Season Summary: 1986
By the mid-1980's the face of Williamstown the suburb was changing. The traditional working-class background was giving way to the young professionals, who had the money to renovate an old house when they moved to the district and, in some cases, invest in the Williamstown Football Club. The cash flow that had been missing since the mid-1970's, coupled with prosperous times and a sound administration, meant the Seagulls were better off than they had been since the halcyon days of the 1950's. The ties between the community and the football club strengthened and this was reflected by Terry Wheeler taking up residence in Williamstown when he became coach and Barry Round following suit after he joined the club.
Round, the joint winner of the 1981 Brownlow Medal with Fitzroy's Bernie Quinlan, had played 328 games of League football with Footscray, South Melbourne and Sydney. Williamstown officials had heard a whisper in 1985 that Round's VFL days were finished and were told that Port Melbourne had the inside running on his services. The fact that Williamstown was competing with Port to sign such a distinguished player fired president Hannebery into quick action. In the end it was Wheeler's influence that made Round a Williamstown player. 'We regarded Barry as more of an ex-Footscray player than a South Melbourne/Sydney player', Hannebery explained. 'One of the first things he did when he came to us was to buy 10 season's tickets to be a part of the Club.' Recruited primarily to play in the ruck, Williamstown was able to play Round at centre half-forward because Kershaw was doing so well in the ruck. Born on Australia Day 1950, Round was 36 by the time he made his debut with Williamstown. It mattered little because the big fellow continued to play well and was responsible for drawing a lot of people to games.
There was a major change to the VFA in 1986 with the number of teams in First Division being reduced from 12 to 10 by relegating the bottom three from the previous season . Brunswick, the 1985 Second Division premier, was promoted. While there was no doubt Williamstown would reach the final four, the Seagulls did not gain the double chance and had to start their quest for the flag from the first semi-final. Williamstown won 12 games, but failed to beat any of the other three finalists - Coburg, Frankston and Preston - in the home and away rounds.
Williamstown was a 10-point winner in the first semi-final against Preston and then accounted for Frankston 19.19 to 12.17 in the preliminary final. Coburg, which had headed the ladder and comfortably won the second semi-final, was a formidable opponent for the Grand Final. The Lions threatened to kick away in the second quarter when they opened up a 15-point lead in an often congested game, but Williamstown fought back to lead by four points at half-time. Kicking with the breeze in the third quarter, the Seagulls won the game with a devastating burst of seven goals to nil after moving Round into the ruck about 10 minutes into the term. For the rest of the quarter Williamstown dominated the game and the rush of goals was a reflection of sparkling play elsewhere.
At the eight-minute mark of the third quarter, Coburg captain-coach Phil Cleary had been ordered off the ground and there's no doubt his absence upset the Lions balance. Whether this cost Coburg the game is open to question because the way Williamstown played it would have won under any circumstances. The Seagulls led by 45 points at three-quarter time and extended this to 52 points six minutes into the last term. By midway through the last quarter Coburg had rallied to slash the difference from 39 to 21 points, and there was a slim possibility that it could snatch a late win. Twice Williamstown goaled to steady the ship, although Coburg eventually kicked eight goals for the term to cut the final margin to 13 points, 17.9 to 14.14.
Tony Pastore, a first-year player called in to replace suspended full back Mark Brierty, was outstanding for the Seagulls. Captain-coach Wheeler and centre half-back Glen Murphy - son of 1958 and '59 dual premiership player Lindsay Murphy - also shone in defence. Ruck-rover Grant Smith , Ron James on the half-forward line and Round were others to stand out. Fotheringham kicked five goals to give him 74 for the season and third place on the VFA list.
Williamstown's 1986 premiership team line-up was:
Backs: Terry Wheeler Tony Pastore Wayne Muschialli
Half-backs: Sandy Morrison Glen Murphy Brett McTaggart
Centre: Alun Owen
Half-forwards: Rick Slevison Barry Round Ian Rickman
Forwards: Andrew Gibson Mark Fotheringham Lindsay Cahill
Followers: Kim Kershaw Grant Smith
Rover: Kevin Sait
Interchange: Ron James Larry Simmons
By also winning the seconds and thirds premierships in 1986, Williamstown made it a clean sweep and underlined the depth of talent within the Club. Several records were set when the Seagulls visited Camberwell on August 10 that year. Williamstown's score of 55.17 to 4.8 was the highest kicked in any senior VFA game, the winning margin of 315 points was the greatest of all time and Andrew Gibson's total of 22 goals was a club record, although still three short of the 25 kicked by George Gough for Northcote against Prahran in 1924. Williamstown's previous highest score had been 42.18 against Box Hill in 1985. While the big score against Camberwell was a feat, it was by no means Williamstown's proudest moment due to the opposition being so demonstrably weak.
During the year the State Government Department of Planning and Environment advised the Williamstown Council that the cricket ground did not 'support a coastal dependent use' and that the football and cricket clubs should move inland. There was an immediate and vociferous protest and the Ministry backed down. More worryingly, the declaration of the W.L. Floyd pavilion as a fire hazard was serious and the Council subsequently spent about $100,000 rectifying the problem along with the sub-standard toilets at the ground.
Former long-serving president Arthur Johnson passed away in 1986, aged 94, and the Club also lost life-members Myrtle Deller, Tom Orange and George Holdsworth, along with former players Bill Sheahan and Fred Matthews.
1986 playing list
1986 First-semi final action, Mark Fotheringham and David Brine (Preston).
VFA Thirds grand final teams, featuring future senior players Brett Gould and Gavin Johnstone.
1986 club awards