The Williamstown Lacrosse Club emphatically won the Victorian Men’s State League Lacrosse premiership for the second year running defeating local rivals Footscray 12-7. In doing so, Williamstown claimed its 32nd State League title.
The stirring win was the culmination of a challenging year for the men in the Gold and Blue. The side was plagued with injuries to key personnel and prolonged player absences due to representative duties which tested the club’s on-field depth and off field resilience. Coach Damien Orr called upon 37 different players – including several juniors, State League rookies and retired veterans – to extend the side’s streak of making finals to 58 years.
The adversity however was not without windfall. Seventeen year olds Cal Gibson (12 games) and Lachlan Russell (10 games) grabbed the opportunity to play regular senior lacrosse and eventually cemented their places in the team. By doing so they collected their first state league premiership medallion alongside 20-year State League veteran Kyle Morlang who played in four premierships with Cal’s dad (Fearon legend Darren), from 1998 to 2001. It was Morlang’s 10th State League premiership.
The run into finals
In the regular season finale, the Fearons were completely dismantled by a formidable Surrey Park outfit on a cold day at Mont Albert. The loss dropped the Fearons from first place to third going into the first week of finals and in doing so the team surrendered a double chance. From here, every game would be ‘do-or-die’.
The opponent in week one of finals was Camberwell, riding high having made their first state league finals series in many years on the back of a thrilling one goal victory over Malvern. Camberwell had taken it right up to Willy in their round 16 clash where the Fearons came away with an unconvincing 14-10 win.
The humiliating loss to Surrey Park appeared to ignite the Fearons. After Camberwell stuck the first two goals of the game with diving efforts low on the crease, the Fearons piled on the next 7 goals with midfielders Ben Newman, dog-loving import Paul ‘Big Strawberry’ Werner (Gettysburg College, USA) and attackman Kade ‘Ding’ Robinson taking charge. Camberwell would score only one more goal as the Huw ‘Hefner’ Wilson led defense closed shop on the Chiefs. Only some outstanding keeping from Camberwell’s goalie Sean Aaron kept the game from being a larger blowout .- Williamstown cantering to a 13-3 victory. The only downside on the day being a calf injury to long-stick defender, Josh Robinson. This was offset by the laugh of the season, when the Big Strawberry infiltrated the Camberwell pre-game huddle in search of a cuddle from a friendly pooch.
Round two of the finals saw a match-up with Surrey Park for the second time in three weeks. With Josh Robinson’s calf injury proving too much to overcome, the team called on captain Jason ‘J-Mac’ Mackinnon to make an inspirational return to the field after badly breaking his collarbone early in the season.
The Fearons picked up exactly where they left off in the first week of finals. Newman exploded out of the gates with three goals in a dominant first quarter, Noah ‘Noj’ Jenney and Sean Clarke controlled the face-offs and the defense blanketed the Surrey Park offense, holding them scoreless.The game turned into a mirror image of the previous encounter and was effectively over at half time with the Fearons holding a commanding 8-1 lead. The score would balloon out to 11-1 before late consolation goals to Surrey resulted in a 12-4 final score line.
An eye-catching performance from 17 year old rookie long-stick midfielder Lachlan ‘Pup’ Russell spared Mackinnon any unnecessary work and the close defense of Chris Welsh, Matt Neumann-Duffin and Wilson ensured Evan ‘Wombat’ Willis had an easy day in goals. Alex Pike and Newman finished with four goals apiece and Danny ‘Lieutenant Dan’ Murray (High Point University, USA) demonstrated his nous tallying three assists in the rout.
With the win, the Fearons progressed to the Grand Final for the second time in 12 months. Their opponent would again be last year’s runners-up Footscray, the form side of the competition whose high-powered offence had powered them to 12 wins on the trot (averaging 16 goals per game). For Footscray, it would mark their 4th successive appearance in the title game.
Coaches and selectors staff faced a difficult week at the selection table with the prospect of returning captain Matt Price and Josh Robinson from injury. Neither would come up for the big game and the team went into the final match of the season unchanged with Clarke and Mackinnon leading the way as captains.
The Grand Final
An overcast day at Chadstone Lacrosse Club saw Williamstown competing in the Under 17, Division Two, Division One and State League Grand Finals. By the time the State League game rolled around, Division Two had saluted with Under 17’s and Division One losing in close fought matches.
The first quarter was an even affair, with play going up and down and both defences turning the ball over numerous times. Werner opened the scoring for the Fearons, finding the net with two big outside shots past the Footscray keeper’s feet. At the other end Footscray forward Peter Kwas put away two shots on broken plays to take the teams into quarter time at 2-2.
The second quarter saw Jenney and Clarke work their way on top of Footscray veteran Luke Jacques at the face-off ‘X’. With more time on possession and controlled ball movement the Willy attack generated lots of good opportunities putting Footscray’s defence to the test time and time again. Willy managed to net 4 goals to Footscray’s 1, taking a 3 goal cushion to the break. Goals came via Pike, a calm finish by Troy ‘Peckerhead’ Butson and two long-range blasts from Newman.
