Season Summary: 1954

The departure of captain-coach Billy Williams to a coaching position in the country with Pyramid Hill in the off-season was more than covered by the appointment of Wally Carter from North Melbourne as a non-playing coach. It was to prove a master stroke by the committee because many were of the opinion that Carter should never have been replaced at North and the Seagulls swooped.

Carter played 137 games with the Shinboners from 1929-1940 during a bleak period for the Club. After Army service during World War II, he turned his hand to coaching and in 1946 he guided North's Thirds to the premiership and followed that up with the Seconds flag in 1947, while also taking the Thirds to the preliminary final. He became senior coach the following season, and in 1949 took North to the minor premiership and a preliminary final. In 1950 Carter became the first coach to get North into a VFL grand final. The team slipped back and, at the end of season 1953, Carter resigned due to a perceived lack of support from the North Melbourne board. By November of that year he had a change of heart and applied for the coaching job but was passed over, so Williamstown got their man. Carter achieved great success with Williamstown because he viewed it as another VFL club and trained the players hard and expected high standards of discipline.

Clever ruckman and former captain-coach, Adrian Dullard, retired after 82 games and 111 goals while equal 1951 best and fairest winner, Gordon 'Splinter' Williams, moved on to Mornington as captain-coach after 106 games. The other Bill Williams ('Altona/left-footer') also dropped out and John Molyneux, who played only four matches in 1953, retired after 78 games and 73 goals in the Royal Blue and Gold since 1949.

Future Team of the Century back pocket, John Ramsay, came across from Essendon and Bob Jones from Yarraville bolstered the ruck. Neil Whitaker and Dale Anderson transferred from Melbourne and Noel Alford came with Carter from North. Keith Abberton returned from Moe, Ray Martini came from Carlton and useful junior players Ian McLeod (from the reserves via South Melbourne Thirds), Jim Hall (from Footscray via Welshpool), John (Jack) McTaggart (from Spotswood (father of 1980's star Brett), Arthur Hewitt, Colin Woolstencroft and Peter Barnes (all from the Thirds)  were added to the list. Reg Fisher was another with experience who crossed over from Richmond.

Gerry Callahan was the logical player to take over the captaincy reigns, and he soon vindicated the committee's judgement as a loyal and competent understudy to Wally Carter. Callahan and his teammates had expected ruckman Harry Simpson to get the nod as he had been the side’s best player in 1953 and complemented this with outstanding form in the practice matches. However, Club officials believed Simpson did not possess the social skills of the more gregarious Callahan so gave him the job instead, which made him the youngest captain in the VFA. Alby Linton was appointed vice-captain.

Harold Hosking indicated, when he accepted a fifth term as President at the annual meeting in respect of the 1953 season held at the Town Hall in December of 1953, that 1954 would be his last as head of the Club. Former President Alf Urban and Mrs Evelyn Spicer were elected life members for long service to the Club, with the latter being only the second woman to receive the honour over the long period of the Club's existence, with the other being Mrs Rowley Sands in 1933. Mrs Spicer was the first secretary of the Ladies Committee when it was formed in 1939, a position she held until the end of 1953. Similarly, Mrs E. Hanrahan had been the treasurer of the Ladies Committee since its formation, 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. 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. 

The strong recovery from the 1951-52 slump carried through to a triumphant conclusion in 1954 with the winning of the premiership after one of the most consistent seasons in the club's history. Best of all this was not just a flash-in-the-pan but a return to another brilliant era during which the pennants of 1955 and 1956 were also captured. This performance lifted the Club up amongst the records of Footscray, North Melbourne, Coburg and Northcote which also completed the VFA premiership 'hat trick'. The 1954 flag was the club's sixth and the third since the war recess which, when added to the high placements of other years of that period, offset Port Melbourne's consistency in the home and away rounds  and made the Club's record on and off the field hard to beat.

