Season Summary: 1981

After trialling it during the 1980 finals series, two field umpires were used during all Division 1 matches in 1981. Division 2 continued to be officiated by a single field umpire up until round 15. One of the consequences of this was that the Liston Trophy voting procedure changed. Previously, in both the Liston Trophy and Field Medal, the field umpire and each of the two goal umpires had independently awarded votes to the best two players on the ground on a 2–1 basis. This year in Division 1, each field umpire but neither of the goal umpires awarded Liston Trophy votes on the same 2–1 basis as before; in Division 2, Field Medal voting procedures were unchanged.

Ernest 'Junior' Jackson took over the Presidency from Sid Wookey, whilst Merv Hobbs continued on as coach with Greg Tweedly the new captain. 1975 best and fairest winner, Mick Kelly, returned to the Club after 57 games and 18 goals with Footscray from 1976-80 and was made deputy vice-captain and represented the VFA in a game in Adelaide against the South Australian Amateurs. Alan Kennedy was elevated to the vice-captaincy after being deputy vice-captain in 1980. Alun Owen commenced with the seniors in this season from South Districts and went on to play 96 games and kick 21 goals, including the 1986 premiership and the 1985 grand final, up until the end of 1990. Stan Gilday joined from Carlton during the year. Lou Raunik from Wembley Park was another new player along with Paul and John Sinnott. 

The season began promisingly with three wins and a draw in the first four rounds to sit the team in second position on the ladder. The victory against Yarraville at Williamstown in round 1 by four points, 16.25.121 to 18.9.117, was achieved despite 'Town having 14 more scoring shots and the Eagles missing with the last kick of the day. The draw was against Werribee in round 2 at Williamstown, where the Seagulls led by 6 goals at three-quarter time, while the round 4 clash against Box Hill, also at home, resulted in a percentage-boosting 20 goal victory, 26.26.182 to 8.12.60, with Carlton recruit, Stan Gilday, kicking 7 goals on debut. Four losses in the next five rounds had pushed the Seagulls down to seventh by the half-way mark of the season, but four consecutive wins from rounds 12-15, including a huge 164-point victory at Williamstown over Sunshine, 36.24.240 to 10.11.76 (Paul John 8 goals, Ian Fairley 6) had 'Town back in contention. This was the Club's highest-ever score to that point in time, exceeding the previous record of 36.20.236 which had stood for 41 years since Ron Todd's first game for Williamstown at Yarraville in round 1, 1940.

However, three successive losses to finish off the season, including a 3 point defeat at Williamstown by eventual premier Camberwell in round 17, meant that Williamstown had slipped three rungs to seventh place after 1980, winning nine, losing eight and drawing one game. The Seagulls were three wins and considerable percentage outside the final four. While the Seagulls showed occasional good form, a finals place was never likely, particularly when, at one stage of the season, 18 senior players including captain Greg Tweedly, Mick Kelly, Alan Kennedy, Mal Taylor, Romeo Montebruno and Stan Gilday were out injured, including the entire goal-to-goal line. 

Phil McTaggart, once again captain-coach of the Reserves and assistant to Merv Hobbs, got his team into the finals for the third year in succession, finishing the home-and-away rounds in third place with 14 wins and 4 losses, equal with Werribee but 30% behind the Tigers. However, they went down to eventual premiers, Camberwell, in the first semi-final, 23.15 to 14.9, after having three players sent off during the game, none of which were subsequently suspended. The under 19's slipped into the final four by 0.1%, edging out Oakleigh, and then went on to win the premiership at Preston by 9 goals, 22.4.136 to Waverley's 12.12.84, under the guidance of second-year coach Dave Hughes and captained by Larry Loton. Future senior premiership player, Rick Slevison, kicked 6 goals while the best players were Noel Shield, Chris Sandells, Larry Loton, Gary Goding, Mark Arceri and Slevison. 

The Andy Taylor Memorial Award for Club senior best and fairest player went to Geoff Bebend, from Ian Fairley and Laurie Taylor. Fairley also was awarded the Bert Hodge Memorial Trophy for leading goalkicker with a total of 39 for the season, and tied for the most consistent player award with Paul Eudey. 

