Season Summary: 1956
Season 1956 produced several new records, including a third successive senior premiership, the Second's 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 George Holdsworth, Theo Nelson and E.S. Marr were made life members.
During the year, the Club mourned the passing of 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 were others who dropped out, whilst Ken Reed (Essendon), and locals Lindsay Murphy, Daryl Ward and Frank Jones 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, 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.
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 Withers dominating the centre and 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 McPherson (4) and Linton (2) heading the goalkicking, while the best players were Beitzel, Outen, Linton and McPherson.
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 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. 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. Major goalkickers were McPherson and Linton, both with three, and best players were Wookey, Outen, Smith, Laurie, Reed and Linton.
Port Melbourne, which had now won five consecutive second-semi finals, was keen to avenge its 1954-55 grand final losses to Williamstown and 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. Williamstown had plenty of chances early in the last quarter but could not convert them into goals. A further five behinds 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, with the wind, 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. The lead was extended to seven points before Bonnett goaled for Port and, at the 19 minute mark, a single to Port levelled the scores. 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. At this point Port threw away whatever chance they had by giving away needless free kicks, and further goals to Linton and Gear gave the ‘Town a comfortable win.
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.
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
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 before the senior match began. Again captain-coached by best and fairest winner Lou Barker, the Seconds were undefeated in the home-and-away rounds, then narrowly defeated Box Hill in the second-semi, 8.15 to 8.10, to advance to the grand final.
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. Harry Wragg won the Club best and fairest, while Brian Stafford won the VFA Thirds competition best and fairest.
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 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.