Season Summary: 1957

Instead of interest waning at Williamstown after the triple premierships of 1954/55/56, all entered 1957 determined to make it four in a row. Essendon had previously achieved this feat in the VFA in seasons 1891-1894 and Collingwood did the same in the then VFL over seasons 1927-1930.

This was exemplified by the team being undefeated at the conclusion of the 20 match home-and-away rounds. Williamstown finished the minor round five games clear of second-placed Moorabbin. However, the favourites were not only beaten in the second-semi but also failed in the preliminary and then had to watch two other clubs fight it out for grand final honours. Nevertheless, the run of 22 consecutive victories (two came from the 1956 finals series) was easily a Club record, though well short of North Melbourne's great VFA sequence over the years 1914-15 and again in 1918-19 (the VFA went into recess in 1916 and 1917 due to the Great War) of 49 consecutive wins. The Seconds similarly continued their undefeated run from 1956 until the sequence was well into the thirties before they also crashed in both finals matches at the Junction Oval.

Life memberships were awarded to Vic Davies and Mrs Flett, long-serving President of the Ladies Committee, for their work for the Club at the annual general meeting, where Jack Carter was re-elected President but intimated that he would stand down at the end of the year.

With an excellent record behind him, Wally Carter was re-appointed for a further term as coach, and Gerry Callahan was captain once again. During the off-season the Club lost the services of Alby Linton after 87 games and 226 goals, as he was appointed captain-coach at Melton. Following on from Happy Simpson the year before, Jack Curran was cleared to Dimboola as playing coach. George Taafe also went coaching at Lindenow and Syd Wookey, after being troubled by a knee injury early in the season, retired after 136 games for the 'Town. Reg Fisher was cleared to Geelong, where he was living at the time. Roy Cullinan was the best of the newcomers, which included Barry Beitzel, brother of Eric, from Carlton, Neville O'Connor from Footscray and big Tom Jones from Carlton and Footscray who only managed two games.   

Football under lights came to the VFA in 1957. The matches were played at South Melbourne's Lake Oval on Wednesday evenings, and Williamstown's first two matches were played at night. The first was against Moorabbin on April 17 as an 'away' fixture and the second a 'home' match against Port on April 24. Good crowds attended both games and the Seagulls had no trouble with Moorabbin but was fortunate to get up in the last few minutes to once more down the old rival, Port, this time by only two points. Later in the season on May 29 Box Hill was played under lights for an easy win.

After the initial two night matches, Sandringham was played away which meant it was not until the fourth round game against Yarraville at home on May 11 that the 1956 pennant was unfurled by President Carter's wife. The remainder of the season proceeded without much anxiety, apart from the return clash at Port where the 'Town came very close to defeat, and, after 10 games they’d won the lot, exceeding the previous best start of nine wins in 1900. The team managed to head the table after the twenty home-and-away rounds undefeated, five wins in front of Moorabbin then Port and Preston on percentage from Brunswick. The premiership seemed a certainty, although no side had won four consecutive flags since the VFA began playing finals in 1903. The only instance when the club heading the ladder after the home-and-away rounds automatically won the title was by Essendon from 1891-94.

The finals were again played at the Junction Oval, and Williamstown started favourites in the second-semi, having won 22 games since losing the 1956 second-semi final, the Club’s longest winning sequence. This eclipsed its previous best run of 14 in 1939-40 and 1948. Played before a crowd of only 8,000, Moorabbin fielded a very tall and solid team, and from the outset showed that its players meant business, despite having recorded only one win against the ‘Town since joining the VFA. However, Williamstown's finals experience enabled it to extend their three-quarter time lead of seven points to 14 early in the final term before Moorabbin began to control play and chipped away at the deficit despite the Seagulls trying to close up the game by stacking the backline. Callahan limped off the field with an ankle injury and then rover Bruce Whalebone goaled to put Moorabbin in front. With five minutes remaining there was still time for the ‘Town to reply but Moorabbin managed to hold onto a two-point lead to run out winners, 9.16.70 to 10.8.68. Major goalkickers for the Seagulls were Gear, Ward and Cullinan with two-apiece. Williamstown, which was beaten in the air in the last quarter and failed in attack, had only one consistent winner all day in Johnny Martin.

In the preliminary, Port, after a long run of losses against Williamstown, lost no time in grabbing the ascendency by leading 4.4.28 to a solitary behind at quarter time, which was extended at the long interval 9.4.58 to 3.4.22. The further the game went on the greater the gap between the two teams became, with the three-quarter time scores being 14.11.95 to 4.7.31 and the final scores 18.12.120 to 6.12.48. Major goalkickers were Reed and Cullinan with two each, and the best players Outen, Eric Beitzel, Ward, Jones, Sims and Whitaker. Port's score exceeding 100 points was the first kicked against the 'Town since Prahran posted 120 points in June 1953, a span of 101 matches.

Moorabbin went on to win its first senior VFA premiership the following week 15.12.102 to 7.20.62, consigning Port to eight successive grand final appearances for just the one flag.

The reign of Wally Carter came to an end, and under him Williamstown had won 76 games, losing just 15 and winning three premierships. Carter’s great success with the Seagulls was noted by League clubs, and Fitzroy were very keen to gain his services in 1958. He instead returned to North Melbourne which he coached for a further five years before moving to VFA club Brunswick for the 1963-64 seasons.

Team of the Century members Ray Smith and Johnny Martin both brought up their 100th game for the Club during the year, while Alan McPherson led the goalkicking with a total of 62, despite missing half the season, and finished fifth on the VFA list. Gerry Callahan again played well and was awarded the Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy as the best and fairest player, despite Len Kent polling best for the Club in the JJ Liston Trophy and finishing equal seventh. John McTaggart was best for the Seconds and Doug Kellett won the Thirds trophy and also the competition best and fairest.

The Seconds extended their winning run from 1956 until over thirty consecutive victories had been recorded to again head the ladder at the end of the home-and-away rounds. However, Preston defeated the team in the second-semi 11.14.80 to 9.12.66, and then Moorabbin did likewise in the preliminary winning 13.12.90 to 6.12.48. Preston went on to win the flag. Lou Barker was again captain and coach.

The Thirds finished seventh under the coaching of Murray McRae, whilst Northcote won the premiership.

Towards the end of 1957, the VFA announced that Dandenong and Mordialloc would be admitted to the competition from the next season, no doubt prompted by the quick success of Moorabbin and Box Hill and a desire to capture growing areas of Melbourne.

                 Gerry Callahan 

 

 

 

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