, injuries and business, Ron Todd broke his ankle and kicked only 39 goals in his 11 games, Arthur Cutting suffered from illness and played only 14 games while 1940 best and fairest winner, Norm Chisholm, appeared in only two of the first thirteen rounds due to a knee injury. Eddie Deller, Des Fothergill, Eric Glass and first-year player, Alan Marsham, were the only players to appear in all of the team's 20 matches during the season. 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. A Club record score of 29.19.193 was posted in the round 7 clash at Williamstown with Sandringham, which failed to win a game in this season. A now almost 36yo Vallence kicked 20 of the goals, 10 in each half on a wet day, 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.
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. Apart from Vallence and Fothergill, Todd (39), Bert McTaggart jnr (20), 'Tarzan' Glass (16), Lou Salvas (14) Norm Chisholm (11) and Stan Jamieson (11) were others to kick more than 10 goals for the season. Williamstown's aggregate of 335 goals and 341 behinds (2351 points) was less than the previous season but less games were played. The opposition scored 284 goals and 271 behinds (1975 points). Coburg's Bob Pratt set a new VFA goalkicking tally by booting 183 majors for the season, including 22 scored against Sandringham, eclipsing George Hawkins' tally of 164 in 1939. Pratt's former South Melbourne teammate, Laurie Nash, was second on the list with 141.
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, on the MCG as the curtain-raiser to the Port Melbourne-Coburg senior grand final, 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. Jim Quinn and Stan Jamieson became the only two Williamstown players to play in two premiership sides on the MCG, after being members of the 1939 senior premiership team.
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. Membership totalled 2468 in the 1941 season.
Life members and former committeemen, Bert Moon and James 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, following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 which had brought America into the war, Britain and Australia also formally declared war with Japan. Events took a dramatic turn as the Japanese pushed southwards and bombed Darwin and Sydney and Newcastle were shelled from the sea. This put the nation on a full wartime footing and men up to the age of sixty had to enlist and many of these soon went to Queensland, WA or Darwin. Due to the increasing enlistments, the VFA suspended the competition on April 20 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 jnr went to Footscray along with his brother Bill McTaggart from the Seconds, Bob Spargo snr to Melbourne, George Pattinson returned to Essendon, Jack Scott went back to Richmond, Reg Ryan and Bill Crane crossed to Collingwood, Ian McTaggart went back to North Melbourne and Lou Salvas went to Hawthorn.
The Williamstown ground was eventually taken over for the storage of oil drums and accommodation for the military police, but a number of services matches took place there early in 1942. The RAAF Stores Depot team contained 43yo Charlie Stanbridge, who started playing football with Prahran Juniors in 1919 before coming to Williamstown in 1921 and playing as a follower in that season's premiership victory over Footscray at Brunswick Street Oval. He then embarked on a lengthy career with Port Melbourne and South Melbourne but returned to 'Town as captain-coach in 1933 and won the Recorder Cup, tied for the VFA Medal and also took out the Club best and fairest award before crossing to Camberwell as an assistant coach during 1934 after 41 games and 22 goals for the Villagers. Another former player and teammate of Stanbridge's in Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair also took part in these games. Sinclair played 70 games and kicked 115 goals for Williamstown from 1929 to 1933 when he transferred to Darling during the year. He returned in 1934 before crossing to Werribee during the season. He was Club leading goalscorer in 1931 (31 goals) and 1932 (29 goals) and had played previously with Hawthorn in the VFL and Yarraville in the VFA. Current-day player, Arthur Cutting, also appeared for the RAAF team.
The RAAF Stores Depot team at Williamstown in June 1942, which included former Williamstown players Charlie Stanbridge and Jim 'Sandy' Sinclair, as well as current Williamstown player, Arthur Cutting. Stanbridge is pictured third from the left in the back row while Cutting is fourth from the left in the middle row. Sinclair cannot be identified. Also in the photo is Charlie Cameron, former North Melbourne and Fitzroy player, on the far left of the middle row, and Jim Thoms, who played 120 games for Footscray, is seated to the right of Arthur Cutting. The game was against an Ascot Vale team that included Ron Todd.
Williamstown Chronicle, June 12, 1942
Williamstown Chronicle, June 26, 1942
So bad was the war situation by the early months of 1943 that it was obvious that the Association would not resume and junior football had also practically ceased and Fearon Reserve now had a gun emplacement in the centre of the oval and military personnel occupied the pavilion. By 1944 the tide was turning in favour of the Allies and, with a slight easing of the manpower restrictions, the VFA reserves competition resumed and Williamstown, under the secretaryship of Gordon Drew, appointed Gordon Ogden, who had been away in Queensland, as coach. The team reached the semi-finals before losing to Camberwell by two goals, 9.11.65 to 7.11.53, at Northcote. Port Melbourne won the premiership with Oakleigh runner-up.