The Reserves best and fairest was awarded to John Sinnott, from Rod Smith and captain-coach Phil McTaggart. Phil Chapman, who had kicked over one hundred goals in the Thirds in 1978 and 1979, won the Seconds goalkicking award with a total of 62 for the year. The Thirds best and fairest was won by Gary Goding, from Tony Clement and Mark Arceri. Clement also finished third in the voting for the VFA under 19's competition best and fairest award, the F. Gomez Medal. Peter Brierty won the goalkicking in the Thirds with a total of 67. Best Clubman for the under 19's was awarded to Mark Brien. 

Phil McTaggart won a back-to-back Bill 'Darkie' Raffle Memorial Trophy for best clubman. 

Bob Pearman was again manager of the senior team, Terry Maloney manager of the Seconds and Ron Black the Thirds. 

Alan Kennedy played his 75th senior game for the Club in round 18, while Mal Taylor, Laurie Taylor and Rollo Goetz all played their 50th during the season. During the year the Club lost one of its greatest-ever supporters in Tom 'The Governor' Stewart, whilst Leo Callahan, the father of the legendary Gerry Callahan, also passed on. 

For the first time since 1931, Dr Louis Joel was no longer in the role of Club medical officer. Dr Howard Parker took over the position after having shared the role with Dr Joel in 1980. Legendary trainer, John Hogg, joined the support staff in this season. 

A number of people were added to the life members list at the annual meeting held in December. Terry Maloney (Seconds team manager since 1972 & social committee member) and Peg Cairncross (ladies committee member for 10 years) had the honour bestowed upon them. Gordon Drew (Seconds secretary 1945-61), Dave Palmer (Seconds treasurer 1945-61), Syd Gething (Reserves' player 1945-54, dual premiership player 1948 and 1954 and long-time trainer of the Seconds) and Keith Reitman (Seconds president and member of Seconds 1948 premiership team), who were already life members of the Seconds, were elevated to the same honour with the Senior Club.   

Since the late 1970's, the popularity and financial viability of the VFA had been in decline. One factor contributing to this was the promotion and relegation system which existed between the two divisions, which had been in place since 1961. It meant promotion for the Division 2 premier and relegation of the Division 1 wooden-spooner at the end of each season, but it was based purely on on-field performance and no consideration was given to the off-field strength of the club(s), which was the most critical factor in determining a club's viability. A huge gap between the strongest and weakest clubs had emerged, and the fickle correlation between off-field strength and on-field finishing positions meant that some strong clubs were stuck in Division 2 and some weak clubs were holding their places in Division 1. The conclusion was that the VFA would be more viable if the clubs which made up Division 1 were selected based on off-field merit and viability, rather than on-field results. A new structure, which was first proposed in September 1980, was ratified in May 1981 under Alan Wickes' new VFA presidency. Under the new structure to commence in 1982:

·       Division 1 was expanded from ten to twelve clubs.

·       Division 2 could be expanded to as many as twelve clubs, with the final number depending upon the number of suitable applicants.

·    The clubs in Division 1 were selected by the VFA executive based on the following criteria, in order of importance: quality of administration; financial position; quality of facilities; long-term potential of the club; on-field performance; on-field and off- field reputation; development programs for junior players and local attitudes towards Sunday football.

·       Promotion and relegation between the divisions was decided at the end of the season at the discretion of the VFA, based on the same criteria.

·       Automatic promotion and relegation for the Division 2 premier and the Division 1 wooden spooner was abolished. This was to last for only two seasons, and was reinstated during the 1983 season.

The VFA also encouraged a number of its weaker clubs to consider amalgamating with neighbouring clubs to improve long-term viability. As many as fourteen of the Association's twenty clubs were sent letters on the matter of amalgamation during 1981. Prahran and CaulfieldBox Hill and Camberwell, and Oakleigh and Waverley were amongst the pairs of clubs known to have been approachedbut no mergers resulted.

The composition of the new Division 1 was announced on 7 September 1981, the day after the Second Division Grand Final. Four Division 2 clubs were promoted to the expanded Division 1 in 1982, namely Camberwell, Waverley, Werribee and Williamstown. Despite finishing seventh and having only average performances in Division 2 since being relegated after the 1977 season, Williamstown (the longest-serving club still in the Association) was considered to be still one of the most financially stable and well supported clubs in the lower division.

