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William Maldon Woodfull (1897–1965)

by Donald Bradman

This article was published:

William Maldon Woodfull (1897-1965), by Sam Hood, 1930s

William Maldon Woodfull (1897-1965), by Sam Hood, 1930s

State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away - 5473 [detail]

William Maldon Woodfull (1897-1965), cricketer and schoolteacher, was born on 22 August 1897 at Maldon, Victoria, third son of Thomas Staines Brittingham Woodfull, Methodist minister, and his wife Gertrude Lily, née Abey, both Australian born. Thomas (d.1941) was to become secretary of the Methodist Conference in 1922 and president in 1923. 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.

After progressing through the conventional club teams, Woodfull played for the Victorian Colts and the State second XI, eventually entering the first-class ranks when he was chosen to play for the Victorian Sheffield Shield side in Adelaide in February 1922. An inauspicious 17 not out, going in at number 8, was followed in subsequent matches by exhibitions of concentration and impregnable defence which brought about his selection in Herbie Collins's 1926 Australian team for England. Starting the 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.

In 1928-29 Woodfull played in the Test series against England under Jack Ryder; when the latter was surprisingly omitted from the Australian team for England in 1930, Woodfull was accorded the captaincy over the more highly fancied and colorful 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 (they were affectionately known as Mutt and Jeff), Woodfull made an outstanding personal contribution.

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. A grateful public subscribed handsomely to a joint testimonial for Woodfull and Ponsford at the end of the tour; fittingly, Woodfull scored a century in the match.

In all, Woodfull played 35 Tests for Australia, was captain in 25, and made 2300 runs (including seven centuries) at an average of 46. His 174 first-class games brought him 13,392 runs at an average of 65 (with 49 centuries). His batting was characterized by a stolid defence which brought him the title of 'the unbowlable'; his style was rather stiff-armed, and lacked the grace and wristiness of that embodied by Alan Kippax, but its effectiveness was beyond question. Woodfull set a record in carrying his bat through an innings four times against English teams, first for the Australians against an English XI at Blackpool (1926), then for Victoria against the Marylebone Cricket Club (1928) and twice in Test matches (1928 and 1933), the latter feat not having been achieved by any player more than once during the first hundred years of Anglo-Australian Tests.

For forty-six 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 was also principal at Upwey (1945-47) and Box Hill (1954-56) high schools. His contribution to education was recognized in 1963 when he was appointed O.B.E. Woodfull died suddenly of coronary vascular disease on 11 August 1965 at Tweed Heads, New South Wales. Survived by his wife Gwenda Muriel, née King, whom he had married on 12 January 1927 at the Methodist Church, Albert Park, Melbourne, their daughter and two sons, he was cremated. Woodfull's brother, Howard Thomas Colin (1908-76), was director of the Royal Agricultural Society, Victoria.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Tebbutt, With the 1930 Australians (Lond, 1930)
  • Education Depatment (Victoria), Vision and Realisation, vol 2, L. J. Blake ed (Melb, 1973)
  • A. Inch, Honour the Work (Melb, 1977)
  • C. Martin-Jenkins, The Complete Who's Who of Test Cricketers (Adel, 1980)
  • J. Pollard, Australian Cricket (Syd, 1982)
  • W. J. O'Reilly, Tiger, 60 Years of Cricket (Syd, 1985)
  • Table Talk, 16 June 1926
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Oct 1955, 22 May 1962, 1 Jan 1963, 12, 13 Aug 1965
  • Times (London), 12 Aug 1965
  • Herald (Melbourne), 12 Aug 1965
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 12 Aug 1965
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Donald Bradman, 'Woodfull, William Maldon (1897–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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