Season Summary: 1975
The signing of Footscray legend Ted Whitten (321 games & 360 goals) saw a renewed optimism among all involved with the Club and promised to be a turning point for a club starved of success in recent seasons as it looked for a high-profile appointment to replace the captain-coach of 1973/74, Barry Gill, who was posted to the country in his job. It is believed Whitten received in the vicinity of $6,000 for his services.
Although some players were not overly thrilled with the big-name signing, most notably champion centreman, Les Stillman, who had played under Mr Football at Footscray, 'Whitten introduced a more natural style of football - good long kicking, more team work, fitness and a commonsense approach to handball' according to Williamstown historian, Fred Critchley. 'He had players running up and down the streets of Melbourne early in the morning, took them for runs on The Tan, around the Myer Music Bowl - all revolutionary stuff.'
For more stories on football at Williamstown under Ted Whitten from some of the Club identities of the era please click on the following link to one of Bruce Davis' productions
Colin Boyd from Footscray also joined Williamstown, along with an 18 year-old Mark Cross, Robert Fox, Frank Pocevina and Michael Kelly. Ron Page returned from a few seasons with Woodville in SA. Brian Lowe also joined the Club from Essendon and played his one senior game for the season on Fred Cook at Port Melbourne in round 5 in a 109-point defeat. Cook boooted 12 goals, but Lowe bounced back to play in the premiership side the following year. Les Stillman was appointed captain and the third new President in three years, Tony Arceri, a local plumber and father of Williamstown and League footballer Mark Arceri, took on the role. He had some good administrative experience with local junior bodies.
Robert Percy went overseas in 1975 and didn't play at all but returned to the Club the following year. Future President of the Club, Tony Hannebery, retired from football after the fifth round of 1975, after 41 games and 8 goals from 1972, as well as being runner-up to Les Stillman in the 1973 best & fairest award, to concentrate on his burgeoning legal career. He immediately went on the committee and became the senior runner for the rest of 1975 and 1976. Senior players, John Fanning, Bill Thompson and Kevin Jackman, according to Critchley 'were never really settled at the time and perhaps the internal rumblings and the loss of players over the season didn't help.'
In all, 18 new players were selected in the seniors during the year and a total of 71 players appeared in the first and seconds over the course of the season. Former senior player from 1961-66 (72 games and 79 goals), Merv Williams, was assistant coach to Whitten and also coach of the Seconds.
The season was not off to a great start with wins hard to come by. A five-goal defeat at home against Coburg in round one was followed by a seven-goal win at Oakleigh (Fox 5 goals), but then big losses to Geelong West (83 points), Dandenong (63 points) and Port Melbourne (109 points) left the Seagulls on the bottom of the ladder with a percentage of 65.9. Port's score of 30.17 was the first time that 30 goals had been scored in games between the clubs. It was also the first of what would become ten consecutive victories by the Borough over Williamstown up until the end of 1985. In the lead-up to the match, Williamstown captain, Les Stillman, declared that he wanted to join Port but the Seagulls refused to clear him. He stood out of the game but relented and returned to play the following week. A five-point win at home against Sandringham in round 6 lifted the Club off the bottom, but then further losses to Caulfield, Prahran and Preston soon had 'Town back in last place, and after 12 rounds Williamstown had just the two wins, ten losses and a percentage of 70.
Worse was soon to be realised as midway through the season star player and captain, Les Stillman, had a disagreement with the coach and Williamstown were forced to part ways with the skipper, after 70 games, 110 goals and dual best and fairest awards in 1972 and 1973. He was cleared to Coburg, after being refused a transfer to Port Melbourne, and Bill Thompson took over as captain of the team for the remainder of the year.
On the whole the season never gained momentum and Williamstown were declared outright last, a game and considerable percentage behind ninth-placed Sandringham. The wooden spoon and a trip back to the second division of VFA football ensued. The Club finished with a 4-14 record, with one of the victories being a six-goal win at home over eventual runners-up Dandenong in round 13 (Ron Fenton 7 goals). The Seagulls then lost by only three points to Port Melbourne, another finalist, the following week.
The Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy for the Club's best and fairest went to first-year player Michael Kelly, from fellow recruits in Colin Boyd and Robert Fox. Fox won the goalkicking for the year with a total of 40. The first four place-getters in the best and fairest were all recruits. Another first-year player in Mark Cross won the most courageous player trophy while Ron Page, who had returned from Woodville in SA, was voted best clubman.
Peter Gardiner took out the Reserves best and fairest, while Terry Maloney remained manager of the team and Merv Williams was coach.
Neville Kerrs was awarded the Thirds best and fairest and Graham Dean the same in the Fourths. The Seconds failed to make the finals as did the Thirds, which finished fifth. The Fourths were eliminated in the semi-final. John Raffle coached the Thirds while John Wright coached the Fourths.
Mrs Jean Wright was secretary of The Gulls coterie group in this season, believed to be the first female to hold down a secretary's position on the male side of football.
1939 premiership ruckman, Mattie Cave, passed away suddenly at his home in Yarraville on 14 January. He was recruited from Yarraville in April 1939 and played 42 games and kicked 18 goals up until the end of 1941. He had played previously with Footscray (1932-33) and St Kilda (1933-34). Life member and 1906 vice-captain, Arthur Britt, passed away on 23 April aged 91. He played 43 games and kicked 22 goals from 1903-06 after joining the Club from St KIlda and Melbourne before that. Fellow life member, committeeman from 1956-59 and from 1961-67 and vice-president from 1969-75, Bill Mackie, also passed away during the year.
After 10 senior games with Footscray in 1973, Colin Boyd transferred to Williamstown in 1975 and played 37 games and kicked 3 goals over the next two seasons, including the 1976 Second Division premiership win over Mordialloc. He won the J. Field Medal for best and fairest in the VFA Second Division competition in 1976 and was also runner-up in the Club best and fairest of 1975 and 1976. Boyd was selected on a half-back flank in the Williamstown 1970's Team of the Decade. He was recruited by Essendon in 1977 and would go on to play 34 senior games with the Bombers and won the 1979 Gardiner Medal for the VFL Reserves best and fairest. He then became captain-coach of Leongatha from 1980-87.
1975 playing list
Captain, Les Stillman, had a falling-out with Ted Whitten during the year and transferred to Coburg after 70 games, 110 goals and dual best & fairest awards in 1972 and 1973. Bill Thompson took over as captain for the remainder of the season.
Bill Thompson came to Williamstown in 1972 from Essendon, where he had played in the Bombers' Seconds premiership side of 1968. He was runner-up in Williamstown's best and fairest award in his first season and became captain in 1975 after Les Stillman's departure. He transferred to Dandenong in 1976 after 67 games and 4 goals with the Seagulls and won the Liston Trophy in 1977. He was selected at centre half-back in Williamstown's 1970's Team of the Decade.
First ruck in the 1939 premiership team, Mattie Cave, died suddenly at his home in Yarraville on January 14, 1975, aged 64. Cave came to Williamstown in 1939 from Yarraville after earlier playing with Footscray (1932-33 10 games 1 goal) and St Kilda (1933-34 14 games 3 goals). Originally from Yarraville, he played a total of 64 games with the Villians. At Williamstown he played 42 games and kicked 18 goals up until the end of 1941, although he spent most of his last season before the war recess in the Seconds due to injuries and work committments with Mobil.
Life member and 1906 vice-captain, Arthur Britt, passed away on 23 April aged 91. He played 43 games and kicked 22 goals from 1903-06 after joining the Club from St KIlda and Melbourne before that.