Former Club president and incumbent VFA president, 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. At the annual meeting held in December, the John Wren Shield won by Williamstown Juniors in 1919 was returned to the Club president, Bill Dooley, from a representative of the late Captain Fearon's affairs.
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 war was heading to a successful conclusion and the VFA Executive decided to resume senior competition football in 1945.
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'. Larry Floyd returned to the secretary post and the VFA delegate position after an absence of 5 years when it was learned that Jack Le Brun would be away in WA and unavailable for for his Association duties. Jack Lee, assistant secretary in 1941/42 and committeeman from 1936-40, was awarded life membership.
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. Glass had been offered the Melbourne Seconds coaching position but decided to remain at Williamstown. Other pre-war players Arthur Cutting, Colin Wilcox, Doug Menzies, Reg Ryan and Cliff Johnson returned to the Club, while Lou Salvas was in Borneo, Stan Jamieson was in the Army and Andy Taylor was still in the RAAF.
Des Fothergill went back to Collingwood for family reasons (his parents were avid Magpie supporters) after the VFL declared an amnesty on all players who had left clubs without a clearance. Also, some players at Williamstown never made him welcome while others were just jealous, and his unassertive nature was unsuited to the leadership roles he had been thrust into. 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 as did Tom New when he returned from Carlton and struggled to get a senior game, 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, while Alan Marsham went back to Geelong and Bob Spargo crossed to Prahran
Gordon Ogden, captain-coach of the seniors from 1939-41, played just 7 matches in 1945 but then retired due to injury after 56 games since 1939. He played a big part in the reforming of the Seconds in 1944. Defender, Eddie Deller, similarly retired after the round 10 match at Sandringham after 130 games and 14 goals and became a trainer at the Club. Hugh Torney, who had finished third in the 1940 Brownlow Medal and represented Victoria three times, 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 24yo George Archibald transferred from Melbourne in July and Dick Harris was acquired from Richmond during the year in an exchange for Jack Scott who wanted to return to the Tigers. Jack Scarffe (Seddon), Frank Axelson, Athol Teasdale and Len Reid (all Spotswood), Stan Fox (Parkside) and Bob Smith (Newport Methodists) were local recruits while Norm Chisholm returned from Footscray as did Jack Scott from Richmond, who was swapped for Dick Harris during the season. Reg Featherby, Reg Harley and Fred 'Snowy' Matthews were promoted from the Seconds and became regular senior players for a long time. Harley would play every game in his debut season. Another local, Ken Johnston, from the Dockyards team also played a few games as did Keith Jenkins from Richmond Imperials. 1939 senior premiership player and captain-coach of the 1941 Seconds premiership side, Jim Quinn, was appointed coach of the Reserves. Des Allwood from North Melbourne Seconds played 2 games and was then cleared to Essendon in July as was local Ron Reitman (Williamstown District), son of 1907 premiership defender, Bert Reitman, who played 3 games and then transferred to South Melbourne. Noel 'Chicken' Hanley was another who made a senior appearance, as did George Bradley from West Australia.
Victory was attained in the first 6 rounds, the best start to a season since the 9 wins in 1900, which saw Williamstown level with Coburg on top of the ladder. This included a 37-point win at Yarraville with a team featuring nine new players before a crowd of 10,000 to begin the season and then a fortunate 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, equalling 'Soapy' Vallence's Club record set against Sandringham at Williamstown in round 7 of 1941.
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, where Ron Todd booted his 100th goal for the season, 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
At the conclusion of the home-and-away rounds, the undefeated Coburg headed the ladder from Williamstown, Port Melbourne and Camberwell. A record crowd of 17,000 attended the second semi-final at St Kilda when the two top teams met again, and this time Williamstown, missing Colin Wilcox and Hugh Torney through injury, led all day apart from a brief period just before half-time and triumphed, 12.16.88 to 8.23.71. 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, which had defeated Camberwell in the first semi-final, knocked Coburg out of the finals the following week in the preliminary final, winning narrowly by just two points. 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. The selection of Cliff Johnson, who had not played seniors since being dropped following the round 16 match against Oakleigh, was a courageous move and was intended to counter Port's gun full-forward in Ted Freyer. The decision paid dividends as Freyer was never comfortable when opposed to Johnson and the pair had figured in a number of clashes over the years which resulted in Tribunal appearances by both players. Freyer had been suspended for 8 weeks in 1941 for striking Johnson. Freyer had kicked 70 goals for the season prior to the grand final but scored only two in the 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 which was set against Sandringham at Williamstown in round 7 of 1941. 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 occasions 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. He kicked a total of 270 goals for the year when the end-of-season match against Coburg at Broken Hill (6), a VFA representative game at Broken Hill (10), the RAAF competition (57) and a RAAF game in Tasmania (9) are taken into account. Other players who kicked more than 10 goals in 1945 were Dick Harris (41), Doug Dowling (24), Eric Glass (20), Jack Scarffe (19), Reg Harley (16), Maurie Hearn (14), Freddie Matthews (14) and Stan Fox (12).
