Season Summary: 1968

The 1968 VFA season would prove to be a very pivotal one in the Williamstown Football Club's history. This would be headlined by the much-loved ex-Moorabbin captain (93 games, 265 goals) and South Melbourne 1966 best and fairest winner (59 games, 66 goals) and 1967 VFL representative player, Max Papley, taking on the reins as captain-coach, along with 14 new players. In February 1968 Papley was working in the chemical industry and one of his clients was Ron Marett, licensee of the Yacht Club Hotel in Nelson Place, Williamstown. Marett also happened to be president of the football club. He urged Papley, who was still only 27 years of age, to consider the coaching position vacated by Gerry Callahan at the end of 1967. Papley was also a talented cricketer and was captain-coach of Moorabbin Cricket Club in the sub-district competition. He had told South Melbourne that he would continue playing football provided it did not interfere with his cricketing committments. This included missing football practice matches if Moorabbin was in cricket finals. This arrangement ended with a change of secretary at South, who told Papley that football came first. When South would not relent over the cricket issue, Papley moved to Williamstown without a clearance and took up the job as captain-coach, which was announced on February 29, 1968. South tried to secure Williamstown full-forward Eddie Szyszka in retaliation, but when the Seagulls would not release him Papley left without a clearance, thus forfeiting provident fund payments and incurring VFL disqualification. Williamstown were fortunate to gain his services as he was trying to get a clearance to St Kilda at the same time.

For more stories on football at Williamstown under Max Papley from some of the Club identities of the era, please click on the following links to some of Bruce Davis' productions:

Papley was appointed for three years, but came to a Club at a very low ebb. For the first time in living memory, the youth of the area were not as interested in wanting to play with Williamstown. He also adopted a different style of coaching to his predecessor, with a greater emphasis on skill and set-plays and playing to the open space on the wings. Joining Papley at Pt. Gellibrand was teammate Mick Mulligan from South, Dallas Patterson from Footscray, Ron Page (Williamstown Juniors), Paul Hayward, Andy Camilleri (Altona) and Les Meyers (Seddon). Russell Knight (Epping), Davey Utber and John Coffey (both Seconds & Thirds), James Nash, Ron Wilson and Jim Reilly (Altona) were others to play senior football during the year. Papley also brought former Hawthorn & Brighton player and Moorabbin coach, Norm Alvin, along as assistant coach. Ian Nankervis was appointed vice-captain and Tom Russell deputy vice-captain. Missing from 1967 were John Murrie (86 games), Charlie Evans (25 games), Algy Vosilaitis (26 games) and Daryl Ward after his brief comeback during 1967. 

The Second Division season opened out at Caulfield with a struggling win, 9.13 to 6.17, but things clicked after that and the side went on to win 15 of the 17 home-and-away games, surprisingly going down at Sunshine by eight points in round 7, when the team was weakened by the loss of VFA representatives and injuries to other prominent players. The two teams also played a draw at Williamstown in round 16, with the Seagulls coming from 6 goals down at three-quarter time. Some of the better victories were over Werribee by 62 points in round 2 at Pt Gellibrand (Nankervis 5 goals), by 52 points at Camberwell in round 5, by 78 points over Northcote at Williamstown in round 8, by 94 points over Caulfield also at Pt Gellibrand in round 10 (Szyszka 10 goals, Nankervis 6), at Werribee by 88 points in round 11, by 58 points over Frankston at Williamstown in round 12 (Nankervis 5 goals), by 153 points over Camberwell also at Pt Gellibrand in round 14 (Buchanan 8 goals), by 78 points at Mordialloc in round 15 (Nankervis 7 goals) and 58 points at Northcote in round 17. In the round 3 game at Frankston, the home side led by 7 goals at half-time before the Seagulls added 18.9 to 6.2 in the second half to run out winners by 38 points. 

The Seagulls finished the home-and-away season on top of the ladder with a 15-1-1 record and a percentage of 189%, just in front of Geelong West, which lost only three times, then Sunshine and newcomer, Werribee. Williamstown narrowly beat the eventual premier, Geelong West, in the second-semi final before a crowd of 8,000 at Toorak Park, 19.18.132 to 19.11.125. Williamstown led by 39 points at three-quarter time before the Roosters piled on six goals in the dying minutes to almost snatch victory. This was the third victory over Geelong West for the year. The Roosters then went on to easily account for Sunshine in the preliminary final.

