Season Summary: 1953

By 1953 a downturn had crept into the VFA that was to seriously undermine the future of the competition by the end of the decade. Clubs such as Williamstown were better prepared to face such factors as a decline in memberships, falling attendances and the public perception that the Association was no longer a viable alternative to the then VFL. District players still aspired to play with Williamstown, which made recruitment easier, plus there was a feeling in the community that the Seagulls were as good as South Melbourne or Footscray. Unfortunately for the VFA, the clubs destined to struggle for most of the 1950’s, principally Brighton, Camberwell and Northcote, tended to drag the down the entire competition.

The patience of Williamstown's supporters was rewarded after several poor seasons when the team returned to a leading position in 1953. Whilst the two matches of the final series were lost, the year marked the start of the most successful chapter in the Club's long history. The annual general meeting was chaired by Harold Hosking, who was re-elected unopposed as president for a fourth term. Fred Arms and Len Bevis were granted life memberships in respect of the 1952 season, whilst former Club president of 1947-49, Alf Urban, and Evelyn Spicer, ladies committee secretary since at least 1940, were made life life members in respect of the 1953 season.

Billy Williams was re-appointed captain and coach with Adrian Dullard as his deputy. Recruits included Ian McLeod (South Melbourne Thirds), Frank Sims (Kensington), Jack Curran (Newport), Ron Graham (Altona), Gil Moloney (Williamstown Seconds), Clive Barnard, Wal Muldowney (Newport), Jack Evans (Brunswick), Brian Barmby (Geelong Thirds), Don Henderson (Footscray) and Alan Leigh, while Len Kent and Alby Linton, after 53 games with the 'Dogs since 1947, were acquired from Footscray. Reg Featherby returned from coaching Benalla in 1952 for three games but retired when he failed to recapture his former brilliance with 123 matches against his name. Murray McRae did likewise but re-injured his knee in the first match and spent the remainder of the season helping out on the training staff. The main departures were Noel Allanson, Jack Simpson and George Tozer.

The team got away to a bright start by winning the first four matches rather comfortably against Yarraville (26 points), Camberwell (80 points), Brighton (115 points) and Preston (46 points) to sit on top of the ladder with a percentage of 229 until crashing at Brunswick, in the process kicking the team's worse score for years of 3.11.29. Another three comfortable victories followed, over Box Hill, Sandringham and Northcote in rounds 6-8, before a draw with Coburg at Pt Gellibrand and a 5-goal defeat at Toorak Park. Nine consecutive wins followed, including a 4-goal victory over eventual premier, Port Melbourne, at Williamstown in round 13 and big wins over Oakleigh (65 points), Brighton (65 points) and Sandringham (85 points). Surprisingly the final home-and-away match was lost at Northcote, which had won only four matches and sat third last.

Otherwise the revival was sound with few anxious moments over the year, with the exception of the Coburg match at Williamstown in round 9. At three-quarter time the home team led 11.8 to 2.7 and victory seem assured, however Coburg played a great last term with the wind and added 7.13 to nil to tie the game. Otherwise, the Seagulls were unbeaten at home. As in the previous season, the 'Town handed out Port Melbourne's first defeat of the season, by 23 points at Williamstown in round 13. This time Port had strung together twelve successive wins but were unable to blame the Governor for this upset. The last match at home against Sandringham was noted for the visitors roughhouse tactics with the former glamour team seeming to show that, although it had lost the skill of the mid-1940's, the players still knew how to use their brawn. Sandy finished 85 points behind at the final bell, with their only real achievement being a broken nose to Johnny Walker and a lot of sore Williamstown bodies.

Port headed the list at the end of the home-and-away games with 18 wins, just ahead of Williamstown's 16 victories and the draw, with Yarraville third and Prahran fourth. The Seagulls sat in second position all season after falling from the top after the round 5 loss at Brunswick,This was only the second time that the 'Town and Yarraville both made the final four. 

Once again Williamstown figured in a second semi-final at the Junction Oval and again failed, with Port winning by 10 points, 12.14.86 to 12.4.76, in wet conditions but it was only the 'Town's accuracy that kept the team within striking distance of the more efficient Port side, before a crowd of 12,000. The defeat was in no small way attributable to the rugged treatment in the Sandringham match a fortnight earlier as a number of players who played against Port were still suffering minor injuries. Max Munday had an injured finger and Bill Sheahan didn't play due to influenza, so Jack Curran went to full back, Ron Graham to centre half forward on debut, Don Henderson to the wing and Johnny Walker, playing against medical advice and still suffering the effects of his broken nose, managed only one goal before sustaining a leg injury early in the game and was replaced by back man Gil Maloney. This meant that Maloney, Curran and Graham were first-year players holding down key positions in a final. The Seagulls other regular wingman Jack Howat was forced off at half-time with an injured hand. Despite these setbacks, the ‘Town constantly challenged Port with strong ruck play from Simpson and great speed. Once Port’s Frank Johnson got on top of Simpson and its experienced wingers started to dominate, Port were able to overcome Williamstown’s gallant defence. Johnny Martin and his Port opponent played wide of each other, which could not be said of the fierce contest between Port captain, the legendary Don ‘Mopsy’ Fraser at centre-half forward and ‘Monster’ Callahan. Press reports stated that in a tough game, no two players exchanged harder bumps. Alby Linton kicked 4 goals as did captain-coach Billy Williams, who were Williamstown's best two players along with Harry Simpson, Gordon Williams, Jack Curran, Gerry Callahan, Johnny Martin, Reg Harley and Sid Wookey.