Norm Chisholm, Todd and debutant, Reg Harley, were the only players to appear in every one of the 22 games that the Club contested during the season.
In the VFA season, the team scored 384 goals and 348 behinds (2652 points) to establish a new Club record aggregate. The opposition totalled 234 goals and 269 behinds (1673 points), resulting in a very healthy percentage of 158.5%. Apart from the 1907 premiership season, three defeats was the least suffered in the Club's history.
36yo Arthur Cutting (159 games, 1931-45, the Club record at the time, 1939/45 premierships, VFA Medal 1938/39, Recorder Cup 1938/39, Club B&F 1938/39) and 35yo Eric 'Tarzan' Glass (82 games, 1939-45, premierships 1939/45) both retired after the grand final, although Glass became coach of the Seconds in 1946. The Club's first interstate trip was undertaken by a party of 63 in October, travelling to Mildura by train then over 200 miles (322 kms) of desert by bus to Broken Hill for a 10-day visit and an exhibition game against Coburg for the Silver City Challenge Cup at the grassless Jubilee Oval in front of a crowd of 5,000, won by the 'Burgers 16.18 to 12.8. A combined Williamstown-Coburg team played the Broken Hill League the following day and just managed to win, 14.5 to 12.12. Todd kicked 10 goals up until half-time but did not add to his tally after the break.
Full back in the 1921 premiership team, Herb Miles, passed away in June. He came to Williamstown when North Melbourne temporarily disbanded in 1921 as a result of yet another botched attempt to enter the VFL and played 47 games without kicking a goal from 1921-24, when he crossed to Port Melbourne early in the year. He was the grandfather of future senior player, John Raffle. Secretary in the premiership year of 1921 and for part of 1922 and secretary of Williamstown Juniors in 1916/17/18/19, Les Thompson, collapsed and died while watching a football match in Canberra on July 28 aged 61. The Juniors, Williamstown's Seconds team at the time, played in the grand final in every one of his four seasons as secretary, winning the flag in each season other than 1918 when they were runner-up to Footscray. He was the deputy Government printer at the time of his death and was the brother of life member, committeeman from 1937-66 and property steward from 1938-66, Bill 'Digger' Thompson.
The buoyant financial situation resulting from the premiership allowed the Club to replace the pennants for other successful years with uniform flags. The 1907 flag had been missing for many years and rumour had it that it went with some of the players to the First World War.
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 after starting with the Seconds), 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). Jim Foley, VFA delegate since 1935, received life membership at the meeting.
A total of 144,500 people witnessed Williamstown's 22 games in this season, easily a Club record.
Club secretary & VFA delegate, Larry Floyd, made his first foray into politics in this year when he was elected to Williamstown Council in August, as was committeeman, Ted Jones. A.E. Shepherd, who played one senior game for the Club in 1925 and had played previously for North Melbourne (1922) and Footscray (1924), became the MLA for Sunshine. Another former player, Allan Hird snr (12 games 1937/38), was appointed captain-coach of St Kilda in late 1945. He was the grandfather of future Essendon champion, James Hird.
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
Both Germany and Japan had surrendered during the season thus making Williamstown's pennant truly a 'Victory Premiership'.
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, 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 as did Eddie Deller (130 games and 1939 premiership player). Geoff Spring trained with Richmond but decided to stay at Williamstown while 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, along with Hugh McPherson who had played previously with Melbourne and Footscray. Another Melbourne player, Frank Hughes jnr, son of 5 times Melbourne and Richmond premiership coach, 'Checker' Hughes, was another recruit as was Jack Henry from Essendon. Locals Theo Greenland (Newport CYMS), Harold Peacock, Kevin Sandells and Ian Stewart (all from Newport Methodists), and Murray McRae (Spotswood under 18's) were other additions. 1944 Seconds best and fairest winner, Bill Evans, made his senior debut in this season. 1939 premiership player, George Fitch, made a comeback but then transferred to Yarraville as did Jack Scarffe. Stan Jamieson returned from the Army while Jack Sullivan came to 'Town from Richmond before clearances closed on June 30 and Jim McKnight (South Melbourne) arrived early in the season. Jim Ronald from Queenscliff was another newcomer. Keith Reitman, son of 1907 premiership player, Bert Reitman, and brother of Ron, made his senior debut in this season. Hadyn Sharp, who played 4 games for Footscray in 1939, also played a few games with 'Town in this season, as did Stewart Smith and an 18yo Les Goding, both from the Seconds. Goding would go on to win the Seconds best and fairest award in this season.
