|Full name||Darryl White|
|Date of birth||12 June 1973|
|Place of birth||Alice Springs, Northern Territory|
|Original team||Pioneer (CAFL)|
|Height/Weight||189 cm / 85 kg|
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 2005 season.
Beyond his AFL career, White continues to be involved in football, having forced one of the most successful careers of any Australian rules footballer, with six premierships across three competitions (AFL, NTAFL and QSL). He is an indigenous role model for many aboriginal Australians.
White grew up in Alice Springs in central Australia, playing junior football for the Pioneer Football Club. Like many of his peers he had a difficult adolescence, but had a natural talent for football. In 1990 he represented the Northern Territory at the Teal Cup under-17 national football carnival held in Brisbane, where he came to the attention of Brisbane Bears coach Robert Walls and his football manager Scott Clayton. Impressed with his clean ball handling skills, his leap and his ability to "play tall", the Bears drafted him at the end of the season with a priority draft pick from their Queensland-Northern Territory recruiting zone.
Despite initial reluctance to move to the Bears—a club which, in White's words, "only won two games a year", the future football star was persuaded to give the club a chance (turning up to his first training session in a purple LA Lakers singlet and bouncing a basketball). He found the transition from Alice Springs football to training under strict disciplinarian Walls difficult once there, for example; on one occasion during an 8 km cycle up a mountain he hurled his bike off a cliff, telling his coach he'd come to play football, not ride bikes.
His first season of football was an announcement of a rare talent, leading the Brownlow Medal count after three rounds with two best-on-ground performances and kicking the official goal of the year with his first-ever goal. However White suffered continual problems with homesickness. At the end of the season he immediately returned to Alice Springs and did not return for the start of pre-season training a month later. When Walls telephoned him to ask him if he was coming back, the response was: "I'm really busy—call me again in a couple of weeks."
White soon became a crowd favourite, with a marking ability well beyond that which his height would normally allow. Fans grew to instantly recognise his loping running style, his casual but pinpoint foot passing, and his idiosyncratic pose after a mark, holding the ball aloft on its point as if to show the world he'd caught it. He even found city-wide fame when a photo of a spectacular White mark was published on the cover of the 1996 Brisbane White Pages telephone directory (a marketing coup for the struggling club).
White's vertical jump allowed his coaches to take advantage of his flexibility by positioning him in a variety of key positions—even, when injuries to teammates demanded it, the ruck. White's opponents were often much taller and stronger but his leap and flexibility allowed him to hold his own in such contests.
White survived the 1996 merger between Fitzroy and the Bears which formed the Brisbane Lions, and was an integral member of its first premiership victory in 2001 playing off half-back. He also played in the Lions' flag wins in 2002 and 2003, as well as its Grand Final loss in 2004.
By now, White had become an inspiration to other indigenous players, especially those from his former home of the Northern Territory. On one occasion, he even found himself approached by a young indigenous player from another club immediately after a match who asked him to pose for a photograph with him before leaving the ground. His progression from erratic youth to responsible adult had been guided by mentor and former teammate, fellow aborigine Michael McLean. A trip to South Africa in 1997 and a 36-hour gaol term for assault in the same year (later overturned on appeal) opened his eyes to what his life could have been. "I used to be out stealing handbags," he said in 2001. "I was just starting to get into bigger and better stuff. Back then, I was stealing BMWs. Luckily I got caught and got sent away for six months in [a] juvenile detention centre in Perth. Look at me now, it's all changed."
In 2005 he was named captain of the Indigenous All-Stars, an all-Aboriginal team, selected to play the Western Bulldogs in Darwin that February. White was devastated when he ruptured a thumb ligament at Lions training in the weeks before the game, and was unable to play. Desperate to play a part, he flew in for the occasion and acted as the team's runner during the game.
However, in 2003 and 2004 his form had been patchy, spending increasing time in the club's seconds side, and at the end of each season there was increasing speculation that he would retire. The Lions continued to show their loyalty to the player who had served them so well and re-signed him for the 2005 season, but he added only ten games to his career tally. In the second-last home-and-away game of that season, with the Lions struggling to make the finals, White played in the seconds and kicked nine goals, ensuring his recall for one last game. The Lions were thrashed by St Kilda in Melbourne in a disappointing finish to a spectacular and entertaining career.
In the last quarter, White fielded a mark at half-forward and held it skyward in trademark fashion. He then drilled a no-look pass forward to Jared Brennan, a player who had idolised White as a boy. Brennan goaled. White's shellshocked teammates flocked around him to offer congratulations. After the siren, he was carried from the ground by indigenous teammates Chris Johnson and Ash McGrath, signifying the respect in which he had been held by his community.
White's contribution to football and his community was recognised in 2005 when he was named at fullback in the Indigenous Team of the Century, alongside premiership teammate Johnson and former mentor McLean. His Brisbane captain, Michael Voss, said that it was important that White be kept involved in football. "He has taught me a lot and helped me try to understand their indigenous culture. He will leave the game with a lot of respect from his teammates and fellow players."
Post AFL Career
In the 2005/06 NTFL Season, White played for the Darwin Football Club, playing in a premiership team. In 2006/07, he switched to the Southern Districts Football Club, where he followed up with another NTFL premiership.
In 2007, he moved back to Queensland, where he played in a premiership with the Queensland State League's Mount Gravatt Football Club, making it his sixth premiership across three competitions (AFL, NTAFL and QSL).
White is a passionate supporter of indigenous education. In 2008 he accepted an appointment as Indigenous Support Officer at Marist College Ashgrove, where he will assist indigenous Marist students achieve their goals.
In 2011, White played for Nyah-Nyah West in the Central Murray Football League in northern Victoria. He joined St Mary's in the 2011/12 NTFL season.
In December 2011, White was temporarily deregistered for life from playing football under the Player Deregistration Policy, after a one match suspension for striking brought his career total suspensions to sixteen weeks – the threshold for deregistration. White appealed for re-registration, and the ban was overturned on 23 January 2012, with White permitted to return to playing, but additionally required to engage in community work and mentoring. White's life de-registration will be reinstated without recourse to appeal should he receive another suspension.
- Morris, G. 2004, 'NT champ is first to 250', Northern Territory News, 2 June, p. 48.
- Steele, S. 2005, 'Lions farewell a favourite', The Sunday Mail, 28 August, p. 98.
- Voss, M. 2005, 'Band of brothers lights up the football world – on and off the field', Sunday Age, 17 July, p. 6.
- *Walls, R. 2002, 'Cubs Could Only Dream Of Premierships, Now Lions Are The Stuff Of Nightmares', The Age, 27 March, p. 1.
- Burke, B. 2001, 'White thankful for lucky timing', The Australian, 19 September, p. 24.
- Cartwright, D. 2005, 'White's nine goals earn fond farewell', The Courier-Mail, 26 August, p. 58.
- Vultures feast on AFLQ premiership
- Webster, Jess (24 January 2012). "Darryl White cleared to play". Northern Territory News. Retrieved 24 January 2012.