Season Summary: 2017
The competition structure altered again in 2017 when Frankston’s licence was withdrawn when the Club went into voluntary administration, reducing the number of teams to 14. Casey Scorpions were renamed the ‘Demons’ and adopted a Melbourne-style jumper.
Williamstown recruited the following players from the Dolphins in light of the above:
· Jason Pongracic (Frankston 2016 captain – 4 years and 50 games);
· Josh Pickess (3 years and 27 games);
· Josh Newman (2016 best and fairest – 4 years and 52 games);
· Kyle Gray (2 years and 36 games);
· Ben Cavarra (2014/15 best and fairest – 3 years and 51 games); and
· Daylan Kempster (2 years and 12 games).
Other players that came to the Club were Joel Tippett after being delisted by North Melbourne, Adam Marcon returned after winning Richmond VFL’s best and fairest and being delisted, Lachie Bramble from the Calder Cannons and Fletcher Carroll from the Murray Bushrangers.
2003 reserves premiership player, Matthew Pearce, returned to the Club as assistant coach. Matthew played 43 senior games with the Club from 2001-2006 before transferring to Port Melbourne.
2015 premiership defender Jack Johnstone moved back to Gippsland after four years and 61 games with the Club, and Dylan Conway transferred to Port Melbourne after six seasons, 52 games and 78 goals. Dylan captained the 2013/14 Development League premiership teams, won the 2015 A. Todd Medal for best and fairest in the Development League competition, and also played in the 2015 senior premiership side.
Ben Jolley was appointed captain for the sixth consecutive season, equalling the record of the great Gerry Callahan.
The season began brightly with a 4-goal victory over 2016 runner-up Casey at Williamstown in round 1, 12.11.83 to 8.12.60, with Marcon best in his first game back with the Seagulls. However, the Northern Blues had their first win over Williamstown since round 1 2014 when they beat the ‘Town, 11.14.80 to 14.17.101, at Preston in round 2. Marcon was again best. A second loss followed at the hands of Box Hill at Pt Gellibrand by 28 points, 13.12.90 to 8.14.62, after the Seagulls kicked just one goal in the second half to the Hawks’ 8 after being three goals up at half-time in Leigh Masters’ 100th VFL game. Jake Greiser was best for the ‘Town.
Williamstown bounced back at home with an 88-point win over Coburg, 20.17.137 to 7.7.49, taking advantage of a strong breeze to the city end of the ground and kicking 7 goals to zero in the first quarter and 11 goals to zero in the third quarter. This began a run of six consecutive victories, with scores of 15 goals or more, from rounds 4-9 over North Ballarat by 91 points at Eureka Stadium (Siposs & Masters 4 goals, Bewley best), over Richmond at Williamstown by 56 points in Adam Marcon’s 100th VFL game (Wheeler 3 goals and best), over Geelong by 53 points at Pt Gellibrand (after kicking 4.15 in the first three quarters before unleashing 11 straight in the last term), over Sandringham by 4 goals at Williamstown and North Ballarat again by 56 points at Pt Gellibrand. This left the seniors in second position on the ladder, while the Development League team sat on top.
The winning run ended at Windy Hill in round 10 in the 100th VFL game for Faulks, Dunell and Cordy, going down by 15 points, with Lachie Schultz kicking four goals and best player. A 45-point win at Box Hill against the ladder-leading Hawks in Joel Tippett’s 50th VFL game, was highlighted by an 8-goal second quarter, with Schultz and Cordy kicking three goals each and Gibbons was best. This started a sequence of 6 straight wins from rounds 12-17, including:
· A 10-goal win at Victoria Park, with Gibbons kicking 4 goals and best player;
· A 3-point win at Port Melbourne in the 250th meeting between Port and Williamstown since 1886. With the Seagulls leading by 22 points late in the 3rd quarter in a low-scoring match, Port kicked 4 straight to hit the front at the 20-minute mark of the last term before Gibbons kicked the winning goal, with Wheeler best player. Port had won 134 of these fixtures, Williamstown 109 with 7 draws;
· A 13-goal win over Footscray at Pt Gellibrand, 16.6.102 to 2.11.23, on an extremely windy day in a clash between second and third on the ladder, where the Seagulls kicked 7 goals in the last quarter, Nick Meese had 94 hit-outs and Wheeler was best again;
· An 11-goal win at Coburg, with Williamstown kicking 14 goals to four after quarter time and Ben Cavarra booting 5 goals to be best afield; and
· A 12-goal win over Werribee at Williamstown in captain Ben Jolley’s 250th VFL game, just the eighth VFA/VFL player to do so. The Seagulls kicked 12 goals to one in the second half, to sew up top spot on the ladder and obtain a home final. Wheeler was best again, in coach Andy Collins’ 200th VFL game as coach and Jack Dorgan’s 50th senior Club game.