'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, after playing centre half-back for half the match, 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 before a crowd of more than 10,000.
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 from a flag pole. 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, still in their football gear, and, when they were located on the Cole Street railway bridge, 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 only due to a magnificent last quarter effort by 'Bomber' Wells against Brunswick at Williamstown in the final home-and-away game. Leading by 3 goals at the final change but with the 'Wicks kicking with a strong breeze, it appeared defeat was certain and relegation to fourth spot on the ladder and the loss of the double chance. Wells was moved into attack in the hope that his penetrating drop kicks would save the day. From four strong marks he booted four goals and hit the post with another shot which saw him register 'Town's entire score for the last term and allowed the Seagulls to take the points from a shocked Brunswick team by 17 points.
Camberwell headed the list, one win ahead of Williamstown followed by Sandringham and Port Melbourne both two points behind 'Town. This was Sandringham's first finals appearance since joining the VFA in 1929. The successful move of Wells to the forward line would not be repeated in the second semi-final at St Kilda, with the Seagulls going down to Camberwell in front of a crowd of 16,000, 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, who started off at full-forward, 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. Wells' move weakened the defence and should have been reversed when it was obvious that it wasn't working as it did against Brunswick.
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 saw Williamstown revert to a more orthodox line-up. The injured Todd was replaced at full-forward by Jim Ronald, Bill Wells was moved to a half-forward flank, Harold Peacock took over the centre half-forward position and Mal Macpherson started in the forward pocket. 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. A goal just at the start of time-on gave Sandy a 2-point lead and a last desperate bid was thwarted by Len Toyne, Sandringham's captain-coach, when he kicked the ball through 'Town's goal for a behind and regained possession from the resultant kick-out. The bell rang soon after to herald the Zebras entry into the grand final, where they defeated Camberwell by 7 points at St Kilda in their first play-off. 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 14.
Todd kicked 13, 11 and 12 goals in the first three rounds and ended up with 114 to lead the Association goalscorers once again. Bill Findlay of Port was second with 89 and 'Town's Dick Harris was third with 87. Harris, a rover, kicked 10 against Preston at Williamstown in round 15. Other players to kick more than 10 goals for the season were Lou Salvas (30), Geoff Spring (19), Mal Macpherson (15), Bill Wells (12) and Fred Matthews (10). Fourteen of the 22 matches played were won and the team kicked a total of 341 goals and 353 behinds (2399 points) to the opposition's 287 goals and 350 behinds (2072 points). Dick Harris and Reg Harley were the only players to feature in all 22 games. Colin Wilcox played his 100th senior game for the Club in the round 8 game at Williamstown against Northcote, which resulted in a 40-point victory for the Seagulls.
Williamstown attracted 155,000 people to its matches over the course of the season, the greatest number in the Association.
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. A combined party of 117 travelled to Tasmania by boat. The game was broadcast by a local radio station and a record was made of the hectic last quarter of the game which was later sold. Williamstown won 16.11.107 to 13.16.94.
During the season, the Club bootstudder for intervals covering 30 years, Malcolm John 'Mallie' McGregor, passed away at his residence in John Street on May 11 aged 65, as did life members Mick Roche on March 10 at his home in Station Road and George Williams on May 13 at his home in Giffard Street, aged 64. Roche played 32 games and kicked 2 goals from 1895, 1897-99, 1903 and 1905.
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.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1946 season held at the Town Hall in January 1947, it was announced that membership had reached a record 3130 (2780 adults and 350 juniors) and that 21yo Reg Harley had won the first of two successive best and fairest awards in just his second season of senior football from Fred Matthews. Matthews also finished equal eighth in the voting for the Liston Trophy. Other trophy winners were Harold Peacock (best junior), Ian Stewart (most improved), Lou Salvas (best utility), Dick Harris (most consistent), Colin Wilcox (most effective), Bill Wells (most determined), Ron Todd (best clubman) and Andy Taylor (special services). Incumbent president, Bill Dooley snr, announced his resignation after being in the role since 1942, because of his racing committments which prevented him from attending matches due to his work as a bookmaker. 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. Dooley continued on as a vice-president of the Club and also became a vice-president of the Association. 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. Tom Newington, who had been head trainer since at least 1933, transferred to Essendon in 1947 and was replaced in the role by Fred Sutton.
