Season Summary: 1959

After 133 games and 17 goals, 25yo 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. Team of the Century fullback, Max Munday, also finished up at the end of 1958 after 120 games. 

The most notable arrivals were ruckman Leo Maloney from Essendon, who would finish runner-up in the Club best and fairest award in his first season with Williamstown, half-forward Don Matthews from South Melbourne and half-back Bob Rawson from Footscray.

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 until 1992. The VFA had previously played under this rule between 1912-18. Thought was also being given to a promotion and relegation scheme in order to improve the standard of football and create greater public interest. This would come to fruition in 1961. 

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 (Roy Cullinan 10 goals), 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, and in fact occupied top spot on the ladder for 13 weeks and second position for the other seven. Fifth-placed Moorabbin won 15 games and had the highest percentage of all (162.7) 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. Apart from the opening win at Preston mentioned above, Williamstown also beat Northcote at home in round 3 by 89 points (Cullinan 9 goals), Sunshine at home in round 6 by 88 points (Cullinan 5 goals) and Camberwell at home in round 18 by 147 points (Tom Pelly 7 goals, Jack Evans 6 and Lindsay Murphy 5). Camberwell won just one game for the season, Brighton two games and Northcote only three.

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. This match was follower Bob Jones' 100th senior appearance for the Seagulls.

Coburg downed Sandringham by four points in the preliminary, 14.16 to 13.18, to earn the right to win its first title since 1928 in its first Grand Final appearance since 1941. Its last finals campaign came in 1952. 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, including 7 consecutive behinds, 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, although they had been out to as much as a 28-point lead during the quarter.

Coburg used the wind to advantage in the third quarter to add 4 goals and take the lead for the first time while holding Williamstown to a solitary behind to lead 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, with the lead changing three times early in the last quarter. Positional changes, such as moving Cullinan to centre half-forward, Jack Evans to full forward and bringing Ward off the bench to rove, replacing Don Matthews, worked well and these players in particular teamed with Mazouris, who kicked three consecutive behinds at the start of the quarter, to erase the deficit quickly after Callahan's goal regained the lead by three points. A Coburg goal after 12 minutes put them back in front before Williamstown's Maloney goaled again to take back the lead. Cullinan booted three of the side’s nine goals during the last term to finish the match with 7.2, to go with being reported by four umpires for striking Doug Bigelow of Coburg in the third quarter, which resulted in the former Essendon ruckman being knocked unconscious. Bigelow had earlier crashed heavily into Jack Ramsay at the end of the first quarter. 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 in front of a crowd of 26,000. Other good players were Mazouris, Cullinan, Kent, Eric & Barry Beitzel, Ramsay, Maloney and Colquhoun, who kept Coburg's star full forward, Byron, goalless.

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

Coach: Gerry Callahan

 

Williamstown’s victory meant that it had won 112 games, lost only 22 with one draw in the six seasons since 1954, and had appeared in seven consecutive finals series, never finishing lower than third. Ray Smith, who played his 150th senior game during the year, won the first of three consecutive Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy Club best and fairests, while Roy Cullinan’s 60 goals put him sixth on the Association list.

This premiership signalled the end of 30yo 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 Cyril 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, 29yo John Ramsay (125 games), four-time premiership player, 28yo 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 Alf Woods while the Thirds was taken out by captain, Graham 'Sharky' Clough. The Thirds made the finals but were knocked out in the preliminary final by Preston, and Clough also took out the competition best and fairest award, the Alex Gillon Medal.

                                     

                                                   

   

                                   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.

 

                                                                                                        The Sporting Globe, October 10, 1959

                                                                                               The Sporting Globe, October 10, 1959

                                                        Williamstown Chronicle, October 15, 1959

                                                                                              Williamstown Chronicle, October 15, 1959

                                                                 Williamstown Chronicle, October 15, 1959

Roy Cullinan kicked 7 goals against Coburg in the 1959 Grand Final and 60 goals for the season, despite missing eight games with a broken hand

                                                             Williamstown Chronicle, October 15, 1959

                                                               Williamstown Chronicle, October 15, 1959

                                                                                      Williamstown Chronicle, October 15, 1959

1959 premiership medallions presented to Williamstown players after the grand final win

                                                                                     Williamstown Advertiser, October 16, 1959

                                                        Williamstown Advertiser, October 16, 1959

The 1959 premiership brought about 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 at the annual general meeting in February 1960. He would continue coaching the Club until the end of the 1967 season, totaling 202 games at the helm, the longest coaching record in the Club's long history. 

 

 

 

 

 

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