Season Summary: 1956

Season 1956 produced several new records, including a third successive senior premiership, the Reserves' second successive flag, Johnny Martin's JJ Liston award and Brian Stafford's best and fairest win in the Third's competition.  The Seconds were undefeated during the season and the Thirds were just beaten in the semi-final by a point. Whilst other clubs had won three successive pennants, this was the first time that both Firsts and Seconds had won the premiership two years running.

Jack Carter was re-elected President at the pre-season annual general meeting and, during the year, the Club mourned the passing of his predecessor, former Secretary and President, Harold Hosking. His large funeral featured the 1954 pennant adorning his casket.

Naturally enough, Wally Carter was re-appointed coach with Gerry Callahan captain and Alby Linton vice-captain. It is quite possible that this would be the only occasion in which a triple premiership was won by a club with the same three men in charge.

A big loss over the off-season was that of Harry Simpson, who took over as coach of Dimboola in the Wimmera League. During his 75 games for the 'Town in which he kicked 82 goals, he played a huge part in the Club's success. He was very mobile for a big man and could play in most positions as well as in the ruck. Alan Leigh, Alan Cuff (Yarraville), Ray Martini and Ian McLeod (Reserves) were others who dropped out, whilst Ken Reed (Essendon), Lindsay Murphy (Footscray), 17yo rover Daryl Ward (Willi CY's), forward Bill Mathieson (Lara) and follower Frank Jones (from the Thirds) were the main acquisitions.

The first match was at home against Moorabbin, and the 1955 pennant was unfurled by the wife of President, Jack Carter, before the Seagulls went on to an easy victory, 9.15.69 to 3.9.27. The next game resulted in the worse defeat for the year at Brunswick, going down 12.10.82 to 7.10.52. From then until the final series the team had an almost unchecked run of victories, with the only two defeats being at the hands of Box Hill by 17 points in round 12 and Yarraville at home by a point from a goal after the siren by Jack Whallis in round 7. This was the Eagles first win at Williamstown since 1938. The 'Town defeated their most formidable rival, Port Melbourne, both times although it was only accurate kicking for goal that gained a 5-point victory at Port in round 6, and by 31 points at home in round 19.

This fine record of seventeen wins from twenty matches enabled the Seagulls to head the list at the conclusion of the home-and-away round from Port, Brunswick and Box Hill. It was Box Hill's first finals appearance since joining the VFA in 1951, only due to a superior percentage than Preston which had the same number of wins. Box Hill was the glamour team of 1956, setting a lively pace early in winning 11 of the first 12 games before finishing fourth. Its Reserves also reached the finals for the first time and became the first Box Hill team to reach a VFA grand final. 

Williamstown went into the finals confident of becoming the first club since Northcote in 1932-33-34 to win a hat-trick of VFA flags, but Port gained some revenge by turning a half-time deficit of four points into a 14-point win in the second semi at the Junction Oval before a crowd of 20,000. Taking advantage of Port’s poor kicking for goal in the second quarter, the ‘Town led 4.6 to 3.8 at the long break. Port, with Bob Withers dominating the centre and captain-coach Frank Johnson winning in the ruck, answered by dominating the third quarter and then put the game beyond the Seagulls with two early goals in the last quarter. Final scores were 12.15.87 to 10.13.73, with Alan McPherson (4) and Alby Linton (2) heading the goalkicking, while the best players were Eric Beitzel, Alby Outen, Ken Reed, Bob Jones, Linton and McPherson. This match was Max Munday's 100th senior game for the Seagulls in which he kept VFA leading goalkicker, Bob Bonnett, to three goals. Williamstown had won both contests against Port during the home-and-away rounds.  

