Mal Taylor & The Renaissance

With the sudden passing of Captain Fearon in 1944 the Club had lost its greatest stalwart, a man who not only sponsored many ventures, but was also President from 1901- 1944. With the war ending in 1945, the economy was struggling to get back on its feet, many who had left for war either didn’t come back or were deeply affected by that experience, equipment was difficult to obtain due to exchange and import restrictions, and sport generally was struggling, and lacrosse was no stranger to that struggle.

The driving force behind the rebuilding of the Club was Mal Taylor, who along with Berry Newgreen, Lionel Burgoyne, Jack & Ken Speakman and Mr & Mrs Mick Titter, who determined that the Club had to start a rebuild with the juniors, and set about finding the youngsters who would be the beginning of the renaissance of the club that we see today.

Malcolm “Mal” Taylor started as a 14 year old junior player in 1934 at Williamstown, just prior to WW2, and after the war umpired lacrosse from 1947-1950. In 1950 the Club was in difficulty and struggling to rebuild, and Mal was asked along with several other former players to come back to the Club where they formulated a 10 year plan, with Mal’s main focus being the recruitment and development of juniors.

Peter Hogg, who lived two doors from Mal Taylor in Perry Street, along with Leeton Titter, were given the job of recruiting school kids around 8 years of age, to start playing lacrosse.1950-51 was the start of the junior program at Willy, which set the Club up to become one of the one of the most successful lacrosse clubs in Australia.

As many former Williamstown players who started in the 1950s and 1960s would attest, Mal’s home in Perry Street was the centre of the universe for many kids and Mal was very good at recruiting. As many will recall Mal would often suggest “Why don’t you bring some of your mates down to the Fearon to play lacrosse”. Life was less complicated in those days and to spend most of the day engaged in lacrosse, throwing a ball around, lacquering or oiling the stick, or just talking about the game is something that is no longer that prevalent, with a preference now for I-Phones and Facebook.

The photo above is the 1955 Under 14 team. From L to R, Back row: Peter Hogg, Ian McLean, Bill Forder, Mal Taylor (Coach), Leeton Titter, Graham Hill, Kevin Hope, Jim Stewart. Front row: Alan Clements, John Morrish, Michael Orr, Alan Chiron, Norman Marr, Rex Williams.

Kevin Hope and Alan Chiron were introduced to lacrosse at the Gloucester Reserve in 1951 by Mal Taylor, and joined players such as John Morrish, Peter Hogg, Leeton Titter and Norman Marr as 8 & 9 year olds playing in the VALA Under 14 competition.

As Alan Chiron would attest, “We were not that good, but Mal stood by his boys and coached every one of us two nights a week”. To demonstrate how much faith he had in his recruits, the team played for two years without winning a game, but Mal would be running up & down the sidelines, week after week, with his pants tucked into his socks, telling players who to pass the ball to.

We were all 9 or 10 years old in 1951 and playing Under 14 section for the first few years was always hard. We all grew into the game with a solid defensive style as under 9-10 year olds playing against 13-14 year olds was always hard due to more defence than attack in every game. In our first game against Malvern, as goalkeeper, l had 75 throws which as a goalkeeper doesn’t sound too bad, but 72 of them were back to the referee after a goal had been scored against us!”

In 1954 we finished runner-up to Malvern, and in 1955 we went through the season to become the undefeated premiers and champions in the Under 14 section. From the team that won the 1955 premiership there were 10 players who represented the state in junior & senior grades and 4 who represented Australia. It was from that day in 1955 that Williamstown started to improve and for the next 10 years they won just about every junior premiership. Players from the 1955 team sometimes played up to 3 games a weekend as we were nowhere as strong as we are today, nor did we have much depth. The years between 1955 and 1960 were the years that Williamstown struggled to have enough players and you played where you could.