Club News

11 March 1997

Wilf Wooller, Glamorgan's captain in their first-ever Championship winning year in 1948, and one of Wales' greatest all-round sportsmen, died peacefully in his sleep in Cardiff yesterday. Born in Rhos-on-Sea on 20th November 1912, Wilf's sporting life reads almost like a Boy's Own novel. As well as leading Glamorgan from 1947 until 1960, Wilf was a member of the first ever Welsh rugby side to defeat England at Twickenham in 1933, a member of the Welsh XV which defeated the 1935 All Blacks, a Double Blue at Cambridge, an England Test selector in the late 1950's, a Welsh squash international, and a footballer with Cardiff City, to say nothing of an above average tennis player, golfer, fisherman, and in more recent years, a highly successful member of Cardiff Bowls Club.

The former Rydal schoolboy was a happy-go-lucky amateur in the years leading up to the Second World War, and his grim experiences during the War were a turning point in Wilf's life. For much of the War, Wilf was a POW in the hands of the Japanese, and his grim experiences in Changi and on the "Death Railway" taught Wilf about mental toughness and resilience. These were the characteristics which helped Wilf survive the squalor, deprivation and horrors of the War, and these were also the features he brought to Glamorgan cricket as he was groomed for the county's leadership by Johnnie Clay in 1946.

Wilf developed into as fierce and uncompromising a player as any professional cricketer, and wholeheartedly assumed the