Comfortable victories in the first three games of the 1954 season against Yarraville (20 points), Camberwell (48 points) and Brighton (73 points) created the momentum for 'Town to take top position on the ladder but three defeats in the following 5 games at Preston, Box Hill and Northcote saw the Seagulls slip to fourth place by round 8, despite the 134-point victory over Sandringham at Williamstown in round 7, with Johnny Walker kicking 14 goals. Not another game was lost until round 18 when Box Hill downed the Seagulls for the second time in the season. Included in this string of victories were wins over eventual finalist Moorabbin in round 12 by 5 points and eventual runner-up, Port Melbourne, by 20 points in round 13, one of Port's three losses in the home-and-away season. There was controversy in the game at North Port when umpire Herb Gamble, at the insistence of Gerry Callahan, bounced the ball to commence the second quarter before the timekeepers had even sounded the siren and whilst the Port players were still assembled on the half-back flank being addressed by their captain, Frank Johnson. Gamble blew his whistle to resume play  only to be ignored by the Port men. Although the Seagulls players were also not in position, the three who were near the centre rushed the ball down the ground and, with no opposition, an easy goal was scored by 'Town's Dale Anderson, which incensed the Port supporters and officials. Port players were still running to position when Gamble bounced the ball a second time following the goal, but this time only a behind resulted as Port defenders arrived to force a hurried shot. A Port player, Ernie Atkinson, and an official were both reported by Gamble for use of abusive language towards him during the game, as Williamstown kicked 5 of their 12 goals from 9 free kicks in front of goal against Port's zero free kicks in their forward zone. 

The home-and-away rounds were completed with another massive win over Sandringham, this time by 127 points, and a narrow one point victory at Williamstown over Northcote. The season resulted in 16 victories and only four defeats over the 20 game home-and-away series, with only one loss at home and second spot on the ladder. The team was never lower than fourth place all year, and for most of the season occupied first or second position on the ladder.

Box Hill and Moorabbin improved out of sight and the Hill men were the only club to defeat Williamstown twice. Whilst there was some excuse for the season’s heaviest home-and-away loss, a 9-point defeat at Box Hill in round six, as the ground was a sea of mud, no such reason could be used for the 4-point upset at Pt Gellibrand in round 18 when the home side was playing well. Surprisingly Box Hill finished the season in eighth place with just nine wins. Northcote, the only finalist to beat the Seagulls during the season, nearly achieved the same feat with a 5-point win at home and a one point loss at Williamstown. A narrow loss at Preston (4 points) and victories against Moorabbin and Brighton (both 5 points) meant the Seagull supporters were treated to plenty of heart-stoppers during the season.

The final four comprised Port Melbourne, one match ahead of Williamstown, followed by Moorabbin and Northcote, which had finished twelfth the previous season. Moorabbin had made the finals for the first time, which was excellent considering the short time it had been in the Association and kicked its highest score (31.12.198) against Sandringham in round 20 at Moorabbin in a 164-point victory. Peter Schofield booted 22 goals on the day, following on from his 14 the week before at Camberwell. 

Once more Williamstown met Port in a second-semi, which was Port's seventh such appearance since the war recess, before a crowd of 18,000 on a wet day with hail on occasions. While 'Town played well, especially early when it enjoyed a 14-point quarter-time lead, Port always seemed to have the game in hand and got home by 2 goals, 7.12.54 to 5.12.42, aided by their second term of 3.3 to the Seagulls mere 2 behinds. Williamstown managed just 1.8 after the first term to Port's 5.10, and failed to score a goal in either the second or third quarters. Best for the Seagulls were Neil Whittaker, Sid Wookey, Gerry Callahan, Johnny Martin, Jack Curran and Alby Linton.

This game marked the end of the excellent career of Johnny Walker after 447 goals in his 127 games. He never really recovered from the hard knocks of the previous season and was able to play only ten matches for the year, kicking 41 goals including the 14 against Sandringham at Williamstown in round 7. Although not of the same physique as Ron Todd and Harry 'Soapy' Vallence, he was very nearly as prolific as those two champions if only the games he played at full forward were taken into account when determining his average per match. Tragically, he died in 1959, aged just 32.