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, George Nelson who had played previously with Collingwood and Richmond and Doug Dowling returned from South Melbourne. George Rawlinson (Yarraville), Ken Scott (Footscray) and Ray Bond (Camberwell) were other newcomers with senior experience. Keith Abberton, Henry Taylor and Norm Bernard (all Newport Methodists), Joe Lyon (Footscray District League), Doug Howard and Ken May (Williamstown Seconds) 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 retired and Stan Jamieson finally retired after 69 games and moved to Geelong. Andy Taylor put his injured knee in an iron splint for twelve months to aid in his recovery and Jim Ronald went to the country.
1947 was similar to the year before with four consecutive victories to open the season, including a 47-point victory at Yarraville in the opening round and 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 22 home-and-away rounds to finish in second spot behind Port but in this year there was no requirement to win the last match to retain the double chance. Sandringham and Prahran made up the final four teams. The Two Blues had been last in 1946.
Williamstown lost to Port 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, 20.19.139 to 15.20.110. The finals were again played at St Kilda and the crowd was 18,000.
Captain-coach Alan Williams could not play in the preliminary final against Sandringham due to injury, and selectors brought in Ken Scott, Henry Taylor and Ken May. 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 a strengthening breeze, added 7.8 to the Seagulls' 2.4, including 5 goals in 6 minutes, to reduce 'Town's lead to just one point. Geoff Spring slotted the Seagulls 16th and final goal before Lou Salvas, Williamstown's best on the day, went off injured. Sales of Sandringham replied with a major and then a rushed behind to the Zebras levelled the scores. Three further behinds to Sandy saw them advance to the grand final, where they lost to Port Melbourne by 5 goals. There was a controversial incident in the dying stages of the last quarter when a brilliant mark by Ken Scott in defence was not paid and umpire Merrington elected to throw the ball up which allowed Sandringham to retain the ball in their forward zone. This was just one of several poor decisions in the last quarter, and led to Merrington being replaced for the grand final. Williamstown's score of 16.18.114 was exactly the same as the year before. Best players were 20yo Harold Peacock, Alf Sampson, Geoff Spring and Lou Salvas. Acting captain, Ron Todd, in his 100th appearance for the Seagulls, scored 4.8 and one out of bounds from his 13 shots at goal. The attendance was 18,000.
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.
Over the season, 16 matches were won and eight lost in scoring 362 goals and 378 behinds (2,550 points) whilst the opposing clubs booted 320 goals and 383 behinds (2303 points). Ron Todd won the Club's goalkicking honours for the third consecutive season with 82 which gave him only fifth spot on the VFA list. Other players to kick more than 10 goals for the year were Mal Macpherson (60), Doug Dowling (54), Geoff Spring (40), Norm Bernard (22), Lou Salvas (20), Harold Peacock (19), Dick Harris (17) and Murray McRae (12). Todd, Reg Harley, Dowling and Macpherson were the only players to appear in all 24 games. Harley had not missed a match since debuting in round 1 of 1945.
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 best in finals, Geoff Spring was the most effective player, Henry Taylor (best junior), Murray McRae (most improved), Lou Salvas (best utility), Colin Wilcox (most consistent), and Mal Macpherson (special services). 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 and finished equal fifth in the voting for the JJ Liston Trophy. Ron Todd played his 100th senior game for Williamstown in the losing preliminary final and kicked his 500th goal in the round 18 clash with Prahran at Toorak Park.
Former senior player, Jack Vinall (11 games 1945-46), was in charge of the Seconds, which had its best season for some time winning 15 of the 22 matches to reach the finals. Port was beaten in the first semi but went down to eventual runner-up, Prahran, by four points, 13.11.89 to 12.13.85, in the preliminary final.
President of the Club in the first premiership year of 1907, Bob Ferguson, along with committeeman of 1924-25, William Neal, both passed away on May 22. Ferguson was 85 years of age and Neal was 55. Former players who passed on during the year were William Fagg 'Jasper' Jones on March 9 at Canterbury Road, Middle Park, aged 83yo (118 games, 1885-86, 1888-91, 1893, captain 1888-89), Alick 'Roody' MacKenzie (74 games, 1903-06 and 1909-11, vice-captain 1910) on May 24 at his home in Hotham Street, East Melbourne, and Charlie 'Jigger' Viney (50 games, 1899-1903) on December 23 aged 69. Former committeeman of 1945, Bert Clasper, also passed away at his home in Collingwood Road, Newport, on April 12 aged just 39, while former first-aid officer, Charlie Carlsson, also passed on at his home in Dover Road on July 9, aged 54.
