Season Summary: 1951
Players departing the club after the 1950 season included Gordon Cameron after 79 games (coach of Wagga North), Mal McPherson (coach of East Burwood), Jack Dorgan (Echuca), Norm Bernard (Terang), Ken May (St. Arnaud) and Vin Morrissey (retired). McPherson was only 22 years of age but had played 83 games and kicked 198 goals at Williamstown, but felt his knee was still a doubtful quantity at VFA level. Also, Lou Salvas retired after just a few games, leaving his record at 103 matches for 112 goals. Fred Matthews similarly played a few games to reach exactly 100 during which he scored 52 goals, then transferred to Newport. Jack Danckert, last season's best and fairest winner, dropped out during the season due to his employment, and an injury to Murray McRae restricted him to just two games. Reg Featherby also sustained a serious injury early in the season, and was replaced as vice-captain by Alf Sampson, who brought up his 100th game in royal blue and gold in the final game of the year.
Recruits included 19 year-old Bill Gunn from Seddon, who would go on to play 104 games with South Melbourne, club legend Gerry Callahan who joined from Moonee Ponds CYMS, Noel Allanson from Essendon and promising juniors Ray Smith, J. Davies, R. Chapman, J. Paton and J. Heslop. Bill Wells made another of his periodical returns to the club but found most of his old team mates had either retired or transferred and he failed to see out the season. Jack Rennie, a nephew of former Williamstown secretary Arch Rennie, played with the Seagulls in 1951 before turning his attention to boxing, and going on to train world bantamweight champion Lionel Rose in the late 1960’s.
Murray McRae gave Williamstown good service in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s as a ruckman, playing 79 games and later coaching the Thirds. He was also a member of the 1949 premiership team. Perhaps his greatest deed for the Club was carried out at the Newport Railway Workshops where he convinced fellow employee Gerry Callahan to try out at Williamstown in the 1950 practice matches, which he did but returned to his junior club for that season but was back at the Seagulls in 1951 for the term of his natural football life. An instant success, ‘Monster’ would spend the next 17 seasons at the ‘Town as player, captain and coach. He became the only player to captain five VFA premiership sides and later coached the VFA representative teams from 1960-65. He was named captain of Williamstown’s Team of the Century, and was selected at centre-half back. He would play 171 games, kicking 75 goals and winning the best and fairest award in his first season and again in 1957.
Callahan did not play football until he was sixteen because of asthma and he was essentially a battler during his early years with Moonee Ponds CYMS. He improved quickly at Williamstown due to an ability to adapt to the higher standard of players around him, so well that he tied for the best and fairest award in 1951 at the age of 22. He started as a ruckman, was later used at centre-half back or centre-half forward and then shifted himself back into the ruck.
After Williamstown's grip on the top position was loosened in 1950, the team failed to recover in the season that followed and slipped down to seventh position, its lowest finish since 1938. Loss of star players and a bad run with injuries were the physical reasons for the decline, but five consecutive victories to start the season against Yarraville, Preston, Northcote, Brunswick and Coburg gave the 'Town great optimism, before losing at home to Brighton by two points. After this streak, wins became harder to find and Coburg settled the team's last chance four matches before the end of the home-and-away round of matches. Some pride was restored with a 20-point defeat of Prahran, the eventual premiers, in the last match. The runners-up, Port Melbourne, also lost at Williamstown during the season in round 10 by 15 points, 13.9 to 9.18, with Johnny Walker kicking six goals. 'Town finished with ten wins, nine losses and a draw with Box Hill. Box Hill and Moorabbin both gained admittance to the VFA for the 1951 season, the latter winning three games whilst Box Hill's only points for the season came as a result of the draw with Williamstown in the round 13 game at Box Hill, played on a sodden oval, ankle-deep in mud in places. Despite the wet conditions, the ‘Town led by a goal at quarter-time and two points at half-time. Box Hill was five points ahead at the last change before Williamstown regained the lead, only to lose it again, and with time running out scores were leave at 8.8. Walker, who had kicked five goals, marked about 40 metres from goal in the final minute but his kick failed to make the distance due to the heavy ball and Box Hill cleared to earn its first points in the competition. Williamstown also lost at home to Northcote for the first time since 1938.
The seconds again made the finals but were eliminated by Yarraville in the first semi-final 10.18.78 to 11.7.73. J. Heslop won their best and fairest award. The Club fielded a Third eighteen for the first time in 1951 in the VFA Sub-Districts Association and played curtain-raisers to the seniors instead of baseball, which then played before the reserves on the opposition’s home ground. The Thirds, under coach Ken Bravo, made the finals in their inaugural season but were defeated in the first semi.
Gerry Callahan played sixteen matches in his debut season and tied with Gordon Williams for the best and fairest award, which from this season until the year 2000 was named the Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy. Shortly before the end of the 1949 season, Taylor had died suddenly at the age of just 25. He had played 26 games, including one in 1949, but he was held in such high regard by the Williamstown community that the Club named its best and fairest after him. He had joined the Club as a 17 year-old in 1941 from Williamstown High School, and between RAAF duties during the war recess, he joined up with Carlton. Injuries sustained in the war stopped him playing regularly with Williamstown after the resumption, and he put his leg in irons for twelve months in an attempt to regain fitness. During 1949 he played some games in the Seconds and appeared ready for senior football, but after being selected against Coburg he was forced off early in the game. It was not only the football world that was shocked by his passing but many youth and church organisations lost one of their best workers.
Johnny Walker bettered his goal scoring of the previous season and kicked a total of 84 to finish third on the VFA list behind Bruce Harper of Sandringham with 104 majors.
Tom Hernan and Bert Paterson received life membership at the Annual General Meeting, and Harold Hosking was re-elected as president. Three former officials passed away during the year, namely vice-president and life member Peter McIntyre, who was also licensee of the Bristol Hotel, Ern Pinchney and Bob Hope.
1951 Argus newspaper badge
From the Williamstown Chronicle March 9, 1951
Bill Sheahan, star winger 1948-53, 82 games, 10 goals, member 1949 premiership team
and 1948 runners-up, later coached WFC Thirds to the 1958 premiership, the club's first.
The Club's Reserves best & fairest award was also named after him up until 2017.
From the Williamstown Chronicle 15 June, 1951
Peter McIntyre's Bristol Hotel in Ferguson St., circa 2006