Williamstown met the Gordon Ogden-coached Yarraville, which had finished last in the three seasons 1948-50 before he took over, in the preliminary final in front of a crowd of 20,000, without leading goalkicker Walker, who was ruled unfit. Munday was recalled, allowing Curran to resume at centre-half forward. Graham went to full-forward. Frank Sims moved to a wing from the half-forward flank at the expense of Don Henderson, while Bill Sheahan rejoined the side in place of the injured Howat on the other wing. Max Hughes was selected at half-forward.

Williamstown led narrowly at the first two breaks before a spirited burst in the third quarter took Yarraville out to a 31-point lead before Simpson rallied the Seagulls, who still trailed by 16 points at three-quarter time. Simpson continued his fine play in the last term and, with inspiring leadership from captain-coach Billy Williams, the ‘Town regained the lead in a thrilling comeback. The Eagles steadied to add two goals and were ahead by 10 points with five minutes remaining, before Williams slotted another major, his fifth for the game, but it wasn’t enough and shocking inaccuracy from point-blank range gave Yarraville's young team victory by 4 points, 12.11.83 to 11.13.79. The win was a triumph for Ogden, the coach of Williamstown's 1949 premiership team before being discarded, who was able to get more out of his men that he was entitled to, based on their ability. His incentive no doubt stemmed from a desire to show Williamstown's officials that they erred in not re-appointing him after the triumph of four year's previous. It was shortlived for Ogden, however, as Port went on to win the grand final the following week by 10 goals after being runners-up for three successive seasons, and he was soon back barracking for Williamstown, and Yarraville had resumed its usual spot near the bottom of the ladder. Best players for the Seagulls that day were Harry Simpson, Billy Williams, Max Munday, Sid Wookey, Johnny Martin, Billy Sheahan, Don Rogers and Alby Linton.

Johnny Walker passed the century of games for the Club in round 3 at Brighton, celebrating with a 10-goal best-on-ground performance in a 115-point victory. He also won the Association goalkicking again but his total of 99 was just short of his 1952 figure. Billy Williams with 59 was fifth on the list. Gordon Williams also reached the century of games milestone during the season. Harry Simpson won the Club best and fairest award, the Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy, from Gordon Williams, and won the Herald Trophy (refer newspaper report below) and finished third in the JJ Liston Trophy, while Adrian Dullard reached 82 games with the distinction of the last 71 being consecutive. Frank Sims was best first-year player. Harry Simpson and Gordon Williams were both selected to represent the VFA at the ANFC carnival held at Adelaide in July.

By the end of 1953, Williamstown had played 195 matches since the VFA resumed in 1945 after the recess for the war, winning 131, losing 61 and drawing 3. Of the 92 games at Pt Gellibrand only 13 had been lost. This had resulted in two pennants, once runner-up, three third placings, one fourth finish and the lightning premiership in 1946.

The seconds, under captain-coach and best and fairest winner Lou Barker, scored fifteen wins from twenty matches to make the four but were well-beaten in the semi-final by Coburg 19.17.131 to 10.13.73. Yarraville won the flag.

The thirds, under coach Jack Vinall, a former senior Williamstown player in 1945/46, finished fifth with twelve wins and five losses. Keith Stevenson took out the Club best and fairest, while Peter Barnes finished third in the VFA Thirds best and fairest award after winning it in 1952. Moorabbin won the flag in that competition.

Janet Dooley, daughter of Myrtle Deller and niece of Larry Floyd, joined the ladies committee in March, 1953, and retired from canteen duty at the end of 2018, a total of 65 years service to the Club. 

At the conclusion of the season, a party of 52 players, officials and supporters made a trip by train to Adelaide then by boat to the Spencer Gulf in October, stopping off in Port Lincoln, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla. 

 

Rover Alby Linton joined Williamstown in 1953 after 53 games with Footscray and went on to play 87 games and kick 226 goals with the Seagulls before leaving in 1957 to captain-coach Melton. He won the Club best and fairest in 1955 and was runner-up in 1954 and was Club leading goalkicker in 1954, 1955 and 1956. He was also the VFA leading goalkicker in 1955 with 84 after kicking six in the Grand Final and ran third in the JJ Liston Trophy. He was first rover in the 1954/1955/1956 premiership teams and first rover in Williamstown's Team of the Century. Alby passed away in April 2010 at the age of 83.

                              From the Williamstown Chronicle May 22, 1953

Round 9 V. Coburg at Williamstown, June 20

From the Sporting Globe June 20, 1953

Back Row: Jack Howat, Jack Evans, Harry Simpson, Adrian Dullard, Gerry Callahan, Sid Wookey, Len Kent, Max Munday, Johnny Walker, Alby Linton, Gil Maloney, Johnny Martin

Middle Row: Bill 'Leftfooter' Williams, Max Hughes, Alby Outen, Alan Cuff, Billy Williams, Don Rogers, Brian Lowry, Gordon Williams, Kevin Taylor

Front Row: Bill Sheahan, Frank Sims, Reg Harley, Ray Smith, Allan Leigh, George Taafe

Jack Curran joined the Seagulls from Newport in 1953 and went on to play 74 games, mainly on a half-back flank, until the end of 1956, after which he was cleared to Dimboola as playing coach. Jack played in the 1954, 1955 and 1956 premiership teams and was awarded the Most Improved Player award in 1954. Jack passed away in July 2019 at the age of 86. 

Eighty year-old Walter Warren passed away during 1953. He played for Williamstown for seventeen seasons and was captain six times (1895-1899 & 1901), a record until the great Gerry Callahan came along. His brothers, Peter and Ernie (captain 1891), were also grand players around the same time. Walter led the club goalkicking seven times, 1892-96 and 1898-99.

Ernest 'Dick' Warren, played 1884-92, 134 games, 52 goals, captain 1891, leading goalscorer 1884 & 1886 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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