This was no ordinary day in the 154-year history of the Williamstown Football Club.
Grand finals and finals aside, the Seagulls have not been as driven to win a game of football as they were on Sunday – wanting to give inspirational leader Ben Jolley a chance to sing the club song on the day he broke the club’s games record.
Thankfully, Williamstown dug deep in the second half to overcome an incredible challenge from Collingwood to win by 30 points in their Victorian Football League match at the Williamstown Football Ground.
Seagulls coach Andrew Collins said that while they could have lived with a “best effort” defeat, it was the win they were after.
“Everyone really wanted to win for Ben and I’m glad that we did win,” he said. “It would’ve been really sad if we lost that game.”
Jolley is no ordinary footballer for Williamstown.
The 32-year-old is the heart and soul of the Seagulls.
The onballer, originally from Strathmore and the Calder Cannons, arrived at Williamstown after a short four-game AFL career with Essendon.
On Sunday he broke Troy West’s long standing games record for the club when he ran out for his 209th game.
Jolley’s courage at the coal face is legendary and his determination to win and put others on his back has been a staple of his game for most of his career.
Talk to anyone who knows Jolley and they will tell you he is more than just a footballer – he’s a leader, role model and champion person to go with his football ability.
“He’s highly regarded,” Collins said. “We’re really lucky to have such a great role model within our football club.”
The word that is most often associated with Jolley is loyalty.
It was the basis for Seagull stalwart Ed Carr’s speech in a pre-game address.
“Ed gave that message that a special footballer and a special person chooses to play VFL over the money [on offer at local football],” Collins said.
“The easy option is always to take the money, but Ben’s a four-time best and fairest winner, a seven-time team of the year member and a premiership captain with us.”
Jolley capped his big day with a goal in a best-on-ground performance.
Even before he pulled on the boots for a record-breaking game, it was already an unforgettable week for Jolley and his wife, Jane, who became parents for the first time to twin girls during the week.
Williamstown’s victory was underpinned by a seven-goal-to-two third-quarter blitz.
Sam Dunell was massive in that part of the game for the Seagulls, taking four contested marks for the term to give his team the ascendancy.
Michael Gibbons was outstanding in the midfield, Nick Rodda was a presence in attack and Jack Charleston and Jack Dorgan offered great run off the half-back line.
While the margin on the scoreboard looked comfortable for the Seagulls, it was far from it.
“There was only inches in the game,” Collins said. “The scoreboard looks a bit flattering. We only really had 10 to 15 minutes in the third quarter that we were on top of Collingwood – otherwise the game was evenly poised for most of it.”
Williamstown, fifth on the ladder, will head to Port Melbourne on Saturday seeking a fourth consecutive win.