The preliminary final against Northcote, appearing in their first final series for six years, was played in front of a crowd of 14,500 and resulted in a comfortable win to Williamstown, 17.11.113 to 10.12.72. This was only the second meeting in a final by the two clubs, the first semi-final of 1939 being the other, which Williamstown won by just one goal. The Dragons surprised everyone by advancing so far after financial troubles had undermined the Club’s future during 1953. On a dry day and a firm surface, Williamstown’s big men exploited Northcote’s lack of height in the first half to have the game virtually wrapped up by half-time, leading 11.4 to 5.2. At that stage, ‘Town had taken 42 marks to Northcote’s 22. The Dragons were unable to match the ruck strength of Wookey and Simpson, Martin’s dash off the wing and the reliability of Alan Leigh and Callahan across half-back. Spearhead Dale 'Swede' Anderson, who had replaced Walker at full-forward, kicked five goals, while rovers Linton and Alford both scored four. Len Kent and Reg Fisher were other good players. 

In the grand final against Port, an ankle injury precluded Jack Evans from selection and he was replaced by Ian McLeod. Port was still without captain-coach Don Fraser, who had been suspended for 10 games after being found guilty of elbowing Northcote's Graeme Hunter in a behind-play incident at Northcote in round 12. Played in near-perfect conditions, from the opening bounce Williamstown looked the more accomplished and confident team and led 4.7 to 0.1 at quarter time. Several Port players tried to rough up their Seagull opponents in the first half with little impact and umpire Irving handed out penalties regularly. Trailing by 18 points at half-time, Port was still in the contest but Williamstown sealed the game in the third term by adding a further 4.7 to lead by seven goals at the last change. Although Port kicked the identical score it did in the second-semi of 7.12.54, it was not enough and Williamstown romped home by kicking 11.20.86 in front of 30,000 people. This was one of the rare occasions when the team that lost the second-semi returned to win the grand final, and Port had to be content with yet another runners-up but it did win the Squire Reid Club Championship award for the third consecutive time. Most prominent in the ‘Town side was bigman Harry Simpson, who negated the brilliance of Port’s Frank Johnson, and formed a formidable ruck division with Sid Wookey and Reg Fisher. Winger Johnny Martin, defenders Gerry Callahan and Reg Harley, rover Noel Alford and centre half-forward Len Kent were the other stars on the day.

Williamstown’s 1954 premiership team was :

B.      Reg Harley            Max Munday           John Ramsay

HB.   Jack Curran           Gerry Callahan (c.)        Alan Leigh

C.      Johnny Martin      Neil Whitaker         George Taafe

HF.    Ray Smith              Len Kent                  Ian McLeod

F.       Sid Wookey           Dale Anderson       Noel Alford

Foll.   Harry Simpson      Reg Fisher

Rov.   Alby Linton (v.c.)

Res.    Frank Sims            Keith Abberton

Coach: Wally Carter


Some footage of the 1954 grand final can be seen at the following link


The Seconds won sixteen of their twenty matches to finish second behind Moorabbin but, like the Seniors, lost the second-semi with a score of 4.7.31 to Moorabbin's 14.13.97, following a goalless second half. The Seagulls won well against Port in the preliminary final, 16.11.107 to 9.14.68, and met up again with Moorabbin in the grand final. On this occasion the newcomers proved too strong for ‘Town and won its first pennant, 11.10.76 to 10.8.68, despite the Seagulls being 18 points in front at three-quarter time. This was the fourth time that the Seconds had been runners-up and the third time in six seasons. Lou Barker was captain-coach and Charlie McLaren won the VFA Seconds best and fairest award, the Angus McDonnell Trophy, as well as the Club's reserves best and fairest.

Former senior ruckman from 1946-53, including the 1949 premiership, Murray McRae, was coach of the Thirds, which finished sixth with eleven wins from seventeen matches. Laurie Davies headed the competition goalkickers with a total of 59. Keith Cameron won their best and fairest. Preston were premiers.

