Season Summary: 1988
Players to depart over the summer included Mark Fotheringham, Kevin Sait and Kevin Hughes, 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.
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.
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 Liston Medal co-winner Brett McTaggart
Barry Round being interviewed by the ABC TV's Ross Booth