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 era for the club. After Army service during World War II, he turned his hand to coaching and in 1947 guided North to the VFL seconds flag. He became senior coach the following season, and in 1950 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 Williams, moved on to Mornington as coach after 106 games. The other Bill Williams ('Altona/left-footer') also dropped out and John Molyneux, who played only four games 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, that it 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 R. Sands. 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 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.   

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 momentum 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 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. 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.

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 late in the season.

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. While the '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. 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, the ‘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 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 opponents in the first half with little impact and umpire Irving handing 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. Key man in the ‘Town side was ruckman Simpson, who negated the brilliance of Port’s Frank Johnson, and formed a formidable big-man division with Wookey and Fisher. Winger Martin, defenders Callahan and Harley, rover Alford and centre half-forward Kent were the other stars.

Williamstown’s 1954 premiership team was :

B.      Reg Harley            Max Munday           John Ramsay

HB.   Jack Curran           Gerry Callahan        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

Res.    Frank Sims            Keith Abberton

Coach: Wally Carter

 

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT-e6l1e9z4

 

The seconds won sixteen of the 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 the ‘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. Lou Barker was the coach and Charlie McLaren won the league best and fairest award, the Angus McDonnell Trophy, as well as the Club's reserves best and fairest.

Former senior ruckman, 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.

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. Ian McLeod was best first-year player. 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, Leonard Joel, received life membership at the annual general meeting held in December after 27 years service. 

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. This has resulted in three premierships, once runners-up, three third placings and one fourth finish, as well as the 1946 lightning premiership. 

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. 

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. 

                                          

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

From 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, H. 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

From the Williamstown Chronicle July 23, 1954

                                                                                           From a newspaper report in 1970

 

Argus newspaper team photo from July 30 1954 before a home-and-away match.

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

                                       The Age September 20, 1954

From 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

       The Age October 1, 1954

                                                       The Age October 1, 1954

                         From The Age, October 2, 1954

                                       From The Argus October 4, 1954

                                                              From The Argus October 4, 1954

                          From The Age October 4, 1954

                                                  From The Age October 4, 1954

 

           From The Argus October 4, 1954

      From The Age October 4, 1954

                      From The Age October 4, 1954

                                From Williamstown Chronicle October 8, 1954 

 

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT-e6l1e9z4

 

From the Emerald Hill Record October 9, 1954

                                                  George Taafe's 1954 premiership trophy

Age, 20 September, 1954

Age, 27 September, 1954

Williamstown Chronicle, October 8, 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: J. Turner, Keith Stevenson, R. Jones, C. Deacon, P. Richards, B. Mansell, N. Snow, Keith Cameron (best & fairest), B. Lee, Murray McRae (coach), R. Robinson, B. Dalglish, Laurie Davies (VFA Thirds leading goalkicker)

Front row: C. Green, V. Lowne, R. Allen, Fred Grubb, Theo Nelson, Herbie Machar, R. Pitts 

From Williamstown Chronicle October 15, 1954

 

From Williamstown Chronicle December 17, 1954

                                                         Williamstown life member badge 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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