One of the highlights of the season was the visit by the Governor of Victoria, Sir Dallas Brooks, to Williamstown to see the team play Preston on July 17. He was made an honorary life member of the Club and his nephew, Christopher Byrne, was given an inscribed football. His granddaughter, Jennifer Byrne, who also accompanied him, would become a leading Australian journalist, television presenter and book publisher and marry comedian and film producer, Andrew Denton.

Harry Simpson capped off a fine season in the ruck by finishing second to Ted Turner of Brighton in the JJ Liston Trophy and also took out the Club's best and fairest award, the Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy. He also won the Herald award for the VFA's best player and both the Advertiser and Chronicle trophies. Alby Linton was runner-up in the Club best and fairest and, with 46 goals, was Williamstown’s leading goalkicker and 11th on the Association list. The team kicked a total of 283 goals and 326 behinds (2024) to the opposition's 181 goals and 241 behinds (1327). Apart from Linton, Johnny Walker (41), Harry Simpson (26), Dale Anderson (24), Noel Alford & Ray Smith (21), Kev Taylor (19), Keith Abberton (18) and Ron Graham & Reg Fisher (11) were others to boot more than ten goals over the course of the season. Over the course of the season, 33 players featured in the Williamstown senior side with Max Munday and John Ramsay being the only players to appear in all of the Club's 23 engagements during the year. 

Reg Harley bought up his 100th game with the Club during 1954 and retired at the end of the season after 117 matches and 19 goals, aged 29.

Long-serving Club doctor, Louis Joel, received life membership at the annual general meeting in respect of the 1954 season held at the Town Hall in December, after 27 years service. At the meeting the following players received trophies: Harry Simpson (best and fairest), Alby Linton (best and fairest runner-up), Johnny Martin (most consistent), Ray Smith (most serviceable), Max Munday (most effective), Jack Curran (most improved), Ian McLeod (best first-year player), Reg Fisher (best utility), George Taafe, Alan Leigh, Gerry Callahan, John Ramsay and Sid Wookey (special services award) and Alby Linton (goalkicking award). 

Former player, Don Murray, passed away on September 3 at his home in Osborne Street, aged 90. Born in 1864, he commenced playing for South Williamstown in 1886 and 1887 before coming to Williamstown after the merger, where he played in 1888 and 1889 before transferring to Carlton for the 1890 and 1891 seasons, where he played between 9-15 games. He returned to Williamstown during 1891 and played until the end of 1892, appearing in 40 games in total for the Villagers. Murray was also a cricketer, and in 1892 played against an English XI, captained by the famous W.G. Grace, at Williamstown. He was a member of the Williamstown Cricket Club from 1885 until his passing. He spent his entire working life as an engine fitter at the Newport railway workshops.

Since the VFA resumed in 1945 after the war recess, Williamstown had played in 218 matches for 149 wins, 66 losses and 3 draws. Of the 102 games at Pt Gellibrand only 14 had been lost. In 1954, nine of the ten home matches were won. This has resulted in three premierships, once runners-up, three third placings and one fourth finish, as well as the 1946 lightning premiership. 

Membership totalled 1,122 in this season, comprised of 935 adults and 187 students. 

Alex Gillon took over the presidency of the VFA in February of this year, a role which he retained unopposed for the next 27 seasons until 1980, the longest tenure in the Association's history. Radio station 3AK broadcast the VFA's match-of-the-day each week with commentators Wallace 'Jumbo' Sharland, the former Geelong ruckman, and Alan Forster. The Association was also looking to buy a property in East Melbourne to be used as their headquarters.   

At the conclusion of the season, 52 players, officials and supporters sailed to Sydney aboard the MV Kanimbla in October, spending four days at Kings Cross. Upon departure and return, the 1954 premiership pennant was flown as the boat made its way along the Yarra River.

Following the departure of captain-coach of 1952/53, Billy Williams, Gerry Callahan was appointed skipper of the side and would lead the team to premierships in 1954, 1955 and 1956 and then a further two as captain-coach in 1958 and 1959.

