THE FORMATION AND EARLY DAYS
All successful clubs have people who focus on building a successful club and Williamstown had many of them, but none more successful than Captain James Fearon and Mal Taylor, both in different eras, but both deeply committed to the development of the Williamstown Lacrosse Club. While highly effective and hard working, they were not alone and there are many people that the Club owes a debt of gratitude to for the success achieved over its first 123 years.
At the time of the formation of the club in 1898 the population of Williamstown was approximately 15,000 but we note that the population dropped to 14,000 in 1916, due in the main to young men heading off to war in foreign countries. The country was also in severe recession in the 1890s and Williamstown was really a coastal village, yet not far from the capital Melbourne.
Williamstown Lacrosse Club has a long and proud history and of all the sports clubs in Williamstown, the lacrosse club is perhaps the club that represents the spirit of this once quiet seaside village, and now sought after suburb of Melbourne in the truest sense.
Saturday 27 August 1898 “Williamstown Chronicle” – Williamstown Lacrosse Club
It is now a considerable time, at the close of last cricket season, since we advocated the formation of a lacrosse club, and although so much time has elapsed since then the suggestion has gradually gained ground and popularity until it has now culminated in the formation of a club. It has been with pleasure that we have been able to record that practices would be held from week to week, and that one match had been played, with the result that now a fairly good combination exists. But meantime they were disconnected gatherings with no appointed head although Mr H. Radford has been mutually regarded as such to direct affairs. It was therefore decided to call a meeting to arrange all details in connection with the formation of a club, and which was accordingly held Tuesday evening, in the schoolroom of the Baptist Church, convened by Arthur Whitney (Son of the minister). It now being the end of the season, the proceedings were of a purely formal character, the object being to have everything in thorough working order for next season.
Mr Radford was elected to the chair, Tom Henderson, who was a solicitor, was appointed the inaugural president, Radford was elected as the inaugural captain, Arthur Whitney was appointed vice-captain and Fred Scott appointed secretary, pro tem. The principal motion of the evening, “that those present unite under the name of the Williamstown Lacrosse Club” was moved by Mr J. Waycott, and unanimously adopted. The colours decided upon by the club are blue, yellow and white distributed as follows – blue guernsey, yellow band across right shoulder and under the left arm, white knickers and blue stockings. Active proceedings are being taken to arrange a match to be played in the town before the end of the season to give those who have not seen the game played before an opportunity of witnessing this interesting pastime. We sincerely wish the club success and hope to see it in full swing in connection with the Victorian Lacrosse Association next season.
While the club only played practice matches in 1898 it entered a team in “B” section of the Victorian Lacrosse Association in 1899.
On Saturday 17 September 1898 the “Williamstown Chronicle” wrote “Last Saturday those who visited the Williamstown Cricket Ground saw the first lacrosse match played in this district. A team from Essendon, under the captaincy of Mr W. Strickland, volunteered to come down to play a match with the newly formed Williamstown Lacrosse Club. Messrs. Gay and Dunn of the Essendon first twelve volunteered to play for “Town” to make the sides even. Shortly after play commenced Gay threw the first goal for Williamstown, while B. Arthurs a few minutes afterwards threw their second. Owing to the wet state of the ground many mistakes were made in picking up the ball, which caused too much “shinty.” In a good match under favourable circumstances the ball is very rarely on the ground, being passed from player to player in the air. At half time “Town” led by four to nothing, but during the second half each side scored two, leaving the final score Williamstown 6 to Essendon 2. It is hardly possible to single out any of the “Town” for special mention, for each one did well. It was undoubtedly their combined play which won them the match. Of the Essendon team, McTaggart was about the best, but Watson, Morrison, Griffiths, W. Scott, and O’Connor (2) did a lot of work, and had their play been more combined the game may have worn a different aspect. Goal throwers were :-Williamstown -Gay (2), B. Arthurs (2), and Dunn (2). Essendon, McTaggart and G. O’Connor. At the end of the game a vote of thanks was passed to the Essendon players for coming down and Mr Strickland responded on their behalf, complimenting the Williamstown on their fine play and expressing a hope to meet them again in association matches next year. Members are requested to be present at practice to-day at the usual place, Hannan’s Farm, near rifle butts. Players to meet at 2.30. Records indicate that the farm ran from Hannan Street through to the rifle range or butts, most likely the area where the Girls High School is currently located.
On Saturday 25 March 1899 the “Williamstown Chronicle” wrote “The first annual meeting of the club was held in the Mechanics’ Institute, Monday evening. A large number of members were present, and Mr V. Strickland was elected to the chair. The election of office-bearers was proceeded with, and at their hands the game should boom in the town. The chairman congratulated the members on the excellence of their play during the past season, and wished the club every success. Correspondence was received and discussed from the Gardens Improvement Committee and Williamstown Cricket Club, and there is every probability that the members will close with the terms of the Cricket Club. The club decided to join the Victorian Lacrosse Association “B” section, and will play about nine or ten matches locally. The club has a good outlook, and with good management the members will no doubt give a satisfactory account of themselves”.
The Williamstown Chronicle noted on 13 May the inaugural match for the club on 6 May, “Which celebrated the opening of the season, and was played on the Williamstown’ Cricket Ground, Saturday last, in the presence of a good assemblage of spectators. Both teams were about evenly matched and a well contested game was the result. At quarter time neither team had scored, the ball travelling from one end of the ground to the other’ rapidly. Several shots for goal were tried by both sides, but were unsuccessful. In the second quarter the even play continued, but the ball being passed down the field to the opponent’s goal, B. Arthurs had a successful shot and scored first goal for “Town”. Soon after resuming play, at half time, B. Arthurs scored the second goal for “Town”, which was responded to by W. Williams’ (Essendon) throwing a splendid goal for the visitors, thus scoring their first point. Thence, onward to the conclusion of the match both teams played well for the mastery, but Essendon failing to secure any further points, “Town” were left-the victors by two goals to the visitors 1 goal; neither team scoring in the last quarter. As a whole “Town” played well together, but the members would do well to pass the ball more frequently than trying to run with it. Williamstown is drawn to meet South Yarra at Grace Park, Hawthorn, today when the club will be represented by A. Hick, E. Hick, C. Arthurs, B. Arthurs, F. Arthurs, W. Waycott, C. Scott, F. Scott, A. Whitney, Clark, Addy, Parkes. Members will proceed, by the 1.54 train.
The Club commenced playing at the Williamstown Cricket Ground at which
time the football club had only one team. The ﬁrst premiership was won in 1902 in “B” grade. Historians indicated that the Club quickly became the largest sporting club in Williamstown, when the population of Williamstown was circa 15,000 and the population of Victoria circa 1 million.
The Club moved to the Gardens Reserve in 1910 when the bike track still circled the ground. The Gardens Reserve was renamed the Fearon Reserve circa 1936, in honour of Captain James Fearon, and retains that name today.