The third quarter was a defensive struggle with both sides again having chances to score but for unforced turnover errors, shots hitting pipes and easy lay-ups being squandered. Willy managed to increase its lead on goals from Werner before star Footscray import Mike DeNapoli scored off a transition play. Butson calmly slotted his second taking (assisted by Werner). At the final change it was an 8-4 lead to Williamstown.
With the game on the line, Willy found another gear. Within the space of a few minutes, a goal to Pike off a dodge and a pair of poised finishes from Murray broke the game open and gave the Fearons a seven goal lead. Footscray would not surrender, and their talented attack line found some rhythm through the middle stages of the quarter to score 3 unanswered goals. Any chance of a miraculous comeback was snuffed out shortly after – when Newman blew past two Footscray defenders after a time out to blast home from close range.
Williamstown’s evenness and depth across all aspects was telling in the end – simply having too many contributors on both sides of the ball for their opponents. Special contributions were made by game MVP Paul Werner and season MVP Ben Newman, while injured captain Matt Price proved a calming figure on the sidelines alongside Coach Orr.
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Williamstown 2 4 2 4 12
Footscray 2 1 1 3 7
Williamstown: Paul Werner (3 goals, 1 assist); Ben Newman (3g, 1a); Alex Pike (2g, 2a); Danny Murray (2g, 1a); Troy Butson (2g; Cal Gibson (1a); Kyle Morlang (1a).
Footscray: Peter Kwas (3g); Mike DeNapoli (1g, 2a); Johnny Maher (1g); James Lawerson (1g); Kane Mollison (1g).
Photo Album of the game here courtesy of Lacrosse Pix.
2017 100 Club Members
Thanks to the following for their support of the club.
(updated 9 Aug, 2017)
As you are aware Williamstown Lacrosse Club plays a major part for lacrosse in Australia and more importantly within Victoria. As a club we are focused on growing lacrosse and ensuring we lead from the front in all aspects whilst we continue our success on and off the field.
We as a club want to GROW THE GAME and set the bar in terms of Lacrosse development.
We want to continue to assist with the development in local schools and our within our community via clinics and lacrosse camps.
In order to do this we have created the 100 CLUB to assist our juniors and raise funds which will allow the club to attract juniors from local schools and provide the kids in our community with the opportunity to begin their sporting journey via Lacrosse and with the Williamstown Lacrosse Club.
As a member of the Williamstown Lacrosse Club family we would like to invite you to be part of the annual ‘100 CLUB’ by donating $100 to the WLC and as a member you will receive the following:
– Complementary first drink each Saturday (Tap Beer, Wine or Soft Drink)
– Acknowledgment of contribution on the 100 CLUB honour board
– Invitation to a Game Day BBQ during the season
You will also be entitled to one of the below merchandise items. (Please see Robert Speakman to organise)
– Club Polo shirt
– Club Stubby Holder & Club hat
– Club Scarf
Thank you for taking the time to read the above invitation for the proposed 100 CLUB.
If you wish to join the 100 CLUB or know someone who may wish to contribute you can make your donation to the clubs bank account (Please reference your Name and 100 Club).
If you require any further information please contact;
Troy Butson (Sponsorship) 0412232058
Robert Speakman (President) 0400577480
Williamstown Lacrosse Club has a long history of welcoming lacrosse players from around the world to our seaside Club.
We all have fond memories of players like Shinichi Yoshikawa aka Yoshi and Gen Hasegawa from Japan, Matt Tanner and Eric ‘BJ’ Armstrong who randomly arrived at the club from Canada in 2014 and 2015. Then there are those like Brendan Maschuch (Stony Brook, USA) and Mike Sullivan (Loyola, USA) who came to the club chasing after love in Australia and have never left us!
Most of these players have come to Williamstown by some form of random chance (or divine intervention, if you like). In 2016 however, after months of planning, we welcomed two young men from New Jersey to the hallowed Fearon. The two were fresh out of college and the rigours of NCAA lacrosse.
Their names: Danny Murray and Paul Werner. By the end of their time here they’d be known as, ‘Lieutenant Dan’, ‘Buzz’, ‘Woody’, ‘PJ’, Big Strawberry’ and ‘Puppy Dog’ (to name a few). The guys injected new life into the senior playing squad and with a team that was already tight for spots they helped us through some tough winter months where we had a lot of injuries and absences. They also injected a untold number of laughs.
Ultimately, the guys also played a huge part of State League going back-to-back in grand final wins over Footscray and securing the club’s 32nd State League premiership.
We sat down with the guys to reflect on their time at Williamstown by doing a little Q&A session.
Q: When did you first decide you wanted to come to play lacrosse in Australia?
Danny: Paul and I have been buddies since high school, since the beginning of our friendship we always talked about making a trip to Australia. After hearing my teammate’s experience from playing in Perth, I knew I had to give it a shot.