A third successive interstate end-of-season trip was undertaken when a party of about 50 revisited Launceston but this time no match was played.
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 and won himself 25 pounds.
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 Lyon 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.
As the 1948 season dawned, the ANFC, at the apparent behest of the VFL, which was becoming anxious over the burgeoning popularity of the VFA, began to make overtures to the Association about affiliation under the guise of presenting a united front to foreign codes of football. This would require the VFA abandoning their unique rules but allowing the Association to play matches against interstate leagues at Carnivals. This appealed to some VFA delegates, particularly those from the weaker clubs. Williamstown was always opposed to the dropping of the rules for an obscure reward on the grounds that independence and individuality was in preference to voluntary relegation to the status of a second grade to the League.
Alan Williams resigned from the Fire Brigade and 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 and represented Victoria v. NSW in his first season, while Geoff Spring, after 56 games and 68 goals with 'Town, transferred to Richmond in exchange for Danny Knott. Ted Ryan returned from Collingwood while Les 'Bubba' Gardner transferred from St Kilda. Good locals who joined up included Gordon Williams (Spotswood), Johnny Walker (Footscray and Yarraville Socials), Bill Comben (Werribee South via Carlton Thirds) and Bill Sheahan (Williamstown Rovers). 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. Former Footscray best and fairest winner and twice leading goalkicker, Allan Collins, who had been coaching at Berrigan, was eventually cleared to 'Town after protracted negotiations with Yarraville where he had played in 1938 and 1939 before crossing to the Bulldogs. Collins was the older brother of future Footscray star and 1954 premiership hero, Jack Collins. Mick Keating and Keith Smith from the Seconds were others to debut in this season.
1945 premiership player and 1947 best and fairest runner-up, Doug Dowling, lost form badly and was cleared to Oakleigh early in the season after 44 games and 89 goals, and several other players moved on or retired including George Rawlinson, Ken May (who returned in 1950), George Nelson, Kevin Sandells (Queensland), Ray Bond (coach of Box Hill), N. Tippett and Ian Stewart (Newport). 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 Black continued on as a vice-president. Alf Urban was re-elected as president.
The season got off to a shaky start, and three successive defeats at the hands of Oakleigh, Port Melbourne and Brighton 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 and led the list for most of the season, by 7 points in round 2. The game at Williamstown in round 4 against Oakleigh resulted in a 3-point defeat, the 'Oak's first win at Pt Gellibrand for 13 years and only the third loss at home since the resumption in 1945. There was another narrow loss at Northcote in round 7 by one point.
A run of 14 consecutive 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. 'Town's score of 24.15.159 (Salvas and Todd 6 goals apiece) was its highest of the season. This stretch of victories included wins 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 only match that gave supporters any anxiety was the round 19 game at Elsternwick against Prahran (the Two Blues were off their ground in this season), when the Seagulls led by 6 goals at the last change before Prahran booted 7.1 to 'Town's 1.4 which saw the 'Gulls sneak home by just 4 points, 10.27.87 to 12.11.83.
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, the runner-up, Sandringham, finished eighth whilst Prahran ended up third last. 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-final 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. Ron Todd, Allan Collins and Bill Redmond each kicked three goals while the 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, the first time that both the Seniors and Reserves have won on the same day and on the same ground.
Brighton had accounted for both Northcote in the first semi-final and Brunswick in the preliminary final to advance to the grand final to meet Williamstown. The drawn VFL grand final between Essendon and Melbourne was replayed on the same day as the VFA grand final, and efforts to postpone the Association game were resisted by Williamstown. The match attracted a crowd of just 18,000 due to the great public interest in the League final. For the third successive season, Williamstown was hit by injuries to key players at finals time. Alan Williams and Allan Collins both suffered knee injuries in the second semi-final but were included in the side for the play-off.
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
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. 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 his leg injury and was replaced by Danny Knott, while a fit and enthusiastic Johnny Walker sat on the bench as Allan Collins continued to struggle with his knee issues. 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 and only VFA premiership by 9 points, 13.16.94 to 13.7.85. 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. Lou Salvas, Mal Macpherson and Bill Redmond each kicked 3 goals while the best for Williamstown were rover Mal Macpherson, Gordon Cameron, Reg Featherby, Bill Sheahan, Freddie Matthews, Alf Sampson, Colin Wilcox, Jack Danckert, Ron Todd and Murray McRae. 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. Bill Redmond played most of the year at full-forward and kicked 34 goals.
