VFA PREMIERS AT WOLLONGONG

Would you think that the VFA premiers would play in Wollongong?

Well in October 1949, Williamstown, who only a week before had won their 5th VFA premiership before a record crowd of 40,000 when they defeated Oakleigh, 10.5 (65) to 8.14 (62), played a game at Wollongong Showground.

The tour of Wollongong had been planned for some time with Williamstown initially scheduled to play the Sydney premiers, Newtown, but at the last moment the Illawarra club were informed that Newtown could not make the trip.  This necessitated a very hurried ring around which recruited a number of players from various Sydney clubs who took the train south to Wollongong for the Sunday game.

Williamstown brought a party of 60 in their contingent and they stayed in the Illawarra city for a week.  Williamstown Seagulls Jumper.svgThey were supposed to compete in a two day carnival but their was little opposition, apart from the new Illawarra club which were in their first season in the Sydney competition.

The Seagulls were coached by Gordon Ogden and captained by football superstar, Ron Todd, who had crossed to Williamstown from Collingwood in 1940 under very acrimonious circumstances.  As a result Todd was banned from further playing in the VFL.

The ‘NSW’ side was made up of about nine Sydney players, all of whom had represented the state, with the rest coming from the local club including, dual Phelan Medalist from 1949 & 50 seasons, Ken Gilbert, who worked as an engineer at the BHP Port Kembla steel mills.

The weather for the match was attrocious and it bucketed down on the soft sandy Showground surface.  The crowd was poor despite a close game throughout with Williamstown just able to get over the line, 12.10 (82) to 11.10 (76).

Goalkicking idol, Ron Todd, who had booted 999 goals in senior football to that date, could only manage four for his side while the goalkickers for the combined side were Jim Cracknell (Sydney FC) 3, Ted Butcher (South Sydney FC) 3, Ray Millington (Eastern Suburbs) 3, Jack Armstrong (South Sydney) & Peter Wilhelm (Illawarra FC) 1 each.

The team photo shows the combined side, who were turned out in NSW jumpers.  The officials are unknown.

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