Season Summary: 1959
After 133 games and 17 goals, Johnny Martin, a four-time premiership player (1954-55-56-58), two-time best and fairest winner (1956 & 1958) and 1956 Liston Medallist, departed Williamstown to take up the coaching position at Wentworth in the Sunraysia League. Martin, who debuted in 1952, would later be selected on the wing in Williamstown’s Team of the Century.
The most notable arrival was ruckman Leo Maloney from Essendon.
Two significant changes in 1959 were the reduction in team sizes from 18 to 16 players by eliminating the wingers, reversing the change made forty years earlier, and the dumping of Prahran from the competition because it lost the sole use of Toorak Park. Sunshine came in to replace the Two Blues. The change to 16-a-side would last for 33 years under 1992. The VFA had previously played under this rule between 1912-18.
Under captain-coach Gerry Callahan and vice-captain Eric Beitzel, Williamstown commenced the season with a 125-point win at Preston, 26.17 to 6.12, and went on to win the first 13 games before losing at home to Coburg. The only other losses were at Moorabbin in round 17 and at home to Oakleigh in round 19. The Seagull’s seventeen wins put them on top of the ladder, a game ahead of Sandringham, Oakleigh and Coburg. The team was never out of the top four all season. Fifth-placed Moorabbin won 15 games and had the highest percentage of all but missed the finals. Similarly, Yarraville finished sixth with 14 wins and a percentage of 145, indicating the sixteen-team competition was becoming lop-sided and needed structural change other than the number of players on the field.
Sandringham, making its first finals appearance since 1951 and only its fourth since joining the VFA in 1929, led the ‘Town by a point at half-time and 10 points at three-quarter time in the second-semi, but a dominant last quarter by the Seagulls enabled them to add 5.4 to just two behinds to run out winners 11.14.80 to 7.16.58. Best for Williamstown were Eric and Barry Beitzel, Colquhoun, Evans, Pelly and Mazouris. The game was played at the Junction Oval before a crowd of 14,000 and was delayed a week due to the ground being waterlogged the previous week. This meant, that for the first time in six years, the Club did not have to play in the preliminary final.
Coburg downed Sandringham by four points in the preliminary, 14.16 to 13.18, to earn the right to win its first title for 31 years. An unusual feature of the grand final was that the wind changed direction at half-time, resulting in Williamstown kicking with it in the first and last quarters and Coburg in the second and third. Poor kicking for goal, in which it managed only 2.8 to 1.1 in the first quarter, was an indifferent start by the Seagulls although they improved to head the ‘Burgers by 13 points at the long break, 6.13 to 5.6, after the scores were level during the quarter.
Coburg used the wind to advantage in the third quarter to add 4 goals and held Williamstown to a solitary behind and led by the same margin at the last change, 9.9 to 6.14, but the ‘Burgers were unable to contain their more experienced opponents in the final term. Positional changes, such as moving Cullinan to centre half-forward and bringing Ward off the bench to rove, worked well and these players in particular teamed with Mazouris to erase the deficit quickly and then build a commanding lead. Cullinan booted three of the side’s nine goals during the last term to finish with 7.2, to go with being reported for striking Doug Bigelow of Coburg. Maloney and Mazouris were the other multiple goalkickers with two apiece. Centreman Smith was a key to Williamstown’s victory as was the dominance of the ruck led by Callahan, Jones and Evans. By adding 9.7 to 2.1 in the final quarter, the Seagulls won its fifth flag in six years with a 15.21 to 11.10 triumph.
Williamstown’s 1959 premiership side was:
B. Eric Beitzel Col Colquhoun John Ramsay
HB. Jack Evans Len Kent Barry Beitzel
C. Ray Smith
HF. Don Matthews Lindsay Murphy Robert Jones
F. Leo Maloney Roy Cullinan George Mazouris
Foll. Gerry Callahan Bob Jones
Rov. Tom Pelly
Res. Bob Rawson Daryl Ward
Williamstown’s victory meant that it had won 112 games, lost only 22 with one draw in the six seasons since 1954. Ray Smith won the first of three consecutive Andy Taylor Memorial club best and fairests, while Roy Cullinan’s 60 goals put him sixth on the Association list.
This premiership signalled the end of Gerry Callahan’s playing career after 171 games and 75 goals from 1951, which included five premierships (1954-55-56-58-59), two best & fairest awards (1951 & 1957) and the captaincy from 1954-59. He was also named as captain of the Williamstown Team of the Century, where he was selected at centre half-back. Gerry was also made a life member of the Club, along with C. Downes at the annual general meeting that followed the end of the season.
Three other long-serving players to bow out were fellow five-time premiership teammate John Ramsay (125 games), four-time premiership player Len Kent (117) and three-time flag winner Neil Whitaker (90). Ramsay and Kent were similarly selected in the Team of the Century in the back pocket and on the interchange, respectively.
The Seconds best and fairest was won by A. Woods while the Thirds was taken out by Graham Clough. The Thirds made the finals but were knocked out in the preliminary final, and Clough also took out the Competition best and fairest award.
The team before the 1959 Grand Final v. Coburg at the Junction Oval, St.Kilda
From left: Gerry Callahan, Eric Beitzel, Ray Smith, Tom Pelly, Leo Maloney, Jack Evans, Barry Beitzel, Len Kent,
George Mazouris, Bob Jones, Lindsay Murphy, Roy Cullinan, Robert Jones, Don Matthews, John Ramsay, Col Colquhoun.