Second-year player, Alby Linton, was appointed vice-captain in 1954 and would finish runner-up in the best and fairest and leading goalkicker with 46 majors.  

Ray Smith was entering his fourth season as a senior player in 1954 and was voted the side's most serviceable player at the end of the year. 

Champion full-back Max Munday was awarded the most effective player trophy at the conclusion of the season. 

John Ramsay joined Williamstown in 1954 from Essendon, where he had played two senior games in 1952 as well as playing in two premierships with the Bombers' Seconds in 1950 and 1952. He would go on to play 125 games and kick 7 goals up until the end of 1959, including five premierships in 1954/55/56/58/59. He was selected in a back pocket in the WFC Team of the Century.


Ray Martini was recruited to the Club in 1954 from Carlton, after 7 games with the Blues in 1953 without kicking a goal. Originally from Flemington YCW, Martini had earlier played 13 games and kicked one goal with Essendon from 1950-52. He would go on to play 10 games and kick 6 goals in his two seasons with the Seagulls in 1954 and 1955.

Williamstown Chronicle, December 11, 1953

Former North Melbourne player & coach, Wally Carter, was appointed coach of Williamstown for 1954.

Williamstown Chronicle May 7, 1954

Williamstown Football Club vice-presidents 1954

Back row: Joe Connery, Kevin Hynes, Jack Carter, Cyril Downes

Front row: Tom Orange, Theo Nelson, George Holdsworth, Alan Harsley

Williamstown Football Club training staff 1954

Back row: Eddie Deller, Bob Major (head trainer), Max Moate (St Johns Ambulance boy), Stan Bamford, Bob Cairncross

Front row: Harry Armstrong (boot studder, 1946-1965), Merv White, Harry Cousins, Bill Taylor, Bob Heaney

Williamstown Chronicle July 9, 1954

Three champions of the 1950's, Harry Simpson, Max Munday and Gerry Callahan 

 Williamstown Chronicle July 30, 1954

Sporting Globe, July 21 1954 - Umpire Herb Gamble controversially bounced the ball to start the second quarter of the round 13 game at Port Melbourne before the siren had been sounded by the timekeepers and while the Port players were still being addressed by their captain, Frank Johnson, which resulted in an easy goal to 'Town.  

Williamstown Chronicle July 30, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, July 16 1954

Sporting Globe, July 17 1954 

Williamstown Chronicle July 23, 1954

From a newspaper report in 1970 - Jennifer Byrne would become a leading Australian journalist, television presenter and book publisher and marry comedian and film producer, Andrew Denton.

The Mr Barty referred to in the above article was Dave Barty, who played 45 games and kicked 21 goals for Williamstown from 1899-1902. He served in the armed forces in the First World War and was rewarded with life membership of the Club in April 1904 along with seven other former players when life memberships were awarded for the first time in the Club's history. At that time, a player qualified for life membership if they played four consecutive seasons for the Club. Also, the McColl listed on the half-back flank is incorrect and the players correct name was M. 'Libbis' McCarroll. 

Argus newspaper team photo from July 30 1954, taken before the home-and-away match against Preston at Williamstown the week before.

Back row: Len Kent, Ian McLeod, Max Munday, Keith Abberton, Syd Wookey, Neil Whitaker, Ray Smith

Centre row: Johnny Martin, Jack Curran, Harry Simpson, John Ramsay, Gerry Callahan, Wally Carter, Frank Sims, Dale Anderson, Jack Evans, Don Rogers

Front row: Alan Leigh, Alby Linton, Noel Alford, Reg Fisher

Williamstown Chronicle, September 17, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, September 24 1954 - 'Town's Johnny Walker is spoiled by Port's George Stone in the second semi-final, won by Port by 2 goals. This was Walker's last appearance for the Seagulls after booting 447 goals in his 127 games. Tragically, he died in 1959, aged just 32.

