Williamstown FC - History

To view premiership teams click www.williamstown.com.au/premiership-photos

The Williamstown Football Club was formed in 1864. Other clubs at the time were Melbourne, Geelong, South Yarra, Carlton, Albert Park, Royal Park, Brunswick, University, Warehouseman’s, Kyneton, Ballarat, Hotham and Belfast (Port Fairy). Games were organised on a fairly ad hoc arrangement and the Victorian Football Association was formed on May 7, 1877.

Williamstown was granted “senior status” in 1884 and joined the VFA. South Williamstown was also in the VFA at that time but the two local teams never met. They merged in 1888 and Williamstown’s original colours of black and yellow were changed to blue and gold.

Williamstown (the town) was named after King William IV in 1837 and was often referred to as the “village” in 19th century Melbourne. The nickname “The Villagers” stuck with the footy club until the late 1930s when Larry Floyd and Bill Dooley (great grand father of Leigh and Paul) decided a more appropriate synonym was needed and adopted the “Seagulls”.

Williamstown Football Club has won a premiership in each decade of the 1900s except the second – 1907, 1921, 1939, 1945, 1949, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1969 (Second Division), 1976 (Second Division), 1986, 1990, 2015. Each of these Premierships hold special memories for our club – the 1939 flag followed one of the worst years in the club’s history – 1938 Williamstown finished last in the competition and was on the brink of disaster. It had also finished last in 1934 and 35 and near last in 1933, 36 and 37. However two men, Dooley and Floyd, decided on a bold and daring recruiting raid of the VFL and hired Ron Todd – probably one of the greatest players ever in the competition – and Des Fothergill to turn disaster into great success.

The teams of the 50s were skilful and well coached by Wally Carter and Gerry Callahan. The string of premierships that followed was fair reward for an era of good management and hard work.

Then Williamstown slumped and by the middle of the 60s was headed for Second Division at the end of 1967. Max Papley – Best and Fairest at South Melbourne – was appointed Captain and Coach and after losing the Grand Final in 1968 went on to win promotion to First Division – no mean feat. Papley was a fine player and an excellent coach who left his mark on Williamstown and the VFA.

Max was followed by Barry Gill – ex-Carlton and then the club appointed Ted Whitten as Coach in 1975. Williamstown finished last – back to Second Division and farewell to EJ! Mal Allen from the enemy – Port Melbourne – won a Second Division Premiership and Willy returned to the First Division for one year. Merv Hobbs – Footscray, and Rod Oborne – Collingwood and Richmond had little success.

Then the Board of Management had the foresight to appoint Terry Wheeler in 1984 and by 1986 Terry had gathered a group of players together including AFL legend Barry Round and was good enough to win all three Premierships in 1986.

More excitement was to follow. After two Grand Final defeats by Coburg in 1988 and 1989, Williamstown overcame great odds to win the 1990 Premiership against Springvale. Great memories captured in full living colour for everyone to see and re-live.

The 1990 Premiership was the most satisfying of them all – won in the face of tremendous odds. Appearing to finish runners-up for the third consecutive year, the events in the last quarter almost defied belief.

Football clubs have their good and poor times. It is the measure of good football clubs that strength is gained from the poor times. During the middle 1990s Williamstown slipped – after finishing second to Sandringham in 1992, success began to desert the club and in 1995 the club failed to win a game in either the firsts or seconds. The administration had also lost its way and the club was on the brink of folding and joining many other ex-VFA teams on the scrap heap.

The cycle turned in 1996 with the appointment of new President Greg Swann and General Manager Brendan Curry who appointed Merv Keane as Senior Coach. As in 1939 and 1968 before, a football team is lead by its administration – the revamped Board and staff of the club begun the long and difficult task of establishing a long-term future for this proud club.

The mid 1990′s saw many changes to the competition. Firstly VFA clubs were granted a licence which linked each club with an affiliated TAC Cup Under 18 club – in Williamstown’s case the Western Jets. With the competition and its member clubs struggling to survive financially, a dwindling supporter base and our relevance in the football landscape diminishing; a revamp of the competition was necessary.

