William James White
- 253Wallaby Number
Bill White was a robust winger with a fine turn of speed who resembled the great Waratahs’ flyer Alan ‘Sheik’ Bowers. Blessed with a clever left foot step the tall and determined White was yet another graduate of Australia’s greatest rugby nursery, St. Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill. Also noted for his tenacious defence, White was actually viewed as a better centre than a wing given he played in the mid-field for Joeys, inside future Australian Olympic 100 yard finalist Jim Carlton, when he captained the school 1st XV, as well as the Combined GPS 1st XV, in 1927.
White joined the Randwick club in 1928 and immediately found himself in the top grade where his ‘great form’ suggested that he ‘should develop into a great winger.’ Within eight months of leaving school, and with a solitary state cap to his credit, White was one of three teenagers selected in the 26-man Wallaby side to tour New Zealand. He played in five of the 10 matches, including the first ‘Test’ in Wellington. Although he did not know it at the time that match was White’s official Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986). Unfortunately for White the return of Owen Crossman and the Waratahs’ Eric Ford, Brian Palmer and Billy Mann in 1929, and the emergence of former SJC teammate Carlton a year later limited White’s representative opportunities.
Nonetheless he did earn a start, and bagged a try, for New South Wales when they handed the British Lions a 28-3 drubbing in 1930. Early the following year White did not show for Randwick and it was rumoured he was set to switch codes and play rugby league for South Sydney. Eventually he denied the switch but did confirm that retirement had been contemplated. While White did return to rugby, and represented NSW on their tour to Queensland, he did not win a spot on the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. His run of outs ended in 1932 when he started in NSW’s narrow 11-13 loss to the All Blacks and from there earned a recall for the opening Test in Sydney where Australia upset the All Blacks 22-17.
Unfortunately White was the unlucky three-quarter to lose his spot for the subsequent Test when Alec Ross returned at fullback and a place had to be found for Jack Steggall. Later that same season White played for NSW v. The Rest in the final trial for the 1933 tour to South Africa where it was said he played ‘solidly’ but was well covered by Doug McLean jnr. Once again White was left disappointed when the Australian selectors shocked with the inclusion of Queensland’s Bill? Warlow alongside Mick Grace, ‘Jockey’ Kelaher and McLean as the wing three-quarters for the tour. In 1935 White found himself at the centre of a controversy when, after seven years with Randwick, he was claimed by the Fire Brigades in the mid-week competition. Circumstances made the case somewhat unique given White was employed as a fireman.
Randwick disputed the Fire Brigades' right to play White and at the same time exclude him from weekend club rugby. They considered that to be unfair to a player of White's ability who, as a consequence, may be denied the opportunity of winning further representative honours. The Fire Brigades said that White had not told that he could not play for Randwick. "It is work first, and football after for our men”, a spokesperson said. No conditions were imposed on White however after having endured a prolonged period out of work he chose to play out his rugby day’s with Fire Brigades for whom he showed through to the end of the 1938 season. Bill White played three Tests for Australia in a five-year international career.
White won his first Test cap on the left wing in the 1st Test, 12-15 loss to New Zealand at Athletic Park. He scored a try in that match to become the 19th Wallaby to score a Test try on debut. White earned a second cap in the 8-9 defeat to the Maori in Palmerston North.
White picked up his third and final cap, again on the left wing, in the 1st Test, 22-17 defeat of New Zealand at the S.C.G.