Season Summary: 1953
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 in respect of the 1952 season was held at the Town Hall in December and was chaired by Harold Hosking, who was re-elected unopposed as president for 1953, his fourth term in the role.
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 with 123 matches against his name when he failed to recapture his former brilliance. Murray McRae did likewise but re-injured his knee in his first match since round 2 1951 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 (by 26 points - Johnny Walker 6 goals), Camberwell (by 80 points - Walker 8 goals), Brighton (by 115 points - Walker 10 goals in his 100th senior Club game) and Preston (by 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. The Seagulls had scored only 10 behinds up to three-quarter time before Johnny Walker booted the entire score of 3.1 in the last term.
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 (who were without new captain-coach, Don 'Mopsy' Fraser, ruck star Frank Johnson, Reg Murray and Bernie Miller as they represented the VFA at the ANFC carnival in Adelaide) at Williamstown in round 13. 'Town kicked the four goals in the final six minutes to win, 16.11 to 12.12, before a crowd of 10,000. Champion rover, Alby Linton, was best-on-ground and booted 5 goals for the Seagulls in Port's first loss for the season after 12 consecutive wins. Four players from the Borough and two from Williamstown were reported, with Bill Sheahan being suspended for four weeks for striking while Don Rogers' charge of kicking was dismissed. There were big wins over Oakleigh (65 points), Brighton (65 points - Walker 7 goals) and Sandringham (85 points - Walker 8 goals). Surprisingly the final home-and-away match was lost at Northcote, which had won only four matches and sat third last. This defeat cost the Club the Squire Reid Club Championship award which was again won by Port Melbourne.
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 Seagulls 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 team was unbeaten at home during the year. As in the previous season, '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, who still managed to boot 8 goals including his 400th career goal, 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, still coached by Gordon Ogden, 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 '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 '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. Both Max Munday, with an injured finger, and Bill Sheahan, with influenza, didn't play, 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, ‘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, ‘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. There was some criticism that the other Bill 'Altona' Williams was left sitting on the bench during a crucial stage late in the game. The win was a triumph for Ogden, the coach of Williamstown's 1939 & 1949 premiership teams, who was able to get more out of his men than 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 years 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. The team put together 297 goals and 312 behinds (2094) while 'Town's opponents scored 203 goals and 236 behinds (1454). Apart from Walker and captain-coach Williams, Alby Linton (37), Adrian Dullard (29), Harry Simpson (25) and Ray Smith (15) were others to boot more than ten goals during the season. Gordon Williams also reached the century of games milestone during the year, at Camberwell in round 16 in a 34-point victory. 36 players represented Williamstown in senior football during the year and Reg Harley, Adrian Dullard and Sid Wookey were the only players to appear in all 22 encounters 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 new 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 and coach of the Seconds from 1947-49 including the 1948 premiership, 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 'The Overland' train to Adelaide then by the 'Moonta' boat to the Spencer Gulf in October, stopping off in Port Lincoln, Port Pirie, Port Augusta (with a side trip to Quorn) and Whyalla.
Coach of Williamstown in 1914-15 and 1919, Alex 'Joker' Hall, the Club's first non-playing coach, passed away suddenly on March 8 at his home in Warrandyte at the age of 84. One of the men who played under the coaching of Hall, Norm Busbridge, who played 59 games and kicked 24 goals from 1912-15 and 1919-20, also passed away on June 27 at the age of 65. Busbridge was vice-captain for part of 1914 before resigning in June due to his belief that the role was effecting his on-field performance. Busbridge enlisted in August 1914 and served in France during World War I before being discharged in June 1919. He became coach of Williamstown Juniors in 1921 before resigning in July and being replaced by future Williamstown coach for part of 1931 and all of 1932, Jim Toohey.
Former vice-president of 1945-46 and 1950-53 and president of 1947-49, Alf Urban, and Evelyn Spicer, ladies committee secretary since at least 1939, were made life members at the annual meeting held at the Town Hall in December, with the latter being only the second woman to receive the honour over the long period of the Club's existence, the other being Mrs Rowley Sands in 1933. Similarly, Mrs E. Hanrahan had been the treasurer of the Ladies Committee since 1939, and both these ladies retired and were replaced at the end of 1953 by Mrs Campbell (secretary) and Mrs Edie Nicholson (mother of eventual Thirds president, Doug) took over as treasurer. Alf Urban continued on as a vice-president until the end of the 1966 season. Steve Moloney, who had been a committeeman since 1935 and 1947-53 and was also on the selection committee from 1948-53, resigned at the end of 1953 due to ill-health but returned to the committee and as a selector from 1955-59.
At the meeting the following players were presented with trophies: Harry Simpson (best and fairest), Gordon Williams (best and fairest runner-up), Max Munday (most consistent), Reg Harley (most serviceable), Alby Linton (most effective), Johnny Martin (most improved), Frank Sims (best first-year player), Len Kent (best utility), Gerry Callahan, Gil Moloney, Don Rogers and Billy Sheahan (special services award), Johnny Walker (goalkicking) while captain-coach Billy Williams took home both the Williamstown Advertiser and Chronicle best player awards.
Membership was 1108 in this season, comprising 939 adults and 169 students.
Reg Featherby returned from coaching Benalla in 1952 for three games but retired with 123 matches and 5 goals against his name when he failed to recapture his former brilliance. Club historian, the late Fred Critchley, maintains that Featherby was the greatest exponent of the throw pass to represent Williamstown.
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.
Williamstown Chronicle May 22, 1953
Sporting Globe June 20, 1953 -Round 9 v. Coburg at Williamstown, June 20.
Williamstown First Eighteen 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 'Altona/Leftfooter' Williams, Max Hughes, Brian Barmby, 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
The Age, September 19, 1953 - the line-ups for the second semi-final against Port Melbourne at St Kilda.
The Age, September 19, 1953 - 1952 best and fairest winner, Don Rogers, marks during the second semi-final against Port Melbourne at St Kilda.
Sporting Globe, September 19 1953
Ray Smith, pictured here in 1953.
Sporting Globe, September 26 1953
The Age, September 28, 1953.
The Age, September 28, 1953.
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.
Reg Harley was awarded a trophy for the most serviceable player in 1953.
An extract from Larry Floyd's book on the history of the VFA and Williamstown - the games played and goalscorers of 1953. The second column in the games played and goals scored records is the player's cumulative total.
Star full-forward, Johnny Walker, booted 99 goals for the season and brought up his 400th career goal during the year.
Harry Simpson won the first of two successive best and fairest awards in 1953.
Weekly Times, September 9 1953
The Seconds, under new 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 in that grade.
Coach of Williamstown in 1914-15 and 1919, Alex 'Joker' Hall, pictured here in 1935, the Club's first non-playing coach, passed away suddenly on March 8 at his home in Warrandyte at the age of 84.
The Age, March 9, 1953.
Sporting Globe, March 11, 1953.
The Age, June 29, 1953 - one of the men who played under the coaching of Hall, Norm Busbridge, who played 59 games and kicked 24 goals from 1912-15 and 1919-20, also passed away on June 27 at the age of 65. Busbridge was vice-captain for part of 1914 before resigning in June due to his belief that the role was effecting his on-field performance. Busbridge enlisted in August 1914 and served in France during World War I before being discharged in June 1919. He became coach of Williamstown Juniors in 1921 before resigning in July and being replaced by future Williamstown coach for part of 1931 and all of 1932, Jim Toohey.
At the conclusion of the season, a party of 52 players, officials and supporters made a trip by train to Adelaide then by boat, M.V. Moonta, to the Spencer Gulf in October, stopping off in Port Lincoln, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla.
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