Season Summary: 1997

The playing list saw a huge turnover in 1997 with 33 new players out of a list of 55, with nearly all being aged between 18-22. The exception was 30yo Andrew 'Ghost' Howlett who returned after playing at Lara under Ian 'Chops' Rickman for two seasons and represented the VFL against the ACT during the season. Allen Nash also returned to the Club after breaking his hand in round 2 of 1996, and then spending the remainder of the year on the supplementary list with Melbourne, where he played 14 AFL reserves games. Steve Zavalas also joined the Club from Fitzroy where he had played 21 AFL reserves games while on their supplementary list. Both had played under coach Merv Keane at the Western Jets. Paul Dooley, Josh Mahoney and Brad Lloyd joined AFL clubs Footscray, Collingwood and Hawthorn, respectively, and Brad Copeland went travelling overseas. Nathan Thompson was recruited from Bendigo under 18's to replace Dooley but was drafted by Hawthorn and went on to have a fine career with the Hawks and North Melbourne before finishing his senior playing days with Werribee. 

Williamstown began season 1997 with a draw at Traralgon, a win at Springvale and a two-point loss at home to Sandringham. Three consecutive victories over Werribee, Box Hill and Port Melbourne followed before yet another defeat at the hands of Frankston. Three wins over the next four rounds gave the season momentum and, when they won the return game against Traralgon by 84 points in round 12, it seemed a finals spot was assured. With seven wins and a draw from the first 11 games it appeared only an almighty fade-out would prevent 'Town's advancement. Five losses in 6 weeks against eventual finalists Springvale, Sandringham, Werribee, Port Melbourne and Frankston followed, some by very substantial margins, interspersed with another draw, this time against Box Hill at Pt. Gellibrand. The season concluded with a two-point win against North Ballarat at Williamstown, the only victory in the last 7 games of the year, and a sixth-placed finish, with 8 wins 2 draws and 8 losses, just one victory but substantial percentage behind Port Melbourne. More than 40 players were tried in the Seniors in this season. 

The reserves side, under coach Michael Boyd, also finished in sixth position. Boyd moved to Sydney at the end of the year and was replaced by Mick Baker.

Tony Pastore, who had captained the side since 1994 and had given great service as both a defender and forward, played the last of his 189 senior games with the Club in 1997. He transferred to Springvale the following year. Another veteran, rover Saade Ghazi, won the Club's Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy for best and fairest for the first time and the Ron James Memorial Trophy for most valuable player, which was a fitting reward for his consistent efforts. Phil O'Keefe again scored the most goals for Williamstown with 46 and won the Bert Hodge Memorial Trophy for leading goalkicker. Ron 'Hambone' Johnson was awarded the Bill 'Darkie' Raffle Memorial Trophy for best clubman for the second time. 

Best-on-ground in the 1945 premiership victory, Geoff Spring, passed away on October 3 at the age of 72. He played 56 games and kicked 68 goals with Williamstown from 1945-47 after being recruited from Balwyn. He was swapped for Richmond's Danny Knott in 1948 and went on to play 147 games for the Tigers up until the end of 1957, kicking 63 goals, winning the best and fairest in 1949 and representing Victoria on four occasions. Centre half-forward in the 1939 premiership team, Bert McTaggart jnr, also passed away on August 11 in Hobart, aged 81. He came to Williamstown in 1939 from Williamstown District, played at centre half-forward in the premiership side, won the best first-year player award and then went to Carlton the following season. After playing 9 games and kicking 6 goals with the Blues he returned to Williamstown in early 1941. McTaggart then went to Footscray in 1942 and played 59 games up until the end of 1945. He then went coaching in Tasmania with Clarence. McTaggart played a total of 36 games and kicked 32 goals for Williamstown and later coached the Seconds in 1952. His father, Bert McTaggart snr, played 75 games and kicked 43 goals from 1911-14 and 1919 after the recess for World War I. His uncle, Bobby Gibbs jnr, played 140 games and kicked 87 goals with 'Town from 1907-15 and 1919 and was first rover in the Club's first premiership team in 1907.

After trying to obtain a licence for close on a decade, Seagulls Nest, the Club's successful gaming venue in Newport, officially opened on December 12.

 

Life member, Bryan 'Pro' Hamment, passed away in January 1997.

The Club's gaming venue, Seagulls, opened on 12 December 1997. Pictured are coach Merv Keane, captain Saade Ghazi, player Steve Zavalas and Club legend Barry Round.

Best-on-ground in the 1945 premiership victory, Geoff Spring, pictured here in The Argus of June 17 1950, passed away on October 3 at the age of 72. He played 56 games and kicked 68 goals with Williamstown from 1945-47 after being recruited from Balwyn. He was swapped for Richmond's Danny Knott in 1948 and went on to play 147 games for the Tigers up until the end of 1957, kicking 63 goals, winning the best and fairest in 1949 and representing Victoria on four occasions. 

 

Bert McTaggart jnr passed away in Hobart on August 11, 1997, aged 81. He came to Williamstown in 1939 from Williamstown District, played at centre half-forward in the premiership side, won the best first-year player award and then went to Carlton the following season. After playing 9 games and kicking 6 goals with the Blues he returned to Williamstown in early 1941. McTaggart then went to Footscray in 1942 and played 59 games up until the end of 1945. He then went coaching in Tasmania with Clarence. McTaggart played a total of 36 games and kicked 32 goals for Williamstown and later coached the Seconds in 1952. His father, Bert McTaggart snr, played 75 games and kicked 43 goals from 1911-14 and 1919 after the recess for World War I. His uncle, Bobby Gibbs jnr, played 140 games and kicked 87 goals with 'Town from 1907-15 and 1919 and was first rover in the Club's first premiership team in 1907.

 

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