Season Summary: 1989
Further structural change came to the VFA in 1989 with:
- the abolition of the Second Division - the Association once again became a single division competition for the first time since 1960, ending 28 years of partition and promotion/relegation;
- Geelong West withdrew, which reduced the competition to just fifteen teams, the lowest since 1957;
- A final five system was adopted;
- Sunshine also withdrew after eight rounds, by which time it had become totally uncompetitive;
- The Under 19 competition increased the numbers on the field to 18, reinstating the wings, while the Seniors and Reserves remained at 16-a-side, as it had since 1959; and
- The Fothergill-Round Medal for the VFA's most promising young player was instigated in this season.
Since the mid-1970's, Williamstown had recruited only Mal Allen, Bruce Alexander, Frank Briner and Bruce Mourney from Port Melbourne, but these names were trumped when the Seagulls acquired dual Liston Trophy winner & 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 219-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 came to the Seagulls. Litchfield was seen as a possible successor to Fotheringham, with Rickman to be used on the half-forward line. Terry 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. Future captain, best and fairest winner, leading goalkicker and 200-game player, Saade Ghazi, also joined the Club in 1989, along with future triple best and fairest winner, Troy Mitchell, who came over from Spotswood and Peter Kenny, after 11 games and 20 goals with Carlton.
John Grieve became the third Williamstown official to preside over the VFA when he took office in April 1989, following Brook Anderson's resignation after accepting a job at Footscray, leading to a conflict-of-interest issue for the Association. Grieve was vice-president and had been on the VFA executive committee since 1975.
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, although they often played in different divisions. 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. The lead-up finals were all played at Port Melbourne once again.
In a tight qualifying final against Box Hill, the Mustangs took a 3-point lead into the quarter-time break, before a 6-goal second quarter gave the Seagulls a one goal lead at the long interval. Box Hill kicked away to take a 15-point lead into the last change and, in the end, ran out 2-goal victors, 17.9.111 to 14.15.99. 'Chops' Rickman was best for the 'Town, kicking 8 goals in a losing side. This was a setback for the Seagulls, who now had to make their quest for the flag via the first semi-final and win the next three games to take the title.
Williamstown crushed Springvale by 12 goals, 18.11 to 6.11 in the first semi, after the 'Vales led by two points at quarter time. Centre half-forward Jack Aziz with four goals was best-on-ground, while Rickman with five majors, 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, by six points, 4 points and 2 points. In a strong finish to a high-scoring encounter, Williamstown, with an 8-goal final quarter prevailed by 15 points, 19.15.129 to 17.12.114. 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 before a crowd of 23,000 and Coburg was once more Williamstown's opponent. Naturally the Seagulls were anxious to reverse the result of the 1988 Grand Final, and they had beaten the Lions by 11 goals at Coburg in round 8. As in 1988, the 'Burgers got away to a good start and led by two goals at quarter time. This was extended to three goals by the long break in a low-scoring encounter. The lead was out to 27 points by the last change, almost double the score of the Seagulls. Williamstown outscored Coburg in the last quarter but still went down by 20 points, 10.13.73 to 7.11.53. They struggled all day to match Coburg and was especially below par in attack, with the dangerous Rickman held to three goals, and Aziz only managed a solitary major. Coburg's half-back line constantly repelled the 'Town whenever they threatened to set up a scoring chance. 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
The Reserves, once again captain-coached by Tony Dullard, made the grand final but were defeated by Frankston, 17.16.118 to 11.14.80, earlier in the day in the curtain-raiser.
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 first-year rover Saade Ghazi, who had been reported during the year but escaped suspension due to a technicality and was still eligible to win. Ghazi was beaten in the Andy Taylor Memorial Trophy for Club best and fairest by Round and Bill Swan, who tied for the award, with Danny Del Re runner-up. Ian Rickman won the Bert Hodge Memorial Trophy for leading goalkicker in the seniors. There was also a tie in the Reserves for the Bill Sheahan Memorial Trophy for best and fairest between Wayne Morrisey, for the second year in succession, and Marcus O'Connor, with Troy Mitchell in second place. Darrin Rowsell was leading goalkicker for the Seconds. Similarly, the Under 19's featured a tie in the Harold Hosking Memorial Trophy for best and fairest between Wade O'Toole and Mark Tkocz, with Sheldon Bryan runner-up. Damien Ferris was leading goalscorer in the Thirds.
The Gulls supporter coterie group, which was active in the 1960's and 1970's, was revived in late 1989 by directors Rod Williams, Bob Pearman and Tom Webster. Bob became president of the group, Rod treasurer and Kevin Bury vice-president.
John Grieve became VFA President in April 1989
The late Hugh 'Butch' Litchfield, star Sunshine full-forward, moved across to Williamstown for the 1989 season
Rob Dimartino finished up at Williamstown after the 1988 season, but brother Vin took over his number 5 guernsey
1989 playing list
First-year player Peter Kenny leads the Seagulls out onto Windy Hill in the 1989 Grand Final
Fanatical Williamstown fan, Pat Thorogood, shows her disappointment at the Grand Final