19yo Mal Macpherson led the Club goalkicking with 59 which gave him 10th place on the VFA list, and he finished equal seventh in the JJ Liston trophy voting. Colin Wilcox finally won the best and fairest award from Alan Williams, after being runner-up on four occasions previously. Wilcox also kicked the only goal of his eventual 173-game career in the round 5 game at Elsternwick against Brighton when he scored 'Town's opening major of the match after a long dash from the half-back flank followed by a long kick.
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.
Seventeen matches were won from the twenty-two played and the team kicked 329 goals, 359 behinds for an aggregate of 2333 points. The opponents managed 238 goals, 283 behinds, 1711 points. Debutant Jack Danckert, Mal Macpherson, Harold Peacock, Ron Todd and Colin Wilcox played in all 22 engagements. As already mentioned, Macpherson kicked the most goals for the season with 59 followed by Todd on 55, and the others to kick more than ten for the season were Lou Salvas (35), Allan Collins (34), Bill Redmond (34), Harold Peacock (29), Johnny Walker (20), Freddie Matthews (18) and Alan Williams (18).
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 'Jerry' Jerram, passed away on May 20, 1948, 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. Two life members and former players in Eddie Hall (1899-1906, 71 games 4 goals) and Vic Manderson (1901-06, 70 games 12 goals) also passed away during the year. Hall died at his home in Perry Street on November 29 aged 71, while Manderson also died at his home in Glen Iris on August 14. Former vice-president (1908) and committeeman (1940), Harry Roberts, passed away at his home in Illawarra Street on February 25 aged 72. Roberts was assistant secretary in 1907 when the team won the Club's first premiership and again in 1910. He was also the father-in-law of Harry Black, vice-president of 1948, secretary of 1947, assistant secretary of 1946 and committeeman of 1945.
Another interstate end-of-season trip was undertaken in late October when 61 members travelled by train to and from Adelaide and then by motor boat to Port Lincoln.
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. Thompson continued on as a committeeman and property steward until 1966, a total of 30 years service to the Club. Two vice-presidents in Allan Deacon and Harry Black dropped out in 1949 as Deacon was transferred to Geelong in his business and Black went to Bright with the bank. Deacon was the person who alerted the Club to the availability of Ron Todd when the two worked together in the late 1930's. Bert Paterson and Arch Fowler were elected to replace them. Norm McCallum was elected onto the committee to replace Ted Jones, who became a vice-president in place of John Le Brun who resumed his role as one of the Club's two VFA delegates. Otherwise the management of the Club remained the same as in 1948. Mrs Urban, wife of the Club president, became president of the ladies committee in place of Mary Owen who was not in the best of health. Mrs Owen had worked for the Club since 1919 and for Williamstown Juniors before that.
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 Lyon became captain-coach of Kaniva Districts FC and Dan Knott moved on to Chelsea and Jim McKnight to Newport, both in June just before the close of clearances. Henry Taylor transferred to South Melbourne early in the year but never played a senior game and then crossed to Yarraville in 1950. Allan Collins retired after the round 18 loss at Northcote due to a knee injury.
Alan Strang, a brother of the famous Richmond pair, Doug and Gordon, came across from South Melbourne, while local talent in John Molyneux (Old Melburnians Amateurs), Dick Roberts (Williamstown Methodists via Footscray Seconds), Charlie McLaren (Newport via Footscray Seconds), Lou Barker (from Footscray in June), Max Hughes (Spotswood via Yarraville Seconds), John Leonard (Middle Park) and Kevin Taylor (Williamstown Methodists), brother of Andy, joined the Club. Mal Macpherson and Gordon Cameron both made overtures about transferring to Footscray and Brunswick, respectively, but remained with the Seagulls. Jack Twist (Carlton Thirds) also joined the Club but would not play senior football until the following season. Bill 'Bomber' Wells returned from coaching Murtoa (1947) and East Ballarat (1948) and opened a business in Bay Street, Port Melbourne, and asked for a clearance to the Borough. This was granted, but after 8 inconspicuous 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. Jack Collins, brother of 'Town's Allan Collins and a future Footscray and Victorian star, twice applied for a clearance from Yarraville to the Seagulls during 1949 but was refused on each occasion.
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. The wind sprang up during the last break and was practically gale-force during a last quarter that went for 38 minutes. There was also drama leading up to the game when Harold Peacock, who had been in America for the whole year, returned and was included in the side for this match without any practice which caused some unrest amongst the players.
Sixteen wins from the twenty-one home-and-away games was good enough to head the ladder, a match ahead of Oakleigh which gained the double chance on percentage from Brighton with Coburg making up the final four. 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. Earlier in the day 'Town Seconds went down to Port Melbourne by 9 points, 10.16.76 to 9.13.67, in the Reserves second-semi final.
