Season Summary: 1983
Two new clubs joined the VFA second division in 1983, which increased the size of that grade to twelve teams. These clubs, Moorabbin and Berwick, were the last to join the competition until it was rebadged in 1996 as the Victorian Football League, when another new club was admitted. Moorabbin was a merger between McKinnon and Bentleigh Football Clubs, and was not connected to the Moorabbin Club that played in the VFA from 1951 until 1963. Berwick was a successful club playing in the South West Gippsland League. As the automatic promotion/relegation system had been abandoned in 1981, there was no movement of clubs between the two divisions for 1983. However, in July 1983, the VFA reversed this decision and elected to revert to promotion of the second division premier and relegation of the first division wooden-spooner at the end of the season. The size of the VFA in 1983 at 24 teams was the largest-ever in VFA history.
By the start of the 1983 season the Seagulls had added to the playing list 108-game Melbourne player Tony Dullard, whose father Adrian had coached and played 82 games with 'Town from 1950-53, Glenn Murphy from South Melbourne Seconds, Greg Towns, formerly of Carlton and Footscray, Leigh McConnon who had played with Fitzroy and Carlton, and ruckman, Kim Kershaw, after stints at Hawthorn, Richmond and South Melbourne Seconds. Ian Fairley transferred to North Melbourne early in the season.
A 97-point win at Williamstown against Werribee in the opening round (Mark Fotheringham 13 goals) signalled the Seagulls return to first division football and third spot on the ladder. A close two-point loss at Frankston on a wet day without captain-coach Rod Oborne and a 15-point defeat at Williamstown to Geelong West was followed by a twelve-goal drubbing at Coburg, despite Fotheringham booting eight majors. The Lions had the game won by quarter-time with a lead of 10.5 to 2.1. An 82-point win at Camberwell in round 5 (Fotheringham 13 goals) gave hope for a rise up the ladder. The Seagulls led by just two goals at the last change before unleashing a 12-goal to one final quarter.
However, two further losses to Preston at Williamstown by 7 goals and Dandenong away by 16 points in a low-scoring encounter convinced President Merv Hobbs that Rod Oborne was not the right man to take the Club forward and promptly sacked him. Cousin, Graham Oborne, the Club treasurer at the time, resigned and did not return to the Club until mid-1984. Hobbs opted to hand over the presidency to Tony Hannebery and returned to coaching the team for the rest of the season while the Club looked for a new captain-coach.
A 7-goal loss to Sandringham at Williamstown in round 8 was not a great start for the new regime but then a 90-point win at Waverley against the eventual wooden-spooner in round 9 (Fotheringham 8 goals) and a narrow 5-point loss to undefeated ladder-leader Port Melbourne at Williamstown the following week gave false hope, as seven consecutive defeats were to follow. Three of these losses were by more than ten goals, at Werribee in round 12, at home against Coburg in round 15 and at Preston in round 17 before victory in the final home-and-away game at home against Dandenong by 28 points, 16.14.110 to 11.16.82 (Fotheringham 8 goals).
The Club's upheaval over the removal of Oborne did not sit well with the players and the Seagulls won only four games for the season, one less than the year before, and once again finishing in 11th position. Relegation was never a threat because Waverley lost all 18 games, the first club to do so in first division since the partition of the competition in 1961. Despite the team's poor season, Fotheringham kicked 108 goals to head the VFA list and also receive the Bert Hodge Memorial goalkicking award for the Club, the first Seagull to 'top the ton' since Johnny Walker in 1952. He brought up his century in round 17 at Preston with his sixth and final goal of the game. Fothers kicked 36% of the total goals booted by 'Town in this season.
First-year ruckman Kim Kershaw won the first of four consecutive Andy Taylor Memorial best and fairest awards, from fellow recruits Tony Dullard and Glenn Murphy. Kevin Sait ran equal third in the JJ Liston Trophy voting. Laurie Taylor won the most consistent player trophy and the most unselfish award, while Phil Bottams was voted most improved player. Fotheringham and Dullard also represented the VFA in a game against the VAFA on May 22 at Sandringham, which the Amateurs won by 11 points, 18.16.124 to 16.17.113.
Keith 'Bootnose' McKay was awarded the Bill 'Darkie' Raffle Memorial best clubman trophy.
Paul Eudey won his second Reserves best and fairest award, with Gary Brook and Chris Sandells equal second and Steve Bratby in third place. Eudey's previous win was in 1980. Phil McTaggart was captain-coach of the Seconds and assistant to the senior coach for the fifth consecutive season. Ray Arandez took out the Thirds best and fairest award from Don Doria, with Ashley Teagle and Paul Stewart tied for third placing. Stephen Cooke was the leading goalkicker in the under 18's, mainly due to the 46 majors he kicked against Geelong West at Williamstown in round 14 (see story below). Michael Johnstone won the best clubman award for the under 18's. Dave Hughes coached the Thirds for the fourth successive year.
One of the brightest aspects of the season for Williamstown was the attendance of 157-game Footscray veteran Terry Wheeler at the Club's last home game of the year against Dandenong, which resulted in a 5-goal victory for the Seagulls. Merv Hobbs was anxious to obtain his services as coach and president Tony Hannebery, who had the business backing of the Williamstown community, took the next step in convincing him to take the job and he was signed before the year was out, together with former teammate at the Bulldogs, Colin Dell, as assistant coach, captain-coach of the Seconds as well as coach of the Thirds. So well did Wheeler perform over the next five years that he returned to Footscray in 1989 to coach the Seconds and then became Senior coach in 1990 after the fallout from the AFL-proposed merger with Fitzroy.