Unsurprisingly, Box Hill, after their win over Brunswick in the first-semi, started favourites in the preliminary final, and had proved a troublesome opponent having won four games and lost four with one draw against Williamstown since entering the competition. This could be attributed to six of the contests being played at Box Hill where the surface was less firm than at Pt Gellibrand. Box Hill had won their only encounter that season in round 12 at Box Hill by 3 goals. However, Williamstown's improvement and experience proved too much for the White Horses, as they were then known, with the 'Town running out victors 12.14.86 to to 8.16.64, despite trailing by five points at half-time in front of a crowd of 16,000 and then booting 5 goals to just one in the third quarter. Nevertheless, Box Hill got to within ten points of the Seagulls when kicking with the wind in the last quarter before two late goals sealed the win for the 'Town. Major goalkickers were McPherson and Linton, both with three, and best players were Wookey, Outen, Munday, Fisher, Beitzel, Smith, Laurie, Reed, Gear and Linton.

In the 136th encounter between Williamstown and Port Melbourne, which had now won five consecutive second semi-finals, and was keen to avenge its 1954-55 grand final losses to Williamstown, the Burras went a long way to doing so by leading for much of the game. It was a much better Seagulls side that took the field against Port in the grand final, but the desperate play of their opponents prevented the 'Town showing it on the scoreboard, with Port leading 5.6.36 to 3.1.19 at the first change. It appeared that Port would repeat its second-semi success but a slightly better second term brought the scores closer at the long interval, 8.11.59 to 8.5.53. The third quarter was a dour struggle with Williamstown adding only five behinds but putting up terrific resistance to Port's kicking with the breeze, and held them to just 1.3 for the quarter. Ten points down at the last change, 9.14.68 to 8.10.58, seemed to favour the Seagulls, but Port, fighting against yet another runners-up title, kept the 'Town at bay for more than half the term, during which the wind died. Williamstown had plenty of chances early in the last quarter but could not convert them into goals. A further five behinds, making a total of 11 consecutive singles since half time, did at least bring the Seagulls within a straight kick. Then Alan McPherson, who had been just missing some big marks, suddenly managed to take a few and with complete control of the air thrilled the big crowd of 28,000. The deficit was gradually bridged and it appeared it was only a matter of time before Williamstown hit the front, and when Callahan goaled the ‘Town led for the first time in the game by just two points. The lead was extended to seven points with another major from McPherson before Bonnett goaled for Port and, at the 19 minute mark, a rushed single to Port levelled the scores at 10-16 apiece. A long shot from first-year centre half-forward Ken Reed rolled through for a goal to the Seagulls, followed three minutes later by another from full-forward McPherson, his sixth for the game. At this point Port threw away whatever chance they had by giving away needless free kicks, and further goals to Linton and Gear, making it 3 goals in a 4-minute burst, gave the ‘Town a comfortable win, in an almost exact replica of the previous year's come-from-behind victory.

The hat-trick of premierships was won with the same team which successfully contested the preliminary final, the final scores being 14.18.102 to 10.18.78. Major goalkickers were McPherson 6 and Gear 2, with best players being Martin, Ramsay, Beitzel, McPherson, Smith, Jones, Gear, Fisher and Reed. This meant that Port finished runners-up for the sixth time in seven seasons, with the flag against a weak Yarraville team in 1953 being the only consolation. It was Williamstown's seventh premiership from eight Grand Final appearances. 

Williamstown’s 1956 premiership side was:

B.    Eric Beitzel         Max Munday            John Ramsay

HB.  Allen Laurie       Len Kent                    Jack Curran

C.     Alby Outen        Johnny Martin          Frank Sims

HF.   Ray Smith          Ken Reed                   Reg Fisher

F.      Sid Wookey       Alan McPherson      Maurie Gear

Foll.  Gerry Callahan   Bob Jones

Rov.  Alby Linton

Res.   Frank Jones        Jack Evans

Coach: Wally Carter

Supporters were in a good mood early in the day when the Seconds became premiers and champions by beating Box Hill 14.16.100 to 4.7.31, and Johnny Martin was presented with his JJ Liston Trophy, Williamstown's first since Des Fothergill's win in 1941, before the senior match began. Again captain-coached by best and fairest winner Lou Barker, the Seconds were undefeated in the 20 home-and-away rounds, then narrowly defeated Box Hill in the second-semi, 8.15 to 8.10, to advance to the grand final, with Max Hughes starring and Bill Mathieson kicking 5 goals. Other good players were Barker, Eric Phillips, Jack McTaggart and Frank Jones. This was Box Hill's first appearance in a VFA Grand Final in any grade. The grand final victory was Williamstown Reserves 25th consecutive win. Best players were Thirds ruckman Harry Wragg, Max Hughes, Wal Muldowney, Jack McTaggart, Lindsay Murphy, Arthur Hewitt, Reg Ogden, J. Turner and Bill Mathieson.

The Thirds, under coach Murray McRae, finished behind Port and Preston before losing the first-semi to Brunswick by a point, 7.6.48 to 6.11.47. Brunswick went on to win the premiership, defeating Port Melbourne 3.10 to 2.5, in a very low-scoring match. Harry Wragg won the Club best and fairest, while vice-captain and centre half-back, Brian Stafford, won the VFA Thirds competition best and fairest, the Alec Gillon Medal.

Team of the Century members Max Munday and Gerry Callahan both brought up their 100th game during the season, and Alby Linton's 59 majors for the year won him the Club goalkicking award and placing him fourth on the VFA list. Johnny Martin took home the Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy for Club best & fairest to sit alongside his JJ Liston Trophy, which he won by 13 votes from Camberwell captain Ken Ross. Lou Barker won the Seconds best and fairest and Harry Wragg won the Thirds award.

Former player from the early 1950’s, Bill ‘Leftfooter’ Williams (so named to differentiate him from captain-coach Billy Williams) won the 1956 Stawell Gift. A half-forward, Williams played 37 games in Royal Blue & Gold. Former Club vice-president and licensee of the Hobsons Bay Hotel, Syd Doult, passed away in October.

                                    The VFA Recorder, 1956 Preliminary Final, Williamstown v. Box Hill 

 

 

Johnny Martin receives his JJ Liston Trophy from Alex Gillon, President of the VFA, before the 1956 Grand Final

                                                                                        The Age, October 1, 1956

                                                                                                        Williamstown Advertiser, October 5, 1956

                                                                                               From The Argus October 1, 1956

                                                                                                  1956 Premiership team 

Back row: Reg Ogden, Maurie Gear

Second back row: Frank Sims, Alf Woods, Alby Outen, Johnny Martin, John McTaggart, Ray Smith, Eric Bietzel

Second row: Daryl Ward, John Turner, Max Munday, Jack Evans, Bob Jones, John Ramsay, Ken Reed, Allen Laurie

Front row: Alan McPherson, Sid Wookey, Jack Curran, Wally Carter (coach), Gerry Callahan (captain), Frank Jones, Len Kent

                     The VFA Recorder, 1956 Grand Final, Williamstown v. Port Melbourne 

 

 

 

 

                                                                   The Age, October 1, 1956

                                                                                      The Age, October 1, 1956

                                                                                  Williamstown Advertiser, October 5, 1956

                                             Williamstown Advertiser, October 5, 1956

                                                                              Williamstown Advertiser, October 5, 1956

                                                                        Williamstown Chronicle, October 5, 1956

                                                                     Williamstown Chronicle, October 5, 1956

                                                                    Williamstown Chronicle, October 5, 1956

                                                                   Williamstown Chronicle, October 5, 1956

                                                              Williamstown Chronicle, October 5, 1956

                                                                       Williamstown Advertiser, October 5, 1956

                                                                                          The Age, October 1, 1956

                                                                              Williamstown Advertiser, October 5, 1956

                                                               Williamstown Advertiser, October 5, 1956

                                                                   Williamstown Chronicle, October 5, 1956

                                              Williamstown Chronicle, October 5, 1956

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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