Season Summary: 1961
Season Summary: 1961
1961 saw massive changes sweep the Victorian Football Association. In December 1960 the league made the radical move to split the competition into two separate divisions with promotion-relegation in an attempt to eradicate one-sided games from occurring and also to give new clubs entering the competition the necessary time to adjust. Also, clubs such as Brighton and Camberwell were in danger of not being able to continue due to lack of money. This involved deciding on ten teams to operate in the first division (which included Williamstown) and eight for the second division, including new club, Waverley. As the top level of VFA competition had to be divided, this was also the case for the Seconds and Thirds, which brought some complexities and the trophy list was doubled. Sixteen-a-side teams were maintained, the finals system reverted to a final-four and Sunday games continued by mutual agreement between the clubs concerned and the relevant Council. Williamstown played several away games on Sundays but did not test the Council by applying for Sunday home matches although several of the newer committeemen wanted these badly. There were 37 Sunday games in 1961 (17 in First Division and 20 in Second Division) which attracted crowds totalling 251,000.
New recruits for the 1961 season were Keith James and Merv Williams (North Melbourne), Greg Taube (South Melbourne), Bobby Turner (Footscray), and locals John McConville (Seconds), Graham McPhee, Jim O'Toole (Seconds & Thirds), John Murrie (local amateur), Ken Parker (Seconds & Thirds), Ray Bamford (Seconds & Thirds), Jocka Mellis (Thirds) and Ken Barnes, another son of the 1930's star, Jack Barnes. Gerry Callahan and Ray Smith were both re-appointed to the posts of coach and captain, respectively, while Bob Jones was made vice-captain following the transfer of Eric Beitzel to a coaching position at Numurkah but Jones was forced to retire after 11 games due to injury, giving him 130 matches in total after transferring from Yarraville in 1954, and he was replaced by Jack Evans. Col Colquhoun also had to retire after one game, giving him 55 matches with the Club. Others who dropped out were Roy Cullinan (59 games, 178 goals), Laurie Davies (20 games, 31 goals), 'Boner' Jones (21 games) and Barry Beitzel (48 games). Brother, Eric, had played 113 games since 1955, was vice-captain in his last two seasons, played in four premierships (1955/56/58/59), was runner-up in the Club best and fairest in 1958 and third in 1959, was named in a back pocket in the Williamstown Team-of-the-Century and is a member of the Club's Hall of Fame. 'Boner' Jones returned in 1962 and played on until the end of 1963.
Seagulls captain Ray Smith secured a three-peat of best and fairest awards from 1959-1961, becoming the only player besides Arthur 'Porkie' Sykes (1930-1932) to achieve this tremendous honour. He also won the Advertiser and Chronicle awards. The milestones didn't stop there for Smith, who also became the first Williamstown player to surpass 200 senior games late in the season. Neville O'Connor (32 senior games) became captain-coach of the Reserves and won the best and fairest in that grade.
The season opened with a rather fortunate 2-point win at Yarraville after trailing at every change of ends and, having won eight of the first ten games, with the team floating between first and third on the ladder, were victorious only five times over the remaining twelve rounds. This included going down to the bottom two teams, Box Hill, by 43 points in round 12 at Box Hill, and Mordialloc by 4 points in round 16 at Mordialloc. On a particularly wet day in July at Yarraville, the Seagulls registered their lowest score since the three behinds kicked against Footscray at the Western/Whitten Oval in round 5 1899, when they scored just 1.5 to the Eagles' 4.8, with Leo Maloney kicking 'Town's only goal 20 minutes into the last quarter. The Seagulls just managed to hold onto fourth place, behind Moorabbin, Yarraville and Sandringham, and edging out 1960 premiers, Oakleigh, by half a game and equalling the record held jointly by Port Melbourne and North Melbourne of nine consecutive finals appearances. Port was beaten three times, Moorabbin (which headed the ladder) twice and both the Coburg and Sandringham games were good wins at Williamstown. The third game against the Borough was played at North Port Oval on a Sunday for the first time before a crowd of 10,000, the largest attendance at a VFA game to that stage of the season. The Seagulls won a tough contest by 5 points, 11.18 to 11.13, with scores level on half a dozen occasions in the last quarter. In 20 home-and-away games between Port and Williamstown from 1951-61, the Seagulls had won 17. Since Port beat 'Town under lights at South Melbourne in round 4 of 1958, Williamstown had nine consecutive wins over the old seaside rivals, equalling their best winning sequence against the Borough from 1912-19.
The team finished with a 13-9 win/loss record in the 22-game season, the longest year since 1947. Captain, Ray Smith, played his 200th senior Club game, the only Seagull to achieve that milestone to that point in time, in the round 20 match against Moorabbin at Williamstown, which resulted in a 58-point victory, 16.14.110 to 7.10.52. Having to win three matches to take out the premiership, the team fought their way through the VFA finals series as underdogs, having lost the last home-and-away game at Sandringham by 3 goals. The result was reversed in the first semi-final but only due to a terrific last quarter by the Seagulls, after scores were level at 8.5.53 apiece at the last change. A four-goal to one final term saw Williamstown victorious, 12.7 to 9.8 (Bobby Turner 4 goals), with the best players Pelly, Parker, Turner, Collins and Smith. The crowd totalled 11,000.
