Season Summary: 1985
The off-season proved a very fruitful recruiting period, as Williamstown were able to add the following players to its list for the upcoming season: Ian "Chops" Rickman (Footscray), Robert Semmens (Footscray), Rob DiMartino, Lindsay "Cods" Cahill, Grant Smith and Kevin 'Hap' Hughes (all from Spotswood), Steven Weir (North Old Boys VAFA) and Wayne Muschialli (Altona City). Rickman (1985-1993 146 games, 516 goals), Cahill (1985-1990 86 games, 133 goals), Smith (1985-1992 76 games, 79 goals) and Muschialli (1985-1991 56 games, 76 goals) would all go on to become long-serving premiership players at The 'Town, with Rickman, Smith and Muschialli playing in both the 1986 and 1990 premiership sides. Cahill would play in the 1986 flag team.
Whereas Williamstown had started season 1984 with three wins, it began 1985 with three losses before winning the next eight. An uneven competition meant at least 12 wins would be needed to claim fourth spot and when 'Town lost to Camberwell by five points in round 16 it faced a hard task to reach the finals ahead of Port Melbourne, now a game clear. Both clubs had a chance to boost their percentages in round 17 when they met lowly opponents. Port took advantage by beating Prahran by 76 points to strengthen its grip on fourth position, while the Seagulls had a 22-point win over Werribee. This meant that not only did Williamstown have to win well away against sixth-placed Geelong West in the last round, but rely on home side Coburg (second) inflicting a solid defeat on Port to reduce its percentage. At that stage Port had a percentage of 140.8 to Williamstown's 133.1. Williamstown did its best, kicking 14.16 to Geelong West's 8.10, but Coburg played an even bigger part by trouncing Port 21.15 to 5.9. This pushed Port's percentage down to 131.4, while Williamstown's rose slightly to 134.5. Port was out and the Seagulls were in the finals!
Accurate kicking for goal set up Williamstown's first semi-final win over Preston, which had won the previous two premierships, 16.8 to 13.15. This brought the Seagulls and Coburg together in the preliminary final, with Williamstown leading by three points at half-time, Coburg three points ahead at three-quarter time and 'Town eventually winning by three points, 18.13 to 17.16. Two long goals from half-forward Ian Rickman in the last quarter made the difference between Williamstown retiring from the finals and contesting the Grand Final. A first-year player from Footscray - he was set to cross to Werribee, but Wheeler influenced him to join the Seagulls - Rickman became one of the most dynamic players to ever represent Williamstown. He could be inspirational, particularly when the going was hard, and was unfazed kicking for goal beyond 50 metres.
Sandringham, which had headed the ladder and then won a high-scoring second semi-final against Coburg by 90 points, started clear favourites for the Grand Final at the Junction Oval in perfect conditions. Although the underdog, Williamstown was by no means out of contention and began the game with a sensational team selection. After much thought, Wheeler selected Thirds rover Ron James for his debut at the age of 14 years and 10 months. James looked like goaling with his first kick, but the shot slewed away for a behind. Playing with much purpose and tenacity, the Seagulls trailed by only a behind at quarter-time and at half-time scores were level, 8.6 apiece. One factor in Williamstown's favour was the sound form of Fotheringham and Rickman in attack, which contrasted the form of Sandringham forwards Morrison, Brewer and Gorozidis who were all well checked. Fortunately for the Zebras, big man Mark Eaves gave a best-afield performance across the half-forward line and finished with five goals. The game was rugged yet free of spite and was still evenly balanced when Sandy led by nine points at three-quarter time. After Rickman missed a deliberate shot for goal early in the last quarter, Sandringham goaled twice to open up a handy 21 point lead with seven minutes played. It was the biggest gap between the two sides for the day and, in view of the way the two defences were playing, it seemed the Zebras had the game all but won. Fifteen minutes into the term Rickman goaled from close range to cut the difference to two goals and a long shot from Sait was rushed for a behind. Eaves steadied Sandy with a goal, but Fotheringham goaled with a snap to leave the Seagulls 11 points down with about ten minutes to play.
The match was moving towards a thrilling climax as play swung between the back lines. Then Rickman goaled with a prodigious kick. which lifted the 'Town and it stormed forward with renewed zest. Time-on started and only a goal separated the two sides. Davidson had a chance to score, but the kick was smothered. Williamstown mounted another attack and this time Kershaw, who wasn't far from goal, tried to mark. He got his hands to the ball and, given another second or two, he might have gathered it in for a mark. Field umpire Barry Fitzpatrick, who was not far away, was not convinced Kershaw had it under control and called play on. Sandringham cleared the ball and held on to win a fine game, 14.16 to 13.16. Defenders Wheeler and Swann, Rickman, rovers Sait and Cahill, ruck-rover Hughes and Fotheringham (five goals) headed the Williamstown effort.
Williamstown's 1985 Grand Final side was:
Backs Alun Owen Greg Swann Robert DiMartino
Half Backs Terry Wheeler Glen Murphy Steve Weir
Centre Stan Davidson
Half Forwards Ian Rickman Mark Brierty Wayne Muschialli
Forwards Larry Simmons Mark Fotheringham Ron James
Followers Kim Kershaw Kevin Hughes
Rover Kevin Sait
Interchange Lindsay Cahill Craig Nankervis
Fotheringham finished the season with 106 goals, earning him equal second place on the VFA list, while Rickman, in his first year with the club, provided 71 to run fifth. Lindsay Cahill, one of the many quality recruits the club had gained from Spotswood, finished seventh in the Liston Trophy.
One of the other highlights of season 1985 was the launch of the unique, insightful and informative "Dogtown Dialogue" in April, produced by the eccentric Stuart Brown. The publication was to run for the next decade, only ending with Stuart's sad passing.
Players departing at the conclusion of 1985 included future President of 1995-1998 Greg Swann (1982-1985 62 games, 3 goals), Paul Sinnott (1982-1985 39 games, 5 goals) and Stan Davidson (1984-1985 34 games, 18 goals).
Twins Craig and Ron James, aged 14yo, started out together in the Thirds in 1985
1985 playing list
Scoreboard at Box Hill Round 6 1985, Williamstown's highest-ever score ....... until 1986
1985 Thirds Elimination Final, featuring future senior players Tommy McGowan (1988-1997 83 games, 51 goals), Richie Raeburn (1987-1989 22 games, 19 goals), Ronnie James (1985-1986 10 games, 10 goals), Vin DiMartino (1987-1990 37 games, 69 goals), Gavin Johnstone (1988 two games, no goals) and Glen Brooks (1988-1990 8 games, 8 goals)
1985 Grand Final record cover
Williamstown Football Club - 1985 Third XVI - Semi-FinalistsBACK ROW: R Gardiner, C Jones, B Rashid, R Jackson, R Arandez, C Dawson, C Zarafa, A Rohayem
MIDDLE ROW: Vin Dimartino, G Cockerill, Gavin Johnstone, S Daykin, L Cavanagh, G Evans, C Steinhardt
FRONT ROW: G Brook, Ron James, Tom McGowan (Vice Captain), Bruce Davis (Coach), R Purves (Captain), G Stevens, Richie Raeburn