After slumping to the bottom four last year, Williamstown bounced back emphatically in 2023 to soar all the way back into premiership contention.
BY THE NUMBERS
W-L-D (%): 14-6 (110.6%)
Players used: 38
Played every match: 6 – Nick Ebinger, Corey Ellison, Noah Gadsby, Oscar McDonald, Corey Preston and Jack Toner
Ex-AFL players: 10 (154 matches)
Debutants: 6 – Ben Andrews, Zac Banch, Nathan Colenso, Will Jury, Zach Pritchard and Jake Smith
Best and Fairest: 1st: Marty Hore, 2nd: Finbar O’Dwyer and Oscar McDonald, 4th: Tom Downie, 5th: Jake Greiser
J.J. Liston Trophy votes: Tom Downie (11), Marty Hore (11), James Cousins (6), Joel Ottavi (6)
Coaches MVP votes: Marty Hore (84), Tom Downie (42), Oscar McDonald (37)
VFL Team of the Year representatives: Tom Downie, Marty Hore and Oscar McDonald
Goalkickers: Joel Ottavi (32), Corey Ellison (26), Nick Ebinger (24)
(Averages – minimum 6 matches)
Disposals: James Cousins (23.3), Marty Hore (23.1), Jake Greiser (20.6)
Kicks: Marty Hore (21.2), Jake Greiser (16.0), James Cousins (15.5)
Handballs: Toby Triffett (10.5), Harry Jones (10.4), James Cousins (7.8)
Marks: Marty Hore (10.0), Finbar O’Dwyer (8.6), Oscar McDonald (8.1)
Tackles: Toby Triffett (8.2), James Cousins (5.0), Tom Downie (4.7)
Hitouts: Tom Downie (35.8), Corey Ellison (4.0), Joel Ottavi (2.7)
Clearances: James Cousins (6.2), Harry Jones (5.7), Tom Downie (5.3)
Inside-50s: James Cousins (4.5), Corey Preston (4.0), Mitch Cox (3.5)
Rebound-50s: Marty Hore (8.8), Oscar McDonald (5.8), Jake Greiser (4.7)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Seagulls are back. After slumping into the bottom four in 2022 as they underwent a huge list transition, Williamstown targeted experience and grabbed a host of star recruits to soar all the way back into premiership contention. They had some real head-turning performances, notably the 77-point thrashing of arch-rival Port Melbourne on Good Friday and gutsy away wins over Box Hill Hawks, Casey Demons and Brisbane Lions that put them in the top four with one round remaining before the finals. Their backline was the envy of the league, with Marty Hore, Oscar McDonald, Finbar O’Dwyer and Jake Greiser taking a stunning 637 marks and delivering 444 rebound-50s between them. It has already seen McDonald make his way back onto an AFL list with Hore a good chance to follow. Could gun ruckman Tom Downie join them after another Team of the Year selection?
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Seagulls only turned in two stinkers for the season – one against emerging powerhouse Werribee by 93 points as the Tigers launched their remarkable winning run to the Grand Final and the other by 35 points to their bogey team Sandringham in Round 22 that cost them a spot in the top four and handed them a finals path they were unable to overcome. Losing Connor Weightman (15 games), James Cousins (14), Mat Walker (13), Daly Andrews (8), Darby Henderson (7) and skipper Cam Polson (7) for long periods to injury didn’t help.
A strong VFL needs a strong Williamstown (plus all the other standalone clubs) and the Seagulls provided a great ride this year as they bounced back hard from a horror 2022. That they were able to bring club legend and games record holder Ben Jolley home to become possibly the last player to reach 300 VFL/VFA games and then break Billy Swan’s all-time record of 303 a few weeks later was a wonderful story, along with steering another favourite son in Jason Pongracic to 100, without swaying their focus from what they were trying to achieve is another big plus.