Long before the timekeeper had pressed the button on the final siren, Williamstown players had a rare chance to kick-start premiership celebrations while still in the heat of battle, as the Box Hill Hawks lost their grip on the contest and faded in the rear view mirror.
The Seagulls lived out a dream final 20 minutes of Sunday’s VFL grand final, banging on six unanswered goals to end the big game 54 points in front on the scoreboard, sealing the club’s first premiership since 2003.
Even the Gulls assistant coaches were afforded the chance to clock off early, running down from the coaches box to congratulate senior coach Andy Collins and football manager Chris Dixon, who always stand side by side to give messages to their players one-on-one from the bench.
The early celebrations told the tale of the tape.
This was a total dismantlement by a stand alone Seagulls side over a near full professional Box Hill team.
Collins was more than happy for the premiership party to start a little earlier than scheduled.
“To enjoy the last 10 minutes of the game, it does allow you to savour it a little bit more,” he told Star Weekly.
Williamstown had all the right ingredients to pull off what many felt was an upset victory.
They had speed to burn, their skills were far superior on the day and their pressure was pitbull like.
There is no chance of the Seagulls beating an outfit like the Hawks without an unwavering team ethos and they had a buy-in from all 23 players.
You could not name a single Seagull who did not provide something for his teammates on the day.
“The benefits of going stand alone is it’s the same blokes every week,” Seagulls defender Brad Mangan said. “You get a real good bond and you get to jell together and learn how everyone plays.
“We go to work, then we go to training after work, so to beat full time footballers is an even better feeling.”
Williamstown made a flying start, kicking five of the first seven goals to lead by 20 at quarter time.
Box Hill’s second quarter was its best, getting to within four points in time-on, but that was a close as it would get on the day.
The Seagulls were brutal in the second half, slamming on a scintillating 11 goals to two to run out nine-goal victors.
“Definitely at half time it was game on,” Collins said.
“The way our boys responded in the third quarter to some of the little alterations we did, I can’t be proud enough of them.
“It’s a real credit to all of our coaching staff and conditioning staff that we ran out the game.”
Michael Gibbons was a worthy recipient of the Norm Goss Medal for best-on-ground.
The lightning fast youngster had 28 possessions and 11 clearances to be the stand-out onballer.
“For a young boy to be able to stand up on that stage was outstanding,” Collins said.
“He had real good composure and great ball security.
“He’s got a high upside, a big engine and for him to play so well in a grand final victory, I’m rapt for him.”
Nick Meese was magnificent in the ruck, not only for his 29 hit outs, but also his nine clearances. He must have been a close second in the medal voting for his bullocking at the coal face.
Ed Carr was a pressure machine, registering eight tackles to go with 22 touches.
Leigh Masters sparked the Seagulls early and was perhaps the most consistent half forward on the ground, though Scott Clouston has to be mentioned in the same breath as he presented all day with team highs in marks (nine) and inside 50s (seven, tied with Mitch Banner).
Banner, captain Ben Jolley, Willie Wheeler and Adam Marcon were ever-presents in the midfield. Banner was up and back all day with seven inside 50s and five rebound 50s demonstrating his incredible work rate.
The Seagulls forwards relished the chance to play under the roof with Dylan Conway and Anthony Anastasio producing miraculous goals.
Conway, Cameron Lockwood and Andrew Gallucci led the way in the goalkicking department with three apiece.
The Seagulls defence, led by playing assistant coach Peter Faulks, was rock solid.
Mangan, David Fahey, Tim Currie, Jack Charleston and Jack Johnstone were able to detonate a dangerous Hawks forward line.
With a 12-year drought over, Collins has already started to look ahead.
“The footy club prides itself on winning a premiership every decade,” he said. “We’ve got one now, but this is a real chance to have a nice era and really drive stand alone clubs into a dominant force in VFL footy.”
2015 VFL grand final
Williamstown 18.12 (120) d Box Hill Hawks 8.18 (66)
Goals: D. Conway 3, C. Lockwood 3, A. Gallucci 3, A. Anastasio 2, L. Masters 2, S. Clouston, S. Tighe, M. Gibbons, M. Banner, E. Carr.
Best: M. Gibbons, N. Meese, E. Carr, M. Banner, S. Clouston, L. Masters, J. Charleston.
Box Hill Hawks
Goals: J. Anderson 2, J. Sicily 2, J. Simpkin, S. Collins, S. Grimley, T. Miles.
Best: W. Langford, J. Simpkin, J. Anderson, A. Litherland, D. Willsmore.