Following the VFA changing its name to the VFL in 1996, the decision to cease the AFL Reserves competition in 1999 opened the possibility of AFL clubs aligning with VFL clubs. The Western Bulldogs decided to split their players between Williamstown and Werribee for the 2000 season. At the completion of the 2000 season the Western Bulldogs decided to go alone with Werribee which opened the door for a Williamstown-Collingwood alliance. It was a perfect partnership with both clubs having a strong working class background, large supporter base and enjoyed success over a long period. Great names like Ron Todd and Des Fothergill had been outstanding players at both Williamstown and Collingwood.

The Williamstown/Collingwood alignment lasted for 7 years (2001-2007) and the highlight was the 2003 Premiership coached by Brad Gotch over Box Hill at Optus Oval. During this alignment the Williamstown Football Club on the back of establishing a strong and successful gaming venue (Seagulls Nest) was able to flourish financially and this was further boosted when Williamstown obtained a gaming and liquor license for a new gaming venue at Caroline Springs called “The Club”. Another significant feature of this alignment was that Collingwood’s 2010 AFL Premiership contained 16 of the 22 players who had graduated to AFL level after beginning their careers with Williamstown in the VFL. Williamstown also had Brownlow Medallists Nathan Buckley, Dane Swan and Shane Woewodin represent the Seagulls during this time.

At the end of the 2007 season, Collingwood chose to field their own stand alone side in the VFL and Williamstown formed a new alignment with western suburbs neighbours the Western Bulldogs. This partnership lasted six seasons and over those years a number of players graduated from the Seagulls to the Bulldogs. In 2010 another Brownlow Medallist in Jason Akermanis wore the famous Williamstown jumper in a number of games.

The Williamstown Football Club did not play or train at Point Gellibrand Oval (Burbank Oval) in 2011 due to a $8.3 million redevelopment. This saw the Club playing the majority of its home games at Werribee with one-off home games at Torquay, Keilor and Wangaratta.

At the conclusion of the 2013 VFL season, the alignment between Williamstown and the Western Bulldogs ended, allowing the club to return to it’s traditional standalone structure in 2014.

2014 was also the club’s 150th year anniversary, and to celebrate, a Hall of Fame function was held to celebrate the club’s history and also induct 51 past players, officials and volunteers into the Williamstown FC Hall of Fame. Five past players (Ron Todd, Ray Smith, Gerry Callahan, Barry Round & Ian Rickman) were also elevated to ‘Legend’ status.

In their first season returning to standalone status, Williamstown reached the preliminary final against Box Hill and only narrowly missed out on a grand final appearance.

In 2015 Williamstown won their first premiership since 2003 and their first back as a stand alone club. The Seagulls defeated Box Hill by 54 points with Michael Gibbons named best on ground. 

Three Williamstown men have been President of the Victorian Football Association – J.J. Liston (he of the Liston Medal and Liston Stakes), John Grieve and Tony Hannebery (former player, President of the WFC and former All-Australian Amateur footballer).

Williamstown has proved a great training ground for coaches as well. Wally Carter and Terry Wheeler both coached VFL/AFL teams after success at Williamstown. This club is a great club – like many football clubs it has a great reservoir of committed people who are here only to see the club succeed.

Games record holder: Ben Jolley 217

Goals record holder: Ron Todd 672

Longest winning sequence: 20 (1956-57)

Longest losing sequence: 19 (1994-95)

Norm Goss Medallists: Tony Pastore 1986, Barry Round 1990, Adrian Fletcher 2003, Michael Gibbons 2015

J.J. Liston Trophy winners: Charlie Stanbridge (1933), Fred Brooks (1935), Neville Huggins (1936 and 1937), Arthur Cutting (1938 and 1939), Des Fothergill (1941), Johnny Martin (1956), Barry Round (1987), Brett McTaggart (1988), Saade Ghazi (1989), Paul Dooley (1996) and Michael Gibbons (2016 and 2018)

J. (Jack) Field Medal winners: Best and Fairest in Second Division Ian Nankervis (1968) and Colin Boyd (1976) 

To see all williamstown premiership sides please click on the link below
Premiership Photos

To see williamstown football club team of the century click on the link below
Williamstown team of the century

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