The fourth loss of the year came in round 18 at Casey by 4 goals with Nick Sing best. Earlier in the day the Development League team lost by 123 points. The home-and-away rounds concluded with a 7-goal win at Whitten Oval which gave Williamstown its first minor premiership since 2010, finishing with 14 wins and 4 losses and a percentage of 158! Schultz and Dunell both kicked 3 goals, Marcon was best and Arryn Siposs took mark of the year. The Development League team finished 4th with 8 wins, 7 losses and one draw, only making the finals by beating Coburg by 102 points in the last game of the home-and-away season.
This was the Club’s 12th straight finals appearance, and the qualifying final against Casey at Williamstown resulted in a 45-point win, 18.10.118 to 11.7.73, in Ben Jolley’s 200th game for the Seagulls. The ‘Town were 49 points up in the second quarter after kicking 7 straight goals before Casey kicked six in the third to be only 1 point behind at three-quarter time. The Demons took the lead with the first goal of the last before Williamstown unleashed 8 unanswered majors to send the Seagulls into their 8th consecutive preliminary final. Siposs kicked 5 goals and was named best on the day and Dunell got 4.
The preliminary, Williamstown’s 11th in 12 seasons, was against Port at North Port Oval and got off to a bad start with the Borough kicking 4 goals to none in the first quarter, in Jack Charleston’s 100th game for the Seagulls and Brett Bewley’s 50th. The quarter time margin was maintained by Port, the eventual premier, for most of the game to win by 23 points, 12.10.82 to 8.11.59, with Jack Dorgan best player.
Earlier in the day, the Development League team played off in the last ever grand final in that grade in search of their 4th flag in 5 years, and, after being 7 points up at the 13 minute mark of the last quarter, Casey kicked the last 3 goals of the game to snatch victory by 12 points, 13.16.94 to 11.16.82, with Nick Ebinger kicking 4 goals and Jacob Chisari best. The team got to the play-off by defeating Box Hill in the semi-final, 10.14.74 to 7.10.52 (Ed Carr 2 goals and best) and Port in the preliminary, 14.8.82 to 9.10.64 (Jake Owen 4 goals and best).
Nick Meese won his first Gerry Callahan Medal for best and fairest, with Willie Wheeler runner-up and Adam Marcon in third place. First-year player Ben Cavarra won the goalkicking award with 32 for the season. Brayden Monk took out the final Bill Sheahan Memorial Trophy for best and fairest in the Development League, from Jake Owen and newcomer Daylan Kempster. Ben Jolley was awarded his ninth Ron James Memorial Trophy, and eighth in succession, for most valuable player, while Ray Maloney was voted best clubperson and received the Bill ‘Darkie’ Raffle Memorial Trophy. Life memberships were awarded to Gulls president Mandy Drew, Club physiotherapist for 13 years, Adam Walters, and Jack Charleston, who played his 100th Club game in the losing preliminary final.
