Throwback Thursday: a golden era

Brought to you by Nelson Bros Funeral Services  

The following article was written by former Williamstown secretary and current member John Grieve.  

 

 
(1954 team photo. Back row: Len Kent, Ian McLeod, Max Munday, Keith Abberton, Syd Wookey, Neil Whitaker, Ray Smith. Middle: Johnny Martin, Jack Curran, Harry Simpson, John Ramsay, Gerry Callahan, Wally Carter, Frank Sims, Dale Anderson, Jack Evans, Don Rogers. Front: Alan Leigh, Alby Linton, Noel Alford, Reg Fisher). 

 

Click here for an in-depth read and to learn more about our famous 1950s golden era. 

 

 

I started following Williamstown in 1954 – a premiership year.  

 

I was nine and my father and a neighbour took me along to the footy every week.  I was hooked – premierships and winning became a normal part of my life!  

 

It was an incredible era for the club – five premierships in six years.  The missing year – 1957 – saw Williamstown go undefeated during the home-and-away season, only to lose its two final games.  

 

So sad!

 

But the winning pattern returned in 1958 after the first grand final was a tie between Williamstown and Moorabbin. Of course we won the replay.  

 

The winning streak continued in 1959 and by then I was totally imbued with the Williamstown (winning) spirit.  

 

Although I have seen all the premierships (and losing grand finals) since, I have a real fascination with the ‘50s era.  

 

How a working class club like Williamstown (and Port Melbourne) was able to maintain its superiority over such a long period fascinates me.  

 

When you analyse the players and statistics, you realise a lot of very smart recruiting must have taken place. 

 

In each success there was a number of players who had played in the VFL before coming to Williamstown. Most of these players played less that 10 VFL games but brought depth and skill to the VFA.  

 


(
1956 premiership team. Back row: Reg Ogden, Maurie Gear. Second back: Frank Sims, Alf Woods, Alby Outen, Johnny Martin, John McTaggart, Ray Smith, Eric Bietzel. Second row: Daryl Ward, John Turner, Max Munday, Jack Evans, Bob Jones, John Ramsay, Ken Reed, Allen Laurie. Front row: Alan McPherson, Sid Wookey, Jack Curran, Wally Carter (coach), Gerry Callahan (captain), Frank Jones, Len Kent).

 

The club had 44 players play in the five premierships, 18 of whom had some experience in the VFL.  

 

Only one player (Reg Fisher) played in the VFL after his time at Williamstown. Reg had played four games for Richmond before his three-year premiership stint with the Seagulls.  

 

Reg went to Geelong in 1958, was selected in one game and broke his leg, never to play VFL again. 

 

Many of the 44 players were from local clubs and seemed to flourish under the coaching of Wally Carter. Carter was a strict disciplinarian who had coached North Melbourne in the VFL before coming to Williamstown.  

 

Surprisingly, only three players from North Melbourne joined Williamstown during that era. Noel Alford came in 1954 and Tom Pelly joined in 1958 after Carter had returned to North. Vin Bourke also joined from the Kangaroos. 

 

Carter - Williamstown’s Team of the Century coach - had also played in the VFL before his coaching career began. After Williamstown, he returned to North Melbourne for a further five years and then coached Brunswick for two seasons. 

 

The legend that developed around Gerry Callahan grew more after he played. That is not to understate his footballing talent or coaching ability.  

 

He was the dominant ruckman of the VFA and enjoyed many great battles with Frank Johnston from Port. 

 

Callahan was tough and measured with great support from a talented midfield - the days when wingers actually played on the wing!

 

With today’s football regime it is unlikely one team will dominate the competition over such a span. 

 

Needless to say I am proud to have been able to enjoy it.

 

Player breakdown:   

Name

Premierships

VFL/AFL Games

Reg Harley

1954

61 South Melbourne

Max Munday

1954 1955 1956

0

John Ramsay

1954 1955 1956 1958 1959

0

Jack Curran

1954 1955 1956

0

Gerry Callahan

1954 1955 1956 1958 1959

0

Alan Leigh

1954

0

George Taafe

1954 1955

0

Neil Whittaker

1954 1955 1958

10 Melbourne

John Martin

1954 1955 1956 1958

0

Ray Smith

1954 1955 1956 1958 1959

0

Len Kent

1954 1956 1958 1959

24 Footscray

Ian McLeod

1954

0

Sid Wookey

1954 1955 1956

0

Dale Anderson

1954

7   Melbourne

Noel Alford

1954

24 North Melbourne

Harry Simpson

1954 1955

16 South Melbourne

Reg Fisher

1954 1955 1956

4   Richmond 1 Geelong

Alby Linton

1954 1955 1956

53 Footscray

Frank Sims

1954 1955 1958

0

Keith Abberton

1954

0

Alby Outen

1955 1956

 Footscray

Eric Beitzel

1955 1956 1958 1959

0

Jack Evans

1955 1956 1958 1959

0

Maurie Gear

1955 1956

2 Geelong

Alan McPherson

1955 1956

 South Melbourne

Allen Laurie

1955 1956

0

Bob Jones

1955 1956 1958 1959

0

Frank Sims

1956 1958

0

Ken Reed

1956 1958

 Essendon

Frank Jones

1956

 

Colin Colquhoun

1958 1959

 South Melbourne

Vin Bourke

1958

0

Barry Beitzel

1958 1959

 Carlton

Lindsay Murphy

1958 1959

0

Roy Cullinan

1958 1959

 South Melbourne

George Mazouris

1958 1959

0

Tom Pelly

1958 1959

10 North Melbourne

Neville O’Connor

1958

0

Barry Liddy

1958

0

Don Matthews

1959

31 South Melbourne

Robert ‘Bona’ Jones

1959

0

Leo Maloney

1959

 Essendon

Bob Rawson

1959

0

Darryl Ward

1959

0

 

Summary:

 

- In the five premierships, a total of 44 players were selected. 

 

- Three players – John Ramsay, Gerry Callahan and Ray Smith – played in all five.  

 

- A total of 18 players had played in the VFL before joining Williamstown.  

 

- Reg Harley had the most VFL games (61) of the 44 players.  

 

- Reg Fisher went to Geelong after the 1956 premiership and played one game in which he broke his leg. 

 

- Fifteen players played in one premiership; 14 in two; seven in three; five in four; three in all five. 

 

- Reg Harley and Lindsay Murphy had sons who subsequently played in premierships with Williamstown – Gary Harley in 1976 and Glen Murphy in 1986.  

 

- Two men shared the coaching honours – Wally Carter (1954-1956) and Gerry Callahan (1958-1959).  

 

- In 1958 the grand final ended in a tie with Moorabbin.  Williamstown won the replay. 

 

- Moorabbin had won the 1957 premiership, beating Port Melbourne, which was Port’s fourth losing grand final in a row.  

 

- All the grand finals were played at St Kilda. 

 

Click here for an in-depth read and to learn more about our famous 1950s golden era. 

 

 

Brought to you by Nelson Bros Funeral Services

  

 

 

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