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 had been 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 with 'Town from 1950-53, Glenn Murphy from South Melbourne and Greg Towns, formerly of Carlton and Footscray. Ian Fairley transferred to North Melbourne early in the season. A 97-point win at home against Werribee in the opening round (Mark Fotheringham 11 goals) signalled the Seagulls return to first division football and third spot on the ladder. A close two-point loss at Frankston and a 15-point defeat at Geelong West was followed by a twelve-goal drubbing at Coburg, despite Fotheringham booting eight majors. An 82-point win at Camberwell in round 5 (Fotheringham 13 goals) gave hope for a rise up the ladder. However, two further losses to Preston at Williamstown by 7 goals and Dandenong away by 16 points convinced President Hobbs that Rod Oborne was not the right man to coach the Club 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 chose to relinquish the presidency in favour of Tony Hannebery and took over the coaching role for the rest of the season while the Club looked for a new captain-coach. A 90-point win at Waverley against the eventual wooden-spooner in round 9 (Fotheringham 8 goals) and a narrow 5-point loss to ladder-leader Port Melbourne the following week gave false hope, as seven consecutive defeats were to follow, three by more than ten goals, before victory in the final home-and-away game at home against Dandenong by 28 points (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, 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 side's lack of success, Fotheringham kicked 108 goals to head the VFA list and also receive the Bert Hodge Memorial goalkicking award for the Club. First-year ruckman Kim Kershaw, who had played with League clubs Richmond and Hawthorn, won the first of four consecutive Andy Taylor Memorial best and fairest awards, from Tony Dullard and Glen Murphy. Kevin Sait ran equal third in the JJ Liston Trophy voting. Keith 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 Steven Bratby in third place. 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).
Perhaps the most encouraging aspects of season 1983 for Williamstown was the attendance of 157-game Footscray veteran Terry Wheeler at the club's last game of the year. Hobbs was keen to acquire him as a coach and President 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. So well did Wheeler perform over the next five years that he returned to Footscray as senior coach in 1990. 'Wheeler brought a new dimension to Williamstown Football Club as a real professional who would accept nothing less than the best about everything. There was a real change of atmosphere with Terry. He brought good footballers from VFL clubs, and probably the most significant step was when Barry Round was convinced to come to the Club (in 1986)', John Grieve reflected.
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 Geelong West, 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.
One 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 main grandstand, and remained in use for 30 years.
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.
1983 playing list before coach Rod Oborne was controversially sacked mid-season
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