Season Summary: 1988

  

Williamstown improved marginally by reaching the Grand Final in 1988 although on the day it never looked like beating minor premier Coburg. In a particularly even season, the Lions headed the ladder with 13 wins, one more than Preston, then came the Seagulls with 11 wins and Port Melbourne with 10, which edged out Springvale on percentage. Wooden-spooner Prahran still managed to win five of the 18 home and away games. 'Town were well placed to gain the double chance after winning seven of the first 10 games, but then had a slump and lost the next four. By winning the next four games, Williamstown again qualified for the finals and was certainly a premiership contender despite having to make its assault from the first semi.

After playing all First Division finals at the Junction Oval for 18 years, the VFA made a change in 1988 and played the semi-finals and preliminary at Port Melbourne, with the Grand Final at Windy Hill, Essendon. Had Port kicked accurately in the first half of the first semi, it well may have ended the season for Williamstown. The Seagulls, by contrast, were kept in the game by their accuracy as their score of 8.1 to 9.16 indicated. At three-quarter time the 'Town trailed by only three points and then unleashed a nine goal to one finish which was reminiscent of the previous year's first semi-final. Rickman kicked nine goals in Williamstown's 24.15 to 15.24 win, while ruck-rover Grant Smith was best afield. Round, Raeburn and Wheeler were also prominent.

A goalless first quarter was followed by nine in the second term as Williamstown went on to a 50-point win in the preliminary final against Preston, 18.17 to 11.9. This followed Coburg's 93-point win over the Bullants in the second semi.

The Grand Final at Essendon was the first VFA game played at that ground since 1921, when the ground was still home to the Essendon Association Club. Williamstown made a useful start to the game and led 6.3 to 3.5 at quarter-time, but Coburg started to assert itself after the break, although the 'Town still led by eight points at half-time. The issue was well and truly settled in the third quarter when Coburg added 7.8 to a solitary behind to set up a 16.18 to 12.15 win. 

Williamstown's 1988 Grand Final line-up was:

Backs:               Laurie Taylor      Robert Dimartino    Murray Nilsson

Half-backs:       Terry Wheeler        Glen Murphy       Brett McTaggart

Centre:                                          Rick Slevinson

Half-forwards:   Mark Kennedy      Barry Round         Tony Pastore

Forwards:         Danny Del Re       Ian Rickman        Ritchie Raeburn

Followers:         Kim Kershaw        Grant Smith

Rover:               Lindsay Cahill

Interchange:      Darrin Rowsell     Vin Dimartino

While the Grand Final wasn't a winner for the 'Town, the club did provide the Liston Trophy winner when half-back flanker Brett McTaggart tied for the award with Coburg's Gary Sheldon. The pair finished one vote ahead of the evergreen Barry Round, while Ritchie Raeburn finished equal seventh. McTaggart, the team's vice-captain, was the son of former Williamstown player Jack McTaggart, who later joined Yarraville where he captained the side's 1961 premiership side. Despite his Liston success McTaggart did not win the club's best and fairest award, which again went to Round.

During the season the club mourned the loss of former presidents Alf Urban and Jack Carter.

Since the mid-1970's Williamstown had recruited Mal Allen, Bruce Alexander, Frank Briner and Bruce Mourney from Port Melbourne - a most unlikely source considering the competitiveness between the pair - but such recruiting was trumped when the Seagulls acquired veteran Port player Bill Swan, who had failed to negotiate a new deal with his club, for season 1989. Port considered Swan too old to retain at the age of 33 and cleared the 200-game veteran who had given long and loyal service, chiefly as a centreman. Former Sunshine full-forward Hugh 'Butch' Litchfield, who had kicked 130 goals in 1986, also joined and was given the No. 4 jumper. Litchfield was seen as a possible successor to Fotheringham, with Rickman used on the half-forward line. Wheeler's return to Footscray as coach meant Williamstown had to find a replacement, but didn't have to look far as Barry Round made an admirable successor.

There were major changes also in the VFA. While clubs such as Williamstown maintained a high profile, cash flow and plenty of supporters, those at the other end of the scale struggled to survive. From 24 clubs - 12 in each division - in 1983, the ranks rapidly thinned. The loss of Geelong West late in 1988 left the Association with 15 clubs and, after 28 years of two divisions, in 1989 the VFA went back to a single competition. A final five was also introduced for the first time. 

John Grieve became the third Williamstown official to preside over the VFA when he took office in 1989. Born in Williamstown in October 1945, Grieve did not come from a football background, although his father was a keen supporter of the Seagulls. John's passion for the game led him to play with the thirds at Williamstown, but he did not advance further. "I'd qualify as one of the worst footballers that Williamstown has had," Grieve reflected. Aware that he would not derive much satisfaction on the field, he decided to put his energy into administration and initially was secretary of the Williamstown third 16. Later he served as club secretary in 1972-73 and became a delegate to the VFA board of management. He subsequently rose to be vice-president and was a VFA board member when he succeeded Brook Anderson as president. A career school teacher, Grieve was principal of Newport Lakes Primary School at the time of his retirement in September 2000.

  

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