Season Summary: 1973
A transformation in the Club's leadership due to the departure of Max Papley now saw ex-Carlton player Barry Gill take on the role of captain/coach for the next two seasons. Gill had played 132 games for the Blues, including the 1968 and 1970 premierships. Gill attempted to employ the quick handball/play-on style that Ron Barassi had used at Carlton and the players, after five years of Papley's coaching methods, were a little startled and puzzled as long kicking to position was reduced. The emphasis on handball was eased as the season went on as Gill began to realise that he was coaching in the VFA and not leading a team of champions in the League and performances improved as the year progressed. Club historian, Fred Critchley, remarked that 'it was bedlam for a time - then we settled down. 100 handballs a game was too much for some supporters who threatened to give the Club away. Then we go down to 50 in a more civilised way - no longer ridiculous.'
Former star full-forward, Dallas Patterson, returned after a year playing in Tasmania but there were some who did not want him back at the Club, and during the year he was played at centre half-forward and even full-back in a couple of games where his high marking and long kicking were used to good effect but he was also dropped from the team on occassions. He was cleared to Dandenong at the conclusion of the season.
The Club also had a new President, with 1949 premiership player and local real estate agent, Norm Bernard, taking over the role from Arthur Johnson, who became Senior Vice-President.
The team faced a battle to be competitive in the 1973 season after commencing the season with three consecutive defeats, two being at home. A breakthrough two-point win at Coburg in round 4 was followed by a loss at Geelong West and, midway through the year, relegation to division two was yet again a real possibility. However, a string of four consecutive victories in rounds 12-15 against eventual premier Prahran (Greg Boxall 6 goals), Coburg (Boxhall 6 again), Geelong West (Les Stillman 5 goals) and Preston (Boxall 5 goals) ensured that this would not be the case. In fact, after the seven-goal win at Preston in round 15, Williamstown were only one game out of the four. A heart-breaking four-point loss at Port Melbourne the next week, after being 26 points up at the last change and 14 points ahead at the commencement of time-on, put the finals out of reach and the Seagulls would finish in sixth position with an 8-10 win-loss record, 10 points and percentage out of the final four. In fact the team beat Sunshine by 7 points the next week at Williamstown and then lost by 6 points at Dandenong in the final home-and-away game. The Reserves won a similar amount of games as the Seniors and missed the finals, whereas the Thirds (under 19's) under 1969 premiership ruckman Ken Barnes failed to win a game and struggled to even field a team on occasions.
The stellar form of Les Stillman was a significant factor in the Club's ability to compete throughout the season, where he took out back-to-back best and fairests, winning from Tony Hannebery and captain-coach Gill, who missed five games with broken ribs on two occasions during the year. Stillman also won the Club goal kicking award for the season with a total of 37 and ran third in the JJ Liston Trophy behind winner Ray Shaw of Preston and Ricky Browne of Geelong West. Robert Scott was awarded the Reserves best and fairest player, with the team once again being managed by Joe Rouse and Terry Maloney. Assistant Club secretary, George Smith, managed the Thirds.
Rodney Walker took out the Thirds award while John Dean was adjudged best in the Fourths (now under 17's). They brought a second successive pennant to Pt Gellibrand under the coaching of John Raffle. In two seasons the Fourths had suffered only one defeat in winning dual premierships.
A small group of players and officials journeyed to Coolangatta for the end-of-season trip.
On 12 May, 1973, defender in Williamstown's first premiership team in 1907, Bert Reitman, passed away suddenly at his Williamstown home at the age of 85. Reitman had transferred to Williamstown in that year after 12 senior VFL games with Collingwood in 1906-07 and went on to play 126 games with the Villagers from 1907-14. He was captain-coach in 1913 and captain in 1914, and received life membership in 1915 after retiring.
Peter Warburton, son of Carlton and Brighton great, Keith Warburton, came to Williamstown from the Blues, where he had played 4 senior VFL games in 1971-72, in 1973. In his only season with the Seagulls, Warburton played 16 games and kicked 16 goals. He transferred to Kyabram in his employment in 1974 and played for the Kyabram Bombers for the following ten seasons.
Mick Mulligan in action against Sandringham in round 2 at Sandy, which the Zebras won by 6 points, 13.20.98 to 13.14.92.
Ron Fenton outmarks 'Frosty' Miller in the round 9 fixture at Williamstown.
Back row: Robert Percy, Ron 'Rocket' Roach, John Fanning, Graham Hemley, Greg Boxall, Dallas Patterson
Middle row: Les Stillman, Bill Thompson, Kevin Jackman, Barry Gill (captain/coach), Tony Hannebery, Neil Courtot, Lee Brown
Front row: Rod Lawerson, Mick Mulligan, Peter Warburton, Robert Scott, Richard Radziminski
Mark taken by Dallas Patterson at Dandenong in the last round of the 1973 season in a game won by the Redlegs by 6 points, 14.20.104 to 12.26.98, on a very windy day. Patterson kicked 5 goals for the Seagulls. Richard Radziminski (#4) is the other Williamstown player shown.
1907 premiership defender, Bert Reitman, passed away in May 1973 at the age of 85.
Future Williamstown players, from left Mark Aceri, Kevin 'Hap' Hughes and Gary Goding, playing for Holy Trinity under 10's in 1973. Mark Aceri played in the Thirds premiership side of 1981 and finished in third place in the Thirds best & fairest award in 1980 and 1981. After going on to a VFL/AFL career with North Melbourne, Carlton and St Kilda, he returned as assistant coach in 1994 under Mark Cross and played 16 games and kicked 21 goals. Kevin Hughes played a total of 53 senior games and kicked 56 goals from 1982-91, excluding a year with North Melbourne in 1988 where he played one senior game and injured his knee. Gary Goding played Seconds and Thirds with Williamstown, including the Thirds premiership in 1981 and the Thirds runners-up side in 1982.