The changes also helped to spread Division 1 more evenly across Melbourne: Werribee and Williamstown were the first western suburban clubs in Division 1 since 1977, and Waverley's inclusion provided more representation to the sprawling south-eastern suburbs.

Two Division 1 clubs were relegated for 1982, namely Brunswick and Caulfield. Two other clubs who were considered for relegation but held their places were Geelong West, who had recovered from a severe financial crisis in 1980-81 and Coburg, who, like Brunswick, was suffering from a low fanbase due to demographic shifts in its locality.

Two new clubs joined Division 2 for the 1982 season. These were the first new admissions to the Association since Frankston joined in 1966. The new clubs were Springvale and Kilsyth. The two new clubs brought the total size of the Association to twenty-two clubs, a new record. Division 1 was expanded to twelve clubs, and Division 2 remained constant at ten clubs.

Williamstown, much like the VFA, was drifting and living on past glories. Whether it would have been good enough over the ensuing years to have won the Second Division title and returned to First Division was not tested because of the above-mentioned structural changes. Immediately after the Second Division finals, Williamstown found itself back in First Division. This represented an enormous opportunity to revive and how well the Club grasped that chance became evident as the 1980's unfolded.

At the end of the season, due to the recommendation by incumbent coach Merv Hobbs earlier in the year, that a playing coach was required, the Club appointed former Collingwood and Richmond player Rod Oborne to lead the team back into first division. Brendan Bailey finished up as secretary of the Club due to work commitments, as did treasurer Rob Harding.  

1975 best and fairest winner, Mick Kelly, returned to the Club after 57 games and 18 goals with Footscray from 1976-80 and was made deputy vice-captain. The young boy in front of him is 10 y.o. Chris Curtis, son of Club stalwart, Graeme Curtis.

Results from the round 9 game at Williamstown, won by Waverley by 86 points - the defeat left the Seagulls in seventh place on the ladder. 

The 1981 senior playing list for the round ten encounter with Yarraville at Williamstown, which was coached by former Williamstown Seconds and Thirds player, Les Twentyman, and captained by future Seagull century goalkicker, Mark Fotheringham. Former Seagull, Ron Page (#38), the uncle of Williamstown's Ian Fairley was also on Yarraville's list. 'Town won the clash by 23 points, 22.14.146 to 18.15.123.

Stan Gilday was recruited from Carlton early in the season and booted 7 goals on debut against Box Hill at Williamstown in round 4 in a 122-point victory. Gilday had played in the Seconds and Thirds with the Blues from 1978, and went on to play 9 senior games with the Seagulls and booting 17 goals in his only season with the Club. 

Williamstown Advertiser, April 22, 1981

 Williamstown Advertiser, April 22, 1981

 Williamstown Advertiser, April 22, 1981

Action from the round 5 match at Oakleigh, where the Devils triumphed over the Seagulls, 32.14.206 to 15.13.103.

During the 1981 season, the Club ran a competition to select the best composite team to have represented Williamstown since 1945, as nominated by Club members and supporters. The selected side was not vastly different to the Team of the Century which was picked some 20 years later, in 2003. The winner was the Rev. Russell Braddon, who won two dozen bottles of wine while in second place was former Club historian, Fred Critchley, who was awarded six bottles of wine.

From the VFA Recorder, July 26, 1981 - Rollo Goetz played 76 senior games and kicked 54 goals for Williamstown from 1977-85. He was runner-up in the Williamstown Thirds goalkicking in 1976 with 53 goals and finished fourth in the VFA Thirds best and fairest that same year. Rollo married Nicole, the daughter of Williamstown president of 1981 and part of 1982, Ernest 'Junior' Jackson, who was also a committeeman in 1976 and the Club's VFA delegate from 1977-85.