Paul: In high school Dan and I had the vision to play lacrosse in Australia.
Q: How did you come to choose to play for Williamstown?
Paul: Dan heard Willy was a solid squad…
Danny: I chose Williamstown because of how professional you acted throughout my process of choosing a team. You explained every aspect of what to expect perfectly: the club as a tight knit crew full of selfless caring people, the support for accommodations and work, and lacrosse play. The location of Williamstown beach also sold me, I loved the suburban feel.
Q: What did you expect of the experience before you arrived?
Paul: I try not to have expectations because having expectations inevitably leads to disappointment. That being said, if I were to have had the highest expectations prior to the trip, my time in Willy would have surpassed those expectations. Specifically the awesome people we met through the club I will always remember.
Danny: I had no clue what I was walking into. Knew you guys love your beer and are super sarcastic. That’s about it.
Q: What were your first impressions of Williamstown lacrosse Club?
Danny: I will never forget the first night getting to Australia. Showing up to practice that night and skulling a beer maybe 2 minutes after leaving the field. Everyone seemed very laid back and welcoming.
Paul: A family. Guys who liked to play lacrosse and didn’t have a problem having a good time on the ‘Itchy Green Pants’ and making fun of one another.
Q: How did you find the level of competition in Melbourne?
Danny: The competition was good. Many great players but there is a big drop off in talent at the bottom end.
Paul: The competition was very physical. One aspect that really stood out was the superb goaltending, there are some absolute guns between the pipes.
Q: What was it like winning the State League grand final?
Danny: One of my best memories ever, felt like we were on top of the world. It was an absolute blast playing for Williamstown in the first place, but winning the grand final was the cherry on top. Everything came together perfectly and it seemed like it was meant to be. (Mad Monday is a whole other story).
Paul: Winning the State League grand final was a good way to go out. That was always the goal with our team and it was nice to see us rebound back from some losses and win when it counted.
Q: You did a lot of lacrosse clinics for primary school kids, how did you find that?
Danny: The kids were absolutely hilarious. It was so fun hanging with these kids every week because they seemed interested and wanted to learn. They always found a way to have fun learning the basic fundamentals of the game.
Paul: The clinics were great the kids really got into it. I think there is a lot of untapped potential in the younger generations, hopefully we helped a few see the light and start playing the creators game.
Q: What else did you do for work?
Danny: We worked at Santorini restaurant for a couple of weeks as waiters and bar tenders. This was good work but it conflicted with our training and playing schedule. We later found jobs at Monza Imports working under the one and only ‘Ash Moolie’ (Ash Wilkinson). It was a warehouse job with very lenient hours and great pay. The club took care of us, gave us a home (living with the Gibson and Robinson families) and helped us find work.
Paul: We walked Ivy [the Dog] early on, really good natured pup. Then we worked at Santorini for a bit before working a majority of the time at Monza imports. We met some really wonderful people while working there.
Q: Outside of lacrosse, tell us what your most memorable experiences in Australia were
Danny: Day in and day out living in the Robinson household. Club house celebrations after wins. Sunday morning barbecues with Davo. Kicking the footy around with Cal (Gibson). Jam sessions at Nikesh’s and hanging at Gil (Cordell-Radford’s). The night life in Melbourne is unforgettable along with the local crowd of Williamstown.
Paul: Outside of lacrosse the most memorable experiences I had were with the friends I made. I got to stay with two great families the Gibson’s and the Robinson’s. Another experience that was particularly memorable I had was watching the Western Bulldogs make their grand final run after overcoming so much adversity during the season. We had the opportunity to go to the Bulldogs vs Hawthorn game and also the semi-final (Shoutout to Andrea) I couldn’t have been prouder watching the Grand Final on my couch in New Jersey I just wish I’d been in Melbourne for it.
Q: would you recommend other college players seek out the same experience?
Danny: Absolutely. Come play in Melbourne, Williamstown if you want to bring home the shield and have an unbelievable experience meeting some of the best people I’ve ever met. It’s an unforgettable experience and you will leave with a new view on life.
Paul: It’s a grand old flag it’s a high flying flag!
Any final words of your own?
Danny: I love you guys. Shout out to Konrad Frankee for helping me get down under. Andrea and Davo Robinson for taking me and making me a part of the family, Tinker and Lauren (Gibson) for having my back and helping take care of me as well. And everyone in the Williamstown Lacrosse Club who made me feel like home.
Paul: We walked Indy (the Dog) for a bit and also worked
In 2017 we have welcomed another New Jesery native Brendon McGuire, a friend of Danny and Paul. Brendon has recently finished his studies and college lacrosse career at Providence College, in Rhode Island.
Any players from outside Australia looking to come to Australia and join Williamstown should email; firstname.lastname@example.org
Danny Murray in action in the 2016 Grand Final: Photo Credit – Lacrosse Pix @ https://www.facebook.com/laxoz/
Paul Werner in action in the 2016 Grand Final: Photo Credit – Lacrosse Pix @ https://www.facebook.com/laxoz/