Season Summary: 1989
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.
Williamstown started the 1989 season in dazzling form, winning its first nine games by big margins before being held to a draw at home against Box Hill. It was the first time since 1954 that the Mustangs had not left the Williamstown ground empty-handed. Losses to Springvale, Coburg and Brunswick in successive weeks were not of great concern to the Seagulls because of their fine start, although the lop-sided nature of the competition meant a club couldn't afford too many losses to stay in the top bracket. Coburg eventually headed the ladder with 17 wins and one loss - to Williamstown by 66 points - with the 'Town second on percentage to Box Hill. Both won 14 games plus the draw. Springvale and Frankston were the other finalists.
Box Hill, sharper in attack, beat Williamstown 17.9 to 14.15 in the qualifying final. This was a setback for the Seagulls, who now had to make their quest for the flag via the first semi-final. Williamstown crushed Springvale 18.11 to 6.11 in the first semi, played at North Port oval. Centre half-forward Jack Aziz, Round in the ruck, Brett McTaggart and Brett Gould in defence, David Whillas at full-back, Swan in the middle and Tony Pastore on the half-forward line led the win. Coburg soundly beat Box Hill in the second semi-final, but the Mustangs showed better form in the preliminary final to lead the 'Town narrowly at each change. In a strong finish to a high-scoring encounter, Williamstown prevailed 19.15 to 17.12. Aziz kicked eight goals and Rickman five. Gould, Swan, Andrew Howlett, Lindsay Cahill and Round were others to stand out for the Seagulls.
The Grand Final was again played at Essendon and Coburg was once more Williamstown's opponent. Naturally the Seagulls were anxious to reverse the result of the 1988 Grand Final, but this was never on. Williamstown struggled all day to match Coburg and was especially below par in attack. Coburg's half-back line constantly repelled the 'Town whenever they threatened to set up a scoring chance. At the finish Williamstown was 20 points in arrears, Coburg winning 10.13 to 7.11. Rickman kicked 3.5, including two posters, to give him 125 goals for the season and the honour of heading the VFA goalkicking. McTaggart, Round, Smith, Vin Dimartino, Ghazi and Murphy were others to play well in a beaten side.
Williamstown's 1989 Grand Final side was:
Backs: Greg Minett David Whillas Peter Kenny
Half-Backs: Andrew Howlett Glen Murphy Brett Gould
Centre: Bill Swan
Half-Forwards: Jack Aziz Danny Del Re Grant Smith
Forwards: Tony Pastore Ian Rickman Lindsay Cahill
Followers: Barry Round Brett McTaggart
Rover: Saade Ghazi
Interchange: Vin Dimartino Murray Nilsson
Whilst Williamstown again failed to gain the ultimate prize for its season's work, it did have the satisfaction of providing the Liston Trophy winner for the third consecutive season. This time it was rover Saade Ghazi.
Hugh 'Butch' Litchfield, star Sunshine full-forward, moved across to Williamstown for the 1989 season
1989 playing list