Season Summary: 1988
Players to depart over the summer included Mark Fotheringham, Kevin Sait (both retired) and Kevin Hughes (North Melbourne), whilst the recruits included Bruce Mourney (from Port Melbourne via West Adelaide), Murray Cooper (Spotswood), Matt Johnson (Altona City) and Darren Rowsell (Riddells Creek). Peter Shorthouse returned after a year playing in Queensland. Ross Hodges, Scott Whitzell, Ross Jackson & Craig Kelly were promoted from last year's Under 19's premiership side.
The Association contracted further over the summer with Northcote (after 80 years and 7 premierships), Mordialloc (30 years and one premiership), Waverley (28 years and one premiership), Berwick and Caulfield all leaving for various reasons. For the first time since 1981, VFA football was broadcast on a weekly basis by the ABC.
The season started badly with a ten-goal loss to the eventual minor premier, Coburg, followed by a 13-goal victory over Frankston in the first home game for the year. It was the Seagull's fifth consecutive win over the Dolphins. A two-goal loss at Pt Melbourne led to three successive victories to set up the season, and after 10 rounds Williamstown had recorded seven wins and three losses. Four consecutive defeats in rounds 11-14 were a setback, but a finals spot was ensured with four successive victories to round out the home-and-away games, including a huge 114-point win at Box Hill in round 17 (Rickman 7 goals). This was the season's biggest haul to date for Rickman, who had taken over the full-forward position from the retired Mark Fotheringham.
In a particularly even season, Coburg 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. Williamstown was certainly a premiership contender despite having to make its assault from the first semi against Port on their home ground. After playing all First Division finals at the Junction Oval for 18 years, the VFA were forced to make a change in 1988 after the MFB declared the grandstands a fire hazard. The semi-finals and preliminary were played at Port Melbourne, with the Grand Final at Windy Hill, Essendon.
In a high-scoring encounter, Port led by 20 points at the first break, 7.8. to 5.0, and, had they kicked accurately in the first half, the season for Williamstown may well have been all over. The home team had 16 more scoring shots but led by only 21 points at the long break, 9.16 to 8.1. At three-quarter time the 'Town trailed by only three points, 13.21.99 to 15.6.96, but then unleashed a nine goal to one final quarter which was reminiscent of the previous year's first semi-final victory over Frankston. Rickman kicked nine goals in Williamstown's 51-point victory, but Port had just one less scoring shot in the 24.15 to 15.24 scoreline. Ruck-rover Grant Smith was judged best afield to go with his three goals. Round, Raeburn and Wheeler were also prominent.
A goalless first quarter had the Seagulls trailing by 15 points at quarter time in the preliminary final against Preston, before a similar withering burst of nine goals to one in the second term had Williamstown 33 points up at the long break. An even third quarter and a 5-goal final term resulted in a 50-point win, 18.17.125 to the Bullant's 11.9.75, with Barry Round booting six goals in a dominant display. Rover Lindsay Cahill chimed in with four.
The Grand Final at Essendon, before a crowd of 22,000, was the first VFA game played at that ground since 1921, when it was still home to the Essendon Town Association Club. Coburg got away to a good start and led 6.3 to 3.5 at quarter-time, but Williamstown fought back, adding three goals in the second term, to narrow the gap to just eight points at the main break. The issue was well and truly settled in the third quarter when Coburg added 7.6 to 1.3 to jump out to a 47-point lead at the last change. Williamstown outscored the 'Burgers in the final quarter but still went down 16.18.114 to 12.15.87. Rickman kicked three goals in the 27-point defeat, and Cahill scored two. The Seagulls had improved marginally by reaching the Grand Final in 1988 although on the day it never looked like beating minor premier Coburg. The game marked the end of the playing career of captain-coach Terry Wheeler, who was to return to Footscray as coach in 1989.
Williamstown's 1988 Grand Final line-up was:
Backs: Laurie Taylor Robert Dimartino Murray Nilsson
Half-backs: Terry Wheeler Glenn Murphy Brett McTaggart
Centre: Rick Slevison
Half-forwards: Mark Kennedy Barry Round Tony Pastore
Forwards: Danny Del Re Ian Rickman Richie Raeburn
Followers: Kim Kershaw Grant Smith
Rover: Lindsay Cahill
Interchange: Darrin Rowsell Vin Dimartino
While the Grand Final wasn't a success 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 previous year's recipient, Barry Round, while Richie Raeburn finished equal fifth. McTaggart, the team's vice-captain, was the son of former Williamstown player Jack McTaggart, who later joined Yarraville where he captained the 1961 premiership side, which defeated the Seagulls in the grand final.
Despite his Liston success McTaggart did not win the Club's Andy Taylor Memorial best and fairest award, which went to Barry Round for the second year running. Leading goalkicker for the year was Ian Rickman with 49. Ruckman Wayne Morrissey took out the Reserves Bill Sheahan Memorial Trophy for best and fairest in that grade, while Scott Evans won the Under 19's award. The late Terry Maloney was named the Bill 'Darkie' Raffle Memorial best clubman for the year.
During the season the club mourned the loss of former presidents Alf Urban (1947-49) and Jack Carter (1955-57).
No. 1 season ticket for 1988 awarded to George Mazouris, 1958 & 1959 premiership rover
The late Bob Pearman stepped down as Club secretary at the end of 1988, after 5 years in the role
The BIG three, captain-coach Terry Wheeler, president Tony Hannebery and superstar ruckman Barry Round
1988 playing list
Rob Dimartino takes a fine grab against Port in 1988
1988 JJ Liston Medal results, showing the tie between Williamstown's Brett McTaggart and Gary Sheldon of Coburg, with Barry Round one vote behind & Richie Raeburn in sixth place
1988 Liston Medal co-winner Brett McTaggart
Barry Round being interviewed by the ABC TV's Ross Booth
Kim Kershaw battles with Coburg's Greg Reynoldson in the 1988 grand final at Windy Hill, Essendon. This was Kershaw's last game for Williamstown.
Dejection after the 1988 Grand Final, from left Rick Slevison, Darrin Rowsell, Vin Dimartino and Glenn Murphy
Williamstown representatives in the VFA team for the Australian Bi-Centennial Football Carnival in Adelaide, March 1988
Standing: Kelly Brent (trainer), Bruce Mourney, Barry Round, Brett McTaggart, Ian Fairley, John Grieve (chairman of selectors)
Kneeling: Tony Pastore, Terry Wheeler (coach), Ron James, Ray Green (fitness advisor)