Bill Woodfull

Woodfull OBE, W (Bill) M 

b:22.8.1897 d:11.8.1965
Played 51 1XI games 1924/5 - 1935/6
Carlton Cap No. 319
Victorian Cap No. 371
Australian Cap No. 123
1927 - Wisden Cricketer of the Year
Elected Life Member 1941

Among the really great players who have been associated with our Club is William Maldon Woodfull, affectionately remembered as Australian captain. This included three trips to England, two as Captain.

Bill Woodfull, cricketer and schoolteacher, was born on August 22, 1897 at Maldon, Victoria. Educated at Bendigo and Melbourne high schools, Bill graduated (B.A.;Dip.Ed.,1924) from the University of Melbourne where he played for the second XI. As a youngster he suffered from rheumatic fever and so was a late developer, first playing for Victoria in 1921/2, and not making his Test debut until the 1926 tour of England under the captaincy of Herbie Collins. Bill began his cricket career in Melbourne in 1916/17 and played 7 games for Essendon, then spent some time at University before transferring to South Melbourne from 1921/22 to 1923/24 where he played 22 games.

In 1924/25 he joined the Carlton CC as Captain, but his services were often required at State level where he scored so heavily that he ultimately gained selection in Herbie Collins’s 1926 Australian team for England. Starting that tour with a score of 201 against Essex, followed by 118 against Surrey, Woodfull continued in such fine form that he headed the Australian first-class batting figures with 1672 runs at an average of 57.65 (eight centuries) and was named one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year. No Australian had previously averaged 50 on his first tour of England. Upon returning to Carlton, Woodfull was given a complimentary smoke night to celebrate his great deeds in England.

In 1928/29 Woodfull played in the Test series against England under Jack Ryder; when the latter was surprisingly omitted from the Australian team to England in 1930, Woodfull was accorded the captaincy over the more highly fancied and colourful Vic Richardson who became his deputy. Setting an example with his exemplary, teetotal style of living, Woodfull generated remarkable loyalty from a dedicated team and the Ashes were recaptured. His quiet, unassuming leadership and splendid after-dinner speeches made a great impression. As an opening batsman, in partnership with his fellow Victorian Bill Ponsford, Woodfull made an outstanding personal contribution. In 1931/32 Bill Woodfull was again Club Captain, and again led Australia to victory against South Africa.

The performances of our Club captain at Club, State, and Test cricket levels placed him at the head of the list in Victorian cricket, and one of the leading batsmen in the world. In 1932/33 Woodfull’s character received a gruelling test when he was Australian captain against Douglas Jardine’s ‘bodyline’ tactics. Despite grave personal injury and severe provocation, Woodfull refused to retaliate on the grounds that it would be detrimental to the game of cricket. His only public reaction was his alleged eloquent rebuke to (Sir) Pelham (Plum) Warner “There are two teams out there but only one of them is playing cricket.” That Test series was a great strain, and no doubt hastened Woodfull’s retirement after he had taken one more Australian team to England in 1934.

Woodfull’s right-hand batting style was characterised by a stolid defence which brought him the title of ‘the great unbowlable’; and although his style was rather stiff-armed, and lacked the grace and wristiness of some batsmen, its effectiveness was beyond question. His association with fellow Australian opener, Bill Ponsford, produced many fine partnerships for Victoria and Australia.


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Test debut:
England v Australia at Nottingham Jun 12-15, 1926
Last Test: England v Australia at The Oval Aug 18-22, 1934
First-class span: 1921/22 – 1933/34

For Victoria, only his famous opening batting partner, Bill Ponsford, has a better batting average, while both are two of only nine players to have carried their bat through an innings for Victoria. Among players to have made 10,000 first-class runs, only four batsmen, including Bradman and Ponsford, have recorded higher batting averages.

Woodfull won the Club’s Batting Average in 1935/36 and retired as a Carlton player, and when he retired from our Committee in 1941 he was awarded Honorary Life Membership of our Club. In 1982 Bill Woodfull was honoured as an inaugural inductee into Carlton’s Hall of Fame, in 1996 he was selected in Victoria’s Team of the Century, and in 2001 was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame.

For 46 years Woodfull taught with the Victorian Education Department. Much of his career was spent at Melbourne High School where he was assistant master (1927-40), vice-principal (1948-53) and principal (1956-62). He had also been the principal at Upwey (1945-47) and Box Hill (1954-56) high schools. It is said that he refused a knighthood for services to cricket (he apparently explained that he wouldn’t accept it for mere cricket) instead being recognised in the New Year’s Honour’s list of 1963 when he received the OBE for his contribution to education.

Woodfull died suddenly of coronary vascular disease on August 11,1965 while playing golf at Tweed Heads, New South Wales aged 67. He was survived by his wife,Gwenda Muriel, nee King, whom he had married on January 12, 1927 at the Methodist Church, Albert Park, Melbourne, their daughter, and two sons.

On his passing, there were many tributes including one from Sir Donald Bradman – “He was a great gentleman, a fine citizen and an ornament to the game of cricket”.