The Thirds competition was reduced in age from under 19's to under 18's in this season as a trial, with catastrophic results for some clubs, most notably Geelong West, which had to travel the furthest of any team for away games and struggled to field sides on occasions. In July, Williamstown's Third grade team kicked the amazing score of 110.27.687 against the Roosters, which had only 12 players start the game and ended up with eight on the field after four were injured in the first half. Full-forward Stephen Cooke kicked a remarkable 46.8 for the day. It remains the highest score ever recorded in a game of Australian rules football, in any league and at any grade. Coburg had kicked 88.23.551 against the hapless Roosters the previous week, and after these two losses the Geelong West Thirds were withdrawn from the competition for the rest of the season.
Another highlight of the 1983 season was the opening of The Bay View Room (many years later re-named The Barry Round Room) in May of that year. It was located in the back left corner of the W.L. Floyd Pavilion, and remained in use for almost 30 years.
In this season, Terry Maloney was manager of both the Firsts and Seconds while Ron Black managed the Thirds.
Five-time premiership player (1954/55/56/58/59), John Ramsay, passed away on 13 November, aged just 53. Norm Goss senior, the Port Melbourne identity and VFA administrator, also passed away during the year and the Association decided that the Norm Goss Medal would be awarded each year to the player voted as best-on-ground in the first division Grand Final in his honour. Also, Port Melbourne in this season qualified for its 11th consecutive finals series, surpassing the record of Williamstown which made the finals every season from 1953-1962. Another former player, Wally O'Brien, passed away on October 11, 1983, aged 76. O'Brien played 32 games and kicked 14 goals for 'Town from 1929-31 before transferring to Footscray in late June of 1931 and going on to play 49 games and kick 2 goals with the Tricolours from 1931-34 before playing a further 2 games without kicking a goal with Fitzroy in 1935. He was the younger brother of 1930 Williamstown captain-coach, Jack O'Brien. President of the Seconds from 1962-64, Ern Dwyer, was another to pass away on June 26.
At the annual general meeting held in December, four new life memberships were bestowed upon Sid Wookey (played 1950-57, 136 games 31 goals, premierships 1954/55/56, Club president 1978-80), George Bindless (minute secretary 1956-59, ticket secretary 1958, returning officer 1968-83), Greg Tweedly (played 1974-82, 105 games 99 goals, captain 1981, premiership 1976) and Margaret Leighton (ten years on ladies committee).
Leigh McConnon arrived at Williamstown in 1983 after playing 26 games and kicking 4 goals with Carlton in 1976-77 and 23 games and 4 goals with Fitzroy in 1980-81. He was originally from Tasmania and played in North Hobart's 1974 premiership team. He played 28 games and kicked 17 goals with the Seagulls in 1983-84 before embarking on an extensive coaching career with Hadfield, Sunbury, North Hobart, Clarence and Kingston.
1983 playing list before coach Rod Oborne was controversially sacked mid-season.
After three rounds of the 1983 season, Ian Fairley 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. He 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.
Tony Hannebery took over as President mid-season after Merv Hobbs sacked
Rod Oborne and coached the seniors for the remainder of the season.
Club legend Kelvin John 'Kelly' Brent, started out as a trainer in 1959 after being impressed with the 1958 premiership win by the WFC Thirds. He was helping out with the Seconds when they won the 1966 flag under Jocka Mellis' leadership and then became head trainer in 1968, taking over from Bob 'Doc' Major who had been head trainer since 1952. Kelly held the post until the end of the 2001 season when he retired, and sadly passed away in February 2010. His brother-in-law was Daryl 'Dasher' Ward who started with Williamstown seniors at the age of 17, played 188 games and was captain for five years (1962-66) under Gerry Callahan's coaching.
Dr Manu Gilani was appointed the Club's medical officer in 1983, a position he would hold for the next 11 seasons until the end of 1993
Mark Fotheringham was the VFA leading goalscorer in 1983 with 108 goals
Williamstown 1983 senior squad
Back row: Greg McRae, Greg Swann, Rick Slevison, Paul Sinnott, Cameron Phillips, Shaun Drysdale
Second back row: Greg Towns, Leigh McConnon, David Black, Rob Weiderstein, Mick Platt, Darren Grieve, Mark Brierty
Third row: Clint McRae, Gary Brook, Russell Barrett, Brett McTaggart, Jim Mounas, Phil Bottams, Glen Sampson, Brian Robbins, Phil McTaggart
Second row: John Sinnott, Tony Dullard, Mark Cannon, Rod Oborne (captain-coach), Mark Fotheringham (vice-captain), Paul Eudey, Mark Brien, Peter Barlow, Ian Fairley
Front row: Duane Doyle, Jeff Ind, Paul John, Steve Bratby, Kevin Hughes, Kevin Sait
1983 Under 12 Brandella Cup team
Former player, Wally O'Brien, passed away on October 11, 1983, aged 76. O'Brien played 32 games and kicked 14 goals for 'Town from 1929-31 before transferring to Footscray in late June of 1931 and going on to play 49 games and kick 2 goals with the Tricolours from 1931-34 before playing a further 2 games without kicking a goal with Fitzroy in 1935. He was the younger brother of 1930 Williamstown captain-coach, Jack O'Brien.
Multiple premiership player, Liston Medallist and Club best & fairest winner, Johnny Martin, became coach of Willi CY's Thirds in 1983.