The preliminary final against Moorabbin, played in front of a crowd of 10,000, was a thriller from start to finish and George Mazouris, who was only included when Daryl Ward withdrew through a leg injury, not only played a wonderful game but kicked his fifth goal right on the bell to give Williamstown a four-point win, 14.17 to 15.7. Linsay Murphy kicked 3 goals while best players were Carmichael, Finch, Mazouris, Evans and Maloney.
The grand final, played before a crowd of 20,000 on a day when the temperature hit 35C, was a dismal affair as Yarraville raced to a five-goal lead at quarter time, which was reduced to 14 points by the long break. However, the Eagles played an inspired third quarter to add 11 goals to just one by Williamstown to have the game in hand by the last change with a lead of 77 points. The margin was reduced to 63 points by the end of the game, 22.7.139 to 11.10.76, with Williamstown's Graham Clough kicking four goals and being named best player, and Mazouris three. Other good players for the losers were Evans, Finch, Taube and McAsey. This was the only time that the two neighbouring teams met in a grand final. Ironically, Yarraville was captained by former Seagull, John McTaggart, father of future Williamstown captain, Brett McTaggart. John played 11 senior games from 1954-57, and won the best and fairest in the Reserves in 1957 and was runner-up in the 1956 premiership season. It was the highest score against Williamstown in a grand final and by far the worst defeat at St Kilda by a Seagull outfit. Yarraville won three of the four games played with Williamstown that year and deserved the win, the only loss being the lucky two-point win by 'Town in round one.
Williamstown's 1961 Grand Final team was:
B. Ken Parker Tom Russell Greg Taube
HB. John Cope Jack Evans (v.c.) Les Finch
C. Ray Smith (captain)
HF. Bobby Turner Don Carmichael Alan McAsey
F. Maurie Collins Lindsay Murphy George Mazouris
Foll. Leo Maloney Jim O'Toole
Rov. Tom Pelly
Res. Graham Clough Merv Williams
Coach: Gerry Callahan
The Grand Final marked the end of Ray Smith's long career with the Seagulls, which had commenced in 1951 and finished after 205 games and 162 goals, premierships in 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1959, captaincy in 1960 and 1961, and three best and fairest awards in 1959, 1960 and 1961. He finished third in the JJ Liston Trophy in his final season and also took out the Advertiser, Chronicle and Herald best player awards. He was also appointed captain of the VFA representative team that played a Tasmanian side led by a 22yo Darrel Baldock at North Hobart Oval in June, which was lost by 4 goals, 17.12.114 to 11.25.91. He had missed just three games since the start of 1958, which was due to him being on VFA representative duties. Ironically, as captain of the Club, he introduced a rule that if a player didn't train he didn't play, but as a result of a change in his employment, Smith was unable to train so resigned from the Club at the age of 28, but continued to play at Cora Lynn in West Gippsland for the next four years. Runner-up in the best and fairest was vice-captain, Jack Evans, and Daryl Ward was third.
Season 1961 marked Williamstown's ninth successive participation in a final series, during which time the Club won five premierships, were once runners-up (this season), and three third placings. This equalled the record of VFA finals appearances jointly held by Port Melbourne and North Melbourne. Membership for the year totalled 373 adults and 25 juniors. Two thousand complimentary student tickets were also distributed to local schools, as shown below.
Leading goalkicker was first-year player Keith James, whose 48 majors put him equal fourth on the VFA list. The team kicked a total of 287 goals and 328 behinds (2050) to their opponents 269 goals and 253 behinds (1867), with other players to kick more than ten goals during the season being Lindsay Murphy (32), George Mazouris and Bobby Turner (29), Leo Maloney (23), Daryl Ward (18), Tom Pelly (16), Merv Williams (14), Maurie Collins (11) and Graham Clough (10). Jack Evans, Collins and John Cope were the only players to appear in all 25 engagements during the year. Daryl Ward played his 100th senior game for the Club during the season, and Jack Evans his 150th.
In the Seconds, Williamstown finished fourth and lost the first semi to Coburg by 10 points. Captain-coach, Neville O'Connor, won the best and fairest in that grade, while Gordon Drew stepped down as secretary of the Reserves at the end of the season after serving in that role since 1944. Harry Dyson (president since 1951) and Dave Palmer (treasurer since 1945) also relinquished their roles.
Ray Bamford won the best and fairest in the thirds and also made his senior debut. Bamford also won the Alec Gillon Medal for the best and fairest player in the VFA Thirds competition. The thirds were coached by Wally Ward, father of seniors player, Daryl Ward.
Coach, Gerry Callahan, was contracted for the following three years after another successful season.