Other notable events that occurred during the year included:
· At a 1960’s Team of the Decade function in May, 1969 premiership captain-coach Max Papley, was elevated to Legend status in the Club’s Hall of Fame, joining Gerry Callahan, Ray Smith, Ron Todd, Ian Rickman and Barry Round with that honour. He played 54 games, kicking 108 goals & also leading the Seagulls to grand finals in 1968 & 1970. Eric ‘Tarzan’ Glass, Fred Brooks, Len Kent, Jack Evans and Greg Swann were added to the Hall of Fame in the first additions since 2014;
· In June, Ron Todd was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame. Todd kicked 672 goals in 141 games from 1940-49 with Williamstown, including a record 188 goals in the 1945 premiership season at the age of 28. He was captain in 1948/49 & led the team to a premiership in his final season. He kicked 10 goals or more 14 times, with a best of 20 against Oakleigh in 1945. He was named at centre-half forward in Williamstown’s Team of the Century, and was the first Legend in the Club’s Hall of Fame. Todd passed away in February 1991 at the age of 74;
· On July 27, the VFL announced that the Development League would end at the conclusion of the season;
· Fred Hall stepped down as president in December and was replaced by treasurer Mike Howlett;
· Voluntary statistician since 2000 and life member since 2014, Kathy Sheahan, passed away in February. Kathy was the daughter of 1949 premiership wingman Bill Sheahan, whom the Development League best and fairest trophy was named after. The stats box at the ground is named in her honour;
· Life member since the 1970’s, Doug Nicholson, passed away in May. Doug was President of the Thirds in the 1960’s, when it won two premierships under his leadership;
· Volunteer, player sponsor, donor and Gulls member for six years, Bruce Tait, passed away on May 26. Bruce also wrote many history books about Williamstown, and won the Bill ‘Darkie’ Raffle Memorial Trophy for best clubperson in 2011;
· Trainer from 1950-1969 and life member, Stan Bamford, passed away in August. Stan was a cousin of Club legend Ray Smith;
Dual premiership player and life member, Lindsay Murphy, passed away in September. Lindsay played 125 games, kicking 146 goals from 1956-64 and was a member of the 1958/59 flag sides, as well as the 1961 and 1964 grand final teams. He was named at centre-half forward in the 1960’s Team of the Decade, and his son, Glenn, also a life member, played in the Club’s 1986 premiership victory.
2017 playing list
Fletcher Carroll of the Murray Bushrangers joined Williamstown in 2017
Nick Ebinger made his senior debut in the round 1 fixture against Casey at Williamstown
Frankston captain, Jason Pongracic, came to Williamstown in 2017
Ben Cavarra, pictured in 2014, was another Dolphin to move to Williamstown in 2017
Ben Jolley was appointed captain for a record-equalling sixth consecutive season in 2017.
Daylan Kempster was one of the Frankston players recruited following the suspension of the Dolphin's VFL licence
Senior coach, Andy Collins, in 2017
Jack Dorgan in action against the Northern Blues in round 2
Leigh Masters played his 100th VFL game in the round 3 clash with Box Hill at Williamstown
Brett Bewley in full flight during 2017
Michael Gibbons takes possession during a game at Williamstown in 2017
Jack Charleston marks strongly against Geelong in the round 7 fixture at Williamstown
Jake Greiser in action in 2017
Williamstown won its 5th consecutive game in the round 8 clash with Sandringham at Pt Gellibrand
Arryn Siposs marks against Box Hill in round 12
Jason Pongracic clears for the Seagulls at Victoria Park in the round 13 clash against Collingwood
Ben Cavarra was recruited in 2017 following the suspension of Frankston's VFL licence
Arryn Siposs in action v. Sandringham in 2017
Brayden Monk in action during 2017
Arryn Siposs shooting for goal 2017
Williamstown met Port Melbourne for the 250th time in round 14 at North Port & won by 3 points, 51-48
Nick Sing, Leigh Masters & Sam Dunell embrace against Port in the round 14 clash
Jack Charleston takes no prisoners in this round 15 clash with Footscray
Ruckman Nick Meese had 94 hit-outs in the round 15 fixture against Footscray at Williamstown
Arryn Siposs in action v. Northern Blues 2017
Willie Wheeler gets a kick away during the 2017 season
Captain Ben Jolley played his 250th VFL game in the 12-goal victory over Werribee in round 17
Arryn Siposs takes mark-of-the-year at Whitten Oval against Footscray in round 19
The pathway through the finals for the Development League team to reach the Grand Final in that grade
Senior team list for qualifying final against Casey Demons
Arryn Siposs celebrates one of his 5 goals against Casey at Williamstown in the qualifying final
Arryn Siposs marks against Casey at Williamstown in the qualifying final
Jack Charleston played his 100th senior game for Williamstown in the losing preliminary final
Ben Jolley in action v. Port Melbourne in the preliminary final at North Port Oval
Captain Ben Jolley v. Port Melbourne in the preliminary final
Adam Marcon in action v. Port Melbourne in the preliminary final
Development League team list for the last ever grand final in that grade
Williamstown's last Development League side before the 2017 Grand Final against Casey
Nick Meese won his first Gerry Callahan Medal for best and fairest in 2017
Jack Charleston received life membership for playing his 100th senior game in the losing 2017 preliminary final.
Amy Catterall, appointed coach of the new VFLW team in late 2017
Dual premiership player, Lindsay Murphy, pictured here early in 2017, passed away in September
Treasurer Michael Howlett took over as President from Fred Hall in December 2017