Williamstown went down to Geelong West in the grand final, 20.15.135 to 18.15.123, in controversial circumstances. A rover named Ian Nankervis was recruited from Carlton in 1967 and, after enjoying a superb debut season with the Seagulls where he took out the Club best and fairest award, Nankervis won the 1968 J. (Jack) Field Medal as Best and Fairest in the VFA 2nd Division. After the second-semi final, while being presented with his medal, vice-captain Nankervis somewhat foolishly used the occasion to publicly criticise his coach Max Papley's hard training methods, which were necessary to sustain the new style of handball and play-on tactics. It was also alleged that Nankervis demanded more money due to his best and fairest in 1967 and now the Field Medal win. The Seagulls and Papley were outraged, and Nankervis was immediately suspended. He didn’t play in the Grand Final against Geelong West, replaced by Bob Smith, and was sorely missed as Williamstown lost a nail-biter by 12 points at Toorak Park to the persistent Roosters. Despite the Seagulls leading by four goals during the second quarter, Geelong West played themselves back into the game and by half time the lead had been reduced to 8 points. The lead was reduced to five points by three quarter time, and early in the last term the Roosters hit the front and got out to a two-goal lead. At the 21-minute mark Camilleri goaled followed by another from Mulligan as time-on started to regain the lead by one point. However, Geelong West added another two goals to run out winners, after being runners-up in the previous two seasons. Would the result have been different had Nankervis played? That is something that Seagulls fans have been able to debate ever since, as Nankervis had kicked three goals in the second semi victory and 52 for the season and was regarded by Papley as the best rover in the competition. At season's end, Nankervis was sold to Dandenong and the runner-up placing meant the club would have to spend another year at Division Two level. The match was rough with Papley the opposition's target, as usual. Ian Johnson and Mick Mulligan were both reported and Snell of Geelong West was also booked for striking Papley. The crowd was 6,000 which was smaller than the second semi-final. Bob Ware kicked 4 goals and Camilleri and Mulligan 3 each. Best players were Ian 'Huckie' Johnson, Dallas Patterson, Bob Ware, Andy Camilleri, Max Papley, Ken Barnes and Bobby Smith. 

Williamstown's 1968 Grand Final side was:

B.       Owen Madigan     Tom Russell (v.c.)             Bob Cohen

HB.    Terry O'Mara         Ron Page                   Ian Johnson

C.                                                   Max Papley (c.c.)

HF.     Mick Mulligan        Graeme Buchanan   Russell Knight

F.        Bob Ware              Eddie Szyszka           Bob Smith

Foll.   Ken Barnes           Dallas Patterson

Rov.   Andy Camilleri

Res.  John Raffle            John Allard

Coach: Max Papley

Szyszka headed the Second Division goalkicking with a total of 61 majors for the year, most of which were kicked early in the season and only two in each of the finals, while Nankervis finished second on the VFA list with 52, possibly the first time two players from the same club came first and second on a VFA goalkicking list. The team kicked a total of 312 goals and 295 behinds (2167) to the opposition's 176 goals and 213 behinds (1269). Other players to kick ten or more goals for the season were Graham Buchanan (29), Andy Camilleri (27), Max Papley (24), Bob Ware (22), Bob Lane (16), Mick Mulligan (15), Dallas Patterson (13), Bobby Smith (12), Ken Barnes and Les Meyers (10). Barnes, Tommy Russell, Terry O'Mara and Smith were the only players to appear in all nineteen encounters during the season.     

Ian 'Hucky' Johnson won the Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy for best and fairest from Papley and Smith with Nankervis in fourth place. Andy Camilleri was judged to be the best first-year player while Bob Ware was adjudged best clubman. Ian Nankervis took out the Williamstown Advertiser best player award while Ken Barnes won the same award for the Footscray Mail. Dallas Patterson was considered to be the best player over the final series. During the season, full-back Tom Russell made his 150th senior appearance for Williamstown. Club legend Kelly Brent joined the senior training staff in 1968 after previously acting as head trainer with the Seconds for many seasons. 

Another interesting fact to come from the 1968 season was that the Reserves and Thirds committees were disbanded at Papley's insistence, allowing the first grade to take over control of those teams, which had always operated as separate clubs with their own president, committee, secretary, treasurer, training staff, life members, etc. Such a move was seen as unusual by some as the Seconds and Thirds had stable management for a long period of time, as well as a strong ladies committee which enabled them to be self-supporting throughout the season, but it was done to streamline the selection process. All the life members of the Seconds were incorporated into that of the Firsts. 