Unfortunately the bad news didn't finish for Williamstown with the grand final loss. Early in the morning of Sunday, December 3 1961, the press box and storeroom at the Williamstown Cricket Ground was destroyed by fire, suspected to have been lit by vandals. Along with the building, the bell that was used to mark the start and finish of each quarter since 1916 was also destroyed. Some would have you believe that the bell had come from the HMVS Cerberus while others maintained that it came from a yacht that was broken up at Knight's slipway. This was the last hand-rung bell used at any major ground in Melbourne as the use of a siren could have caused confusion by the use of sirens on ships close to the shore, especially on foggy days (refer photos below).
Secretary, Stan Whear, completed his tenth year in the position in 1961, surpassing the nine years of Larry Floyd in three stints between 1935-49.
At the annual meeting in respect of the 1961 season held at the Town Hall in February 1962, life memberships were awarded to Ray Smith (11 seasons of service and Club record 205 games), Jack Evans (nine years of senior service), Stan Bamford (trainer since 1950), Harry Armstrong (boot studder since 1940), Arch Fowler (honorary legal adviser since 1942), Hilda Jean Pohl (ladies committee member for 18 years) and Virtue Sheahan, mother of 1949 premiership star, Bill Sheahan (ladies committee member for 15 years). Apart from the best and fairest winners mentioned above, trophies were also presented to Greg Taube (best first-year player), Don Carmichael (most serviceable player), Bobby Turner (most promising player), Jack Evans (best utility player) and Maurie Collins (special services award). Membership in 1961 was the lowest for many years, with only 373 adult season ticket holders and 25 juniors. This is in stark contrast to the 3130 members during the 1946 season, comprising 2780 adults and 350 juniors, but this followed the premiership in 1945 and Ron Todd's phenomenal 188 goal season.
Life member, Fred Harden jnr, who played 74 games and kicked 49 goals from 1911-1921, and was a committeeman in 1936 and a selector for many years, passed away during the year.
The end-of-season trip to Yarrawonga was enjoyed by a party of 25 players, trainers and officials.
The VFA procured a building in Jolimont Terrace during the year, that was to become known as VFA House and ended many years of rented premises in the city.
The Sun, September 22, 1961
Ray Smith was appointed captain of the VFA representative team that played a Tasmanian side led by a 22yo Darrel Baldock at North Hobart Oval in June, which was lost by 4 goals, 17.12.114 to 11.25.91. Vice-captain of the Tasmanian team was ex-Port Melbourne player, Bob Withers.
Herald, August 28, 1961 - apart from the Herald best player award, Ray Smith also took out the Advertiser and Chronicle awards, finished third in the JJ Liston Trophy in his final season, won his third consecutive Club best and fairest trophy and was also appointed captain of the VFA representative team that played Tasmania at North Hobart Oval in June, which was lost by 4 goals, 17.12.114 to 11.25.91. The Grand Final marked the end of Ray Smith's long career with the Seagulls, which had commenced in 1951 and finished after 205 games and 162 goals, premierships in 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1959 and the captaincy in 1960 and 1961.
Scores in the 1961 first semi-final v. Sandringham at Junction Oval, St Kilda.
The Sun, September 22, 1961 - the selected teams for the 1961 VFA preliminary final.
The Sun, September 25, 1961
The Sun, September 25, 1961 - the scores in the preliminary final where George Mazouris' fifth goal of the game lifted Williamstown into the grand final by a margin of just four points.
1961 Grand Final squad, picture taken at training on Thursday night before the game
Back row: Leo Maloney, Merv Williams, Ken Barnes, Jim O'Toole, Maurie Collins, Greg Taube, Les Finch, Tom Russell, John Cope
Middle row: Bobby Turner, Kenny Parker, Lindsay Murphy, Gerry Callahan (coach), Ray Smith (captain), Jack Evans, Alan McAsey, Don Carmichael, Ray Bamford, Keith James
Front row: Tom Pelly, Daryl Ward, Graham Clough, John 'Adam' Hill, George Mazouris
The 1961 Grand Final was the last game in 28 year-old Ray Smith's long career with the Seagulls, which commenced in 1951 and finished after 205 games and 162 goals, premierships in 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1959, captaincy in 1960 and 1961, and three best and fairest awards in 1959, 1960 and 1961. He finished third in the JJ Liston Trophy in his final season and also captained the VFA representative team in a game against Tasmania at North Hobart Oval in June which was won by the Tasmanians, 17.12.114 to 11.25.91.
A young John Raffle, pictured in the 1950's, with the press box, which burnt down in December of 1961, in the background.
The bell from HMVS Cerberus that was claimed by some to have been destroyed in the fire in December 1961.
The life memberships above were awarded at the annual meeting in respect of the 1961 season held at the Town Hall on February 28, 1962.
The list of trophies presented to winners at the 1961 annual meeting held at the Town Hall on February 28, 1962.
An extract from Larry Floyd's book on the history of the VFA and Williamstown - the games played and goalscorers of 1961. The second column in the games played and goals scored records is the player's cumulative total.
Williamstown's declining membership numbers since 1948 were revealed in the above article.