Oakleigh then beat reigning premier, Brighton, who had disposed of Coburg in the first-semi final, by 15 points in the preliminary to face 'Town in the grand final. Williamstown Seconds also advanced to the play-off in the Reserves grand final by downing Coburg, 10.16.76 to 8.21.69, in the curtain-raiser.
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 and trailing by 37 points at the last change of ends) to draw with Williamstown reserves, 9.17.71 apiece. Arthur 'Cocky' Vernon and Spotswood's John 'Chooka' Fowler, who was appearing in his very first game with Williamstown, both kicked 3 goals for 'Town while Fred Bishop, Stan Kellett, Fowler, Doug Howard, Kevin Moloney and Bob Chapman were the better players.
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 in a low-scoring affair, 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 in the direction of Johnny Walker who then emerged with the ball from a pack 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. Other players to kick more than 10 goals for the season were Mal Macpherson (58), Allan Collins (36), Johnny Walker (26), Keith Abberton (19), John Molyneux (17), Bill Redmond (11), Murray McRae (11) and Allan Strang (10).
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. Without the war recess he would possibly have passed the double century and still may have done so if he had not retired prematurely before the start of the 1950 season. Jack Danckert, Reg Featherby, Johnny Walker and Gordon Williams were the only players to appear in all 23 matches during the season.
The Seconds, still under the control of coach, Jack Vinall, lost the grand final replay to Port at Olympic Park the following week, 12.25.97 to 11.8.74. The Reserves had the services of Lou Salvas, Norm Bernard and Bill Sheahan, who had all played in the Senior premiership win the week before. Stan Kellett, Jack Twist and Cliff Poole all kicked two goals each while Kellett, Bill Turnbull, Kevin Taylor, Twist, Ken May and Sheahan were the better players. John Leonard won the reserves best and fairest award despite only playing 12 games due to a broken leg 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's delighted fans chair their captain and champion goalkicker, Ron Todd, off the field after the victory over Oakleigh in the 1949 grand final
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 and Williamstown Methodists in 1940. A knee injury sustained in the war stopped him playing regularly with Williamstown 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 at Moonee Ponds, less than two months later, at the age of just 25 after 26 senior games and 15 goals, played in 1941, 1946 and 1949. He won the Seconds best and fairest in 1940 and 1941 and was awarded the best first-year player in the seniors in 1941 and starred in the Seconds premiership of that year, kicking 6 goals in the second semi-final and 5 goals in the grand final. He went to Carlton Seconds with 'Soapy' Vallence in 1942 during the VFA war recess before joining the RAAF as an 18yo where he sustained the leg injury. He was also a fine cricketer with the Williamstown Cricket Club. He had two twin brothers, Keith and Kevin, who also played football with Williamstown. 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 at his home in Canterbury, as did former president of the Club in 1939/40 and life member, Fred 'Pop' Harsley, on May 4 at his home in Hannan Street at the age of 50 after a long illness. Former players, Harry Stock (1925-29) on July 6 at his home in Home Road, Newport, and Cyril 'Pompy' Blunt (1921) on March 30 at his home in Hanmer Street, were others the Club lost during the year, along with Williamstown Councillor of 20 years and twice mayor, Tom Briggs, who was a masseur at the Club and passed on July 6.
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 for ten days and an exhibition match was played at Wollongong against a combined Illawarra-Sydney team in continuous rain on October 9, which resulted in a narrow 6 point win, 12.10.82 to 11.10.76. Bill Wells kicked 7 of the goals. Trainer since 1933, Rueben Chandler, stepped down in this season due to poor health.
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.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1949 season held on February 6 1950 at the Town Hall, vice-president since 1939 and long-time licensee of the Bristol Hotel, Peter McIntyre, and vice-president 1939-41 and 1945-49, Captain Gordon Liley, received life memberships. Alf Urban stepped down from the presidency after being in the role since 1947 and was replaced by Harold Hosking. The following trophies were presented on the night: best and fairest (Reg Featherby), runner-up best and fairest (Alf Sampson), third place best and fairest (Bill Wells), most consistent (Jack Danckert), most determined (Theo Greenland), best first-year player (John Molyneux), most improved (Keith Abberton), best utility (Gordon Williams), best in finals (Bill Wells), special award for finals (Colin Wilcox), special services award (Ron Todd and Gordon Cameron), Chronicle Award (Alf Sampson), Advertiser Award (Mal Macpherson and Bill Wells tied), best 'away' player (Reg Featherby), grand final efforts (Lou Salvas and Johhny Walker) and Seconds best and fairest (John Leonard).
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