The Seconds, under the captain-coaching of former senior player, Ron Leonard, reached the finals despite the early-season upheavals and downed Geelong West in the first semi, 15.17 to 7.7, but lost the preliminary to Sunshine, 10.11 to 4.11. John Raffle, son of Club stalwart Bill Raffle, won the best and fairest in the reserves from Damian Young and Denis Blainey while Leonard won the competition best and fairest. Rod Collinder was awarded the most improved player trophy.

The Thirds, now coached by Des Hosking, just missed the finals by percentage only and the best and fairest in that grade was won by Garry Craddock. 39 players represented the thirds in this season, the most used in any season in this grade. The team was captained by Paul Foster and 15yo Rod Lawerson was one player who impressed. Doug Nicholson continued on as president of the Thirds, with John Grieve secretary and John Raffle treasurer. 

Papley and Eddie Szyszka were both selected to represent the VFA during the season against Canberra at Manuka in May and against Tasmania at Launceston in June. The Association won both matches, with Szyszka booting 10 goals in the Canberra game and 5 in Tasmania. Papley was captain. 

During the year the Club endured the sudden passing of Vic Hateley, a life member and committeeman for nine years from 1959. He also acted in the capacity of timekeeper for six years and was instrumental in forming the inaugural Fourth's team that commenced in 1968, together with senior trainer and assistant secretary, Alan Leaman. This team competed in the Western Suburban League under 16's, and finished runners-up in their first season. John Bloom was the inaugural captain, Paul Norman was leading goal-kicker, and Mick Halemba won the best and fairest from Ken Smith. Bernie Johns was coach.

Jack Rennie, noted boxing trainer, and his world bantamweight champion, Lionel Rose, were Williamstown's number 1 and 2 season ticket-holders in this season. A big crowd turned up when Lionel attended the round 2 match against Werribee at Pt Gellibrand and handed the match ball to the umpire. Rennie, a nephew of former Williamstown secretary Arch Rennie, played with the Seagulls in 1950-52 (11 games, 3 goals) before turning his attention to boxing. 

Vice-president since 1960, Kevyn Holdsworth, and minute secretary and committeeman since 1962, Des Davies, were awarded life memberships at the annual general meeting which was held earlier in the year.  Holdsworth continued in the role until the end of 1974. 

South Melbourne best & fairest winner, Max Papley, was secured as captain-coach for the 1968 season. 

Newly appointed captain-coach, Max Papley

Ian Nankervis in his Carlton days

Team lists for the round 7 fixture at Sunshine, won by the Crows by 8 points in the only home-and-away loss for 1968.



Melbourne Sun, July 18, 1968


The Sun, August 26, 1968

An extract from Larry Floyd's book on the history of the VFA and Williamstown - the games played and goalscorers of 1968. The second column in the games played and goals scored records is the player's cumulative total.

Eddie Szyszka headed the Second Division goalkicking with a total of 61 majors for the year, most of which were kicked early in the season, including 10 against Caulfield in round 10 at Williamstown in a 94-point victory, but only two in each of the finals.  Ian Nankervis finished second on the VFA list with 52, including hauls of 7 at Mordialloc in round 16 and 6 at Frankston in round 3 and 6 against Caulfield in round 10 at Williamstown in the game where Szyszka booted 10. It is quite possibly the first time that two players from the same club came first and second on a VFA goalkicking list.

Jocka Mellis (centre) talks with Denis Blainey (right) and Arthur Lee before the Seconds' first semi-final against Geelong West at Sunshine. 

From left, Davey Utber, Gary Fitch and trainer, Kelly Brent, prior to the Seconds' first semi-final against Geelong West at Sunshine. 


Jocka Mellis (left) with four-time senior premiership ruckman, 'Big Bob' Jones, before the Seconds' first semi-final against Geelong West at Sunshine. Recruited from Yarraville, where he played in two Reserves premiership teams in 1952 & 1953, Jones played in the 1955/56/58/59 Williamstown flag sides and played 130 games and kicked 22 goals from 1954 until he was injured during the 1961 season and forced into retirement. He was vice-captain in his final season and was awarded life membership in 1964. Jones was named on the interchange bench in the Williamstown Team of the Century.  

Trainer, Kelly Brent, prior to the Seconds' first semi-final against Geelong West at Sunshine. 

R.L. is a reference to captain-coach, Ron Leonard.

1968 Seconds captain-coach, Ron Leonard, after the first semi-final victory over Geelong West at Sunshine. Leonard had played 52 senior games and kicked 5 goals from 1962-66 including the 1964 senior grand final and the 1966 Seconds premiership. He won the Williamstown Seconds best and fairest award in 1963 and the VFA Second Division Reserves best and fairest in 1968.

The scores in the Seconds preliminary final of 1968.