From the VFA Recorder, August 9, 1981 - Ian 'Flossy Fairley played 38 senior games for Williamstown and booted 85 goals after famously debuting as a 15yo against Box Hill in round 16, 1980, and kicking 8 goals. He played in the Williamstown Seconds' premiership side that same season and was runner-up in the Senior best and fairest award in 1981 as well as leading the goalkicking with 39 and being awarded the most consistent player trophy. Ian was also runner-up in the Williamstown Thirds best and fairest in 1980 and was selected in a forward pocket in the WFC 1980's Team of the Decade. After the first three games of the 1983 season, Ian transferred to North Melbourne and went on to play 217 senior games and kick 149 goals, leading the Club goalkicking in 1989 and booted a goal with his last kick in AFL football in the Roo's 1996 premiership victory. Ian has strong family connections with the Williamstown Football Club as his uncle, Ron Page, played 78 senior games and booted 34 goals for the Seagulls from 1968-70 and 1975-76, including the 1969 premiership victory and grand finals in 1968 and 1970. The third placegetter in Williamstown's best and fairest award is the Cec Page Memorial Trophy, named after Ian's grandfather who was a life member of the Club and a committeeman from 1967-77 as well as a wonderful benefactor to the Club. 

Back row: John Hogg (trainer), Ray Jones, Laurie Taylor, Kevin Yates, Frank Pocervina, Romeo Montebruno, Michael Kelly (deputy vice-captain), Stephen Taafe, John Cutajar, Denis Selvidge, Norm Whetton (trainer)

Centre row: Junior Jackson (President), Brendan Bailey (secretary), John James (reserves runner), Tony McVeigh, Peter Bryceson, Richard Luke, Paul Wilsher, Geoff Bebend, Alun Owen, Greg McRae, Graeme Crocker (time keeper), Phil McTaggart (reserves captain/coach), Bob Pearman (senior team manager)

Front row: Harold Jackson (timekeeper), Simon Philpot, Paul Eudey, Greg Tweedly (captain), Merv Hobbs (senior coach), Allan Kennedy (vice-captain), Brian Gannon, Lou Raunik, Terry Maloney (reserves team manager)

Sitting: Rod Smith, Rollo Goetz, Kelly Hobbs, Phil Chapman, Stan Gilday

Former president, Arthur Johnson, was guest of honour at the luncheon before the round 15 game at Williamstown against Sunshine which ended in a massive 164-point victory. Born in July 1891, he was President of the Club from 1958-1965 and again from 1969-1972. He also served as a Vice-President in 1956 and 1957 and again in 1966, before becoming Senior Vice-President in 1967 and 1968. He was also Secretary of the Club in 1922 and 1923. He passed away in 1986 at the age of 94.

Under 19's premiership team featuring future Senior 1986 and 1990 premiership player Ricky Slevison, who would go on to play 140 senior games from 1982-1991, kicking 105 goals. Steve Bratby would play two senior games in 1985 (no goals), Gary Brook three games in 1983 for one goal, Chris Sandells seven games in 1983-84 for one goal and Glen Holder 17 games for 16 goals from 1982-1985. Mark Arceri went on to play 70 games with North Melbourne (1984-90), 17 games with Carlton (1991-92) and 5 games for St Kilda (1993) before returning to Williamstown as assistant coach in 1994, when he played 16 games kicking 21 goals before retiring from football.

VFA Recorder August 30, 1981 - team lists for the Second Division Thirds preliminary final against Yarraville, whose side contained future Williamstown senior player Wayne Hodges (#7), who would go on to play four senior games with the Seagulls in 1984. He won Williamstown Seconds' best and fairest in 1985 and was runner-up in the same award in 1984 before crossing to Sunshine in 1986. 

VFA Recorder September 6, 1981 - results of Second Division Thirds preliminary final against Yarraville, which saw Williamstown progress to the grand final against Waverley.

VFA Recorder September 6, 1981 - team lists and result of Second Division Thirds grand final against Waverley at Preston. 

Dave Hughes, father of Kevin 'Hap' Hughes, was coach of the 1981 Williamstown Thirds premiership side.

Williamstown Advertiser, September 9, 1981

End-of-season trip to Gold Coast, from left John Hogg, Ron Black, Les Fletcher, Alun Owen, Jeff Ind, Rod Smith, John Sinnott, Brendon Bailey, Tony Walsh, John Cutajar, Ian Fairley, Terry Maloney, Kevin Yates, John Clifton. 

Club treasurer, Rob Harding, stood down after four years in the role from 1978-81.

Legendary trainer, John Hogg, joined the support staff at the Club in 1981.





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