VFL Round 1: Williamstown v Port Melbourne – Rekindling old rivalries in the sunset

Williamstown v Port Melbourne

7:15PM, Saturday April 6

Downer Oval



Wasn’t Saturday a lovely evening? After six months daylight saving drew to its end. Maryanne and I found ourselves at what is now called Downer Oval, the Williamstown football ground. A cool breeze from the south west swept across the ground, the sky darkened, with an orangey hue to cap it off, as a game of football was conducted to an appreciative crowd.


Williamstown one of the oldest football clubs in the land was formed in 1864, joining the Victorian Football Association (VFA) in 1884. The VFA had commenced in 1877. Williamstown’s opponents on Saturday were Port Melbourne, a club also steeped in tradition. Port Melbourne first played in 1874, joining the VFA in 1886; the two clubs have a long held rivalry. In the 1950s the two teams epitomised the fortunes of football. Port Melbourne played in 8 grand finals in that decade (only winning once) while Williamstown played in 6 grand finals, with victories in all bar one draw, in which they comprehensively won the replay. Port Melbourne and Williamstown played off in three consecutive years, 1954-1956. The results are obvious. None-the-less Port Melbourne have 19 premierships, surpassing their great rival. The last time these two played off in 2011 Port won the flag capping of an undefeated season.


From the mid 1970s I supported Port Melbourne with an almost religious fervour. Names like Cook, Goss, King and Harland were embedded in my consciousness, as well as the club’s proud history. But the game has changed; I’ve changed. The VFA is now the Victorian Football League, (VFL), a very poor relation to the AFL. When Port Melbourne won their last premiership in 2017 we were at the Royal Oak hotel in North Fitzroy watching Wendy Stapleton, but the match was on the big TV giving us the best of all worlds. Good music, cold drinks and a premiership make a decent trifecta. This match on Saturday night was the first Port Melbourne game I’d been to since the losing 2012 grand final.


On arrival the ground had a nice feel, people of all ages filing in, with many kids among them. As is your wont I went to buy a record only to find they weren’t an option. In 2019 you get a double sided A4 page with the players names and numbers. Hmmmmm.


We got a good vantage point. The home side had the first use of what was the scoring end, the colloquially known, ‘Colin Watson’ end. Williamstown sprayed their shots finishing with 3-7-25, 12 points ahead of the visitors on 2-1-13. Now we had the scoring end in the second term, how would we go? The home side managed only 1-1 to go in to the long break on 4-8-32. Port Melbourne also found goal kicking difficult with 3-6 for the term. It gave us a 5 point buffer at the main break; not much, but in front.


Half time was spent catching up with old mates among the Port Melbourne entourage. Captain Straightman, Mudguts, Eagle Beak – all loyal long-time fans. Also in their ranks was long time Almanac contributor, Mic Rees, whose perception and knowledge of the game is always worth being privy to; good catching up after all this time. We were reasonably confident we could get the 4 points with Krakauer, Wooffindin, Goodwin, Lyle all playing well & half a game to go.


Third term, again the home side had the scoring end. Port Melbourne defended stoutly but Williamstwon manged to kick 4 majors in the term. When they got 13 points clear late in the term it looked ominous, but a pair of late goals in the final minutes reduced the margin to a point at 3/4 time. Williamstown 8-10-58, Port Melbourne 8-9-57.


Port Melbourne going to the scoring end should have been confident . All three terms so far there was a discernible scoring end. The term started with a goal to Williamstown. Port Melbourne coach Gary Ayres almost morphed into his nick name Conan the Barbarian – or at least a verbal version of it. After giving clear instructions to his players to make sure they don’t let the ball go over the top to an unguarded Williamstown player, this very act happening at the start of the quarter was too much for him. His frustration and anger was both understandable and clearly audible. Sadly his mood didn’t improve as the home side ran over the top of his players. Ayres instructions to his players went unheeded as Williamstown took advantage of Port Melbourne’s errors. For the only term in the match the bulk of the scoring took place at the Western end of the oval. Adding 2-6 the home side finished up 11 point winners , 10-16-76 to 9-11-65. Sadly no Port Melbourne victory on this night.


Despite the result we had a great time. Footy under lights in a setting like this is pleasant. To see families, people of all ages happily present and engaged, with out non stop noise is how the game is best enjoyed. Highly recommended.




WILLIAMSTOWN       3.7      4.8      8.10     10.15 (75)

PORT MELBOURNE   2.1      5.7      8.9      9.11 (65)



Williamstown: Marcon, Rodda 2, Mellington, Buykx, Hibberd, Pickess, Dunell, Martin

Port Melbourne: Haretuku, O’Sullivan 2, Pearson, Templeton, Lange, Lisle, Walker



Williamstown: Meese, Marcon, Kennedy, Pickess, Thorpe, Monk

Port Melbourne: Waddell, Walker, Hooper, Wooffindin, Jolley, Lisle




  1. Luke Reynolds says

    I noticed this game was to be played at Downer Oval, a name I’ve not heard. Presume it is a sponsors name and not that of a Williamstown great? How long has there been lights there? I was at the Coburg v Collingwood game on Saturday and it was the same there, just the A4 sheet for tne players names and numbers.
    I imagine going to Williamstown as a Port Melbourne fan is a far different experience in 2019 than it was in the 1970’s!

  2. Port fanatic says

    This is a very good write up and agree with everything that the author posted. Luke – Williamstown has only had lights from this season. The game was their first ever competitive match under lights at point gellibrand. Good effort from Port and will definitely be a good side this year. COMMON BOROUGH !

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    Cheers Port fanatic, great move by Williamstown to install lights.

  4. G’day chaps, thanks for the feedback.

    Re Downer Oval, they seem to be Williamstown’s primary sponsor. On the A4 sheet, there’s a big , “Our Proud Partners, Downer, Relationships Creating Success”, at the top of the sponsors list on the ‘back page’.

    It was a wonderful night out. Sure i’m not impressed with the result, but the weather was good, nice size , enthusiastic crowd, with a back drop of the bay as well illuminated cargo ships cruised in and out made it an experience worth recommending. Happy to repeat it.


  5. Phil Hill says

    I got my hopes up when I started the article as I read ‘a good vintage port’. This would get me back to VFA footy

  6. Excellent report, thanks Glen! Unfortunately I could not get down to the game, despite it being so close to home.

    The Point Gellibrand Oval forms part of the back-drop to my morning walk, so I watched with interest the installation of the light towers over the summer. In fact, an electrician mate of mine did the wiring (and will soon do the same at Lorne FC). I must say the weather gods were smiling – I would not fancy a night game there in mid-July!

  7. Mic Rees says

    Was good to catch up with ya Glen. Been a while, far too long actually. Too bad about the result.

    Twas a good night for our oldest, fiercest rival. Hopefully their bottom line got a boost as well.

    We’ll get ’em next time. Hope to see you soon.


  8. Wally from Williamstown says
  9. Great report Glen, love your passion!
    Would you mind if we quoted this in marketing our Club and VFL football.

  10. Ta Jason.

    Go for it.


  11. Great photos Wally from Williamstown.

    They record the wonderful night so well.


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