You could hear a pin drop in the Williamstown rooms.

The sound of silence was 22 heartbroken players and a support team that had no words to make the situation better.

One by one, the Seagulls players eventually broke away from their flock, some heading for the showers, some searching for a consoling hug from a loved one and some just remaining in the same position shell-shocked and slowly sipping into the can of beer in their hands.

You work for 11 months to get into a position to win a grand final, so when you fall short so narrowly, as the Seagulls did in a three-point loss to Richmond in the Victorian Football League decider at Ikon Park on Sunday, you have nothing to prepare your emotions for that.

Williamstown general manager of football Stephen Soulsby said the healing process will begin this week.

“We’ve got our presentation night on Thursday night and it’s a chance to reflect on this season,” he said. “We do have to process this and get on with it.”

The Williamstown community will need to wrap its arms around midfielder Willie Wheeler this week.

Wheeler was inconsolable after the final siren.

The midfield star had late chances to put the Seagulls in front, only to be denied by the right goal post in front of the Legends Stand.

Two of Wheeler’s set shots, one from about 40 metres out and the other from slightly further, both hit the post.


Williamstown’s Billy Myers and Richmond’s Mabior Chol. Picture Shawn Smits.

PHOTO GALLERY: VFL grand final

The first one came the closest, hitting the inside of the right goal post, while the second one grazed the outside of the same goal post.

Seconds later, the siren sounded and bodies of Williamstown players were left strewn across the surface as Richmond players celebrated around them.

“He’s going to obviously hurt for a while,” Soulsby said of Wheeler.

“Willie will bounce back.

“We’ll all get across Willie.”

This was not on Wheeler.

This loss had as much to do about the missed chances in the previous 118 minutes as it was in the last two minutes.

“You’ve got to take your moments in a grand final,” Soulsby said.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t take a couple of those today and Richmond did.”

Where the game was lost for Williamstown was its insipid first quarter.

The Seagulls were late arriving to the party, trailing by 31 points before finally hitting the scoreboard.

The ABC radio commentators were joking that a mercy rule might need to be applied at quarter-time when the inside 50 count was 24-2 in favour of Richmond.

What they did not count on was the fight of Williamstown.

It is in the Seagulls DNA to fight when their backs are against the wall and fight they did.

Slowly but surely the Gulls got back into the contest.

A goal from a 50-metre penalty to Leigh Masters was the spark and the goal of the day from Billy Myers had seen Williamstown get back to within 18 points at half-time.


Williamstown bench during the final minutes. Picture Shawn Smits.

The third quarter had even more promising signs for Williamstown with a Nick Rodda goal from a 50-metre penalty getting his side as close as nine points.

A late goal from Riley Collier-Dawkins on the run breathed life back into Richmond, who led by 14 at three-quarter time.

The last quarter was epic VFL grand final football.

It was punch and counter-punch throughout.

Wheeler lifted Williamstown with the opening goal of the quarter and that was backed up by a snap goal to Josh Pickess to cut the deficit back to just one.

Jacob Townsend and Collier-Dawkins both kicked goals on the run for Richmond and suddenly the margin was back out to 13.

The Richmond cheer squad was back in a celebratory mood, but when Joel Ottavi pegged one back for Williamstown, they were back to biting their fingernails.

Oleg Markov replied quickly for Richmond and some were thinking it could be the back breaker for the Seagulls.

Williamstown had other thoughts and dominated the final 14 minutes of the match, but were wasteful with their chances.

Jack Dorgan’s snap shot at goal missed and Liam Hunt’s long range shot was rushed through.


Williamstown’s Jaylon Thorpe. Picture Shawn Smits.

Ben Kennedy goaled for Williamstown on the snap about 28 minutes in and the Seagulls faithful were starting to believe.

Two Wheeler posters later and the siren sounded. “It was a credit to the boys to fight back after quarter-time,” Soulsby said.

“For us, it just shows what those boys are about, they’re very proud of their performance.”

The pain of grand final defeat will linger for the Williamstown players, but the supporters were reflecting on the season as a whole when they gave the players a standing ovation on their way back to the rooms.

“They’ve had a really great year, but unfortunately we couldn’t top it off today,” Soulsby said.