 Williamstown Chronicle, September 24 1954

VFA Recorder, 1954 Preliminary Final, Williamstown v. Northcote 

Williamstown's Norm Bernard's mark in the 1949 Grand Final recaptured in the 1954 Recorder

The Age September 27, 1954

The Age September 27, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, October 1 1954

The Age October 1, 1954

The Age October 1, 1954

The Age, October 2, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8 1954

 The Sporting Globe, October 2, 1954.

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8 1954.

The Sporting Globe, October 2, 1954.

The Argus, October 4 1954 - 'Town's Harry Simpson marks over Port's Jack Metherall in the grand final.


The Argus, October 4, 1954.

The Argus, October 4 1954

The Age October 4, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8 1954

The Sporting Globe, October 2, 1954.

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8 1954

 The Age October 4, 1954

The Age October 4, 1954

The Age October 4, 1954

The Sporting Globe, October 2, 1954.

Williamstown Chronicle October 8, 1954 


Some footage of the 1954 grand final can be seen at the following link


Williamstown Chronicle October 8, 1954 

Williamstown Chronicle October 8, 1954 

Williamstown premiership coach, Wally Carter.

 Emerald Hill Record October 9, 1954

George Taafe's 1954 premiership trophy.

Keith Abberton's 1954 premiership trophy.

Max Munday's 1954 premiership trophy.

Rivals from 1954, Port Melbourne's Bob Bonnett and 'Town's Gerry Callahan, pictured here in 2004.

The Seconds won sixteen of their twenty matches to finish second behind Moorabbin but, like the Seniors, lost the second-semi with a score of 4.7.31 to Moorabbin's 14.13.97, following a goalless second half. The Seagulls won well against Port in the preliminary final, 16.11.107 to 9.14.68, and met up again with Moorabbin in the grand final. On this occasion the newcomers proved too strong for ‘Town and won its first pennant, 11.10.76 to 10.8.68, despite the Seagulls being 18 points in front at three-quarter time. This was the fourth time that the Seconds had been runners-up and the third time in six seasons. 1949 senior premiership wingman, Lou Barker, was captain-coach and Charlie McLaren won the VFA Seconds best and fairest award, the Angus McDonnell Trophy, as well as the Club's reserves best and fairest.

Age, 20 September, 1954

Age, 27 September, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8, 1954

The Sporting Globe, October 2, 1954.

1954 premiership team

Back row: Bob Jones, John Ramsay, Jack Curran, Keith Abberton, Len Kent, Max Munday, Jack Evans, Dale Anderson, Harry Simpson, Sid Wookey

Middle row: Ray Smith, Gerry Callahan (captain), Wally Carter (coach), Alby Linton (vice-captain), Neil Whitaker

Front row: Alan Leigh, Johnny Martin, Frank Sims, George Taafe

Williamstown Thirds 1954

Back row: John Turner, Keith Stevenson, Bob Jones, Cliff Deacon, Peter Richards, Eric/Bert Mansell, Norm Snow, Keith Cameron (captain and best & fairest winner), Brian Lee, Murray McRae (coach), R. Robinson, Bobby Dalgleish, Laurie Davies (VFA Thirds leading goalkicker)

Front row: Charlie Green, Brian Lowne(s), R. Allen, Fred Grubb, Brian Stafford, Theo Nelson, Herbie Machar, Bob Pitts 

Mascot: unknown

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8 1954 

The Argus, October 8 1954

An extract from Larry Floyd's book on the history of the VFA and Williamstown - the games played and goalscorers of 1954. The second column in the games played and goals scored records is the player's cumulative total. 

Williamstown Chronicle, September 10 1954

Williamstown Chronicle October 15, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, December 17 1954

 Williamstown Chronicle December 17, 1954

Former player, Don Murray, (40 games, 1888-89 & 1892) pictured here when playing for Carlton in 1890, passed away on September 3 at the age of 90. He also represented a Williamstown cricket team against the touring MCC side captained by W.G. Grace at the Williamstown Cricket Ground in January 1892. 

The Age, September 4, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, September 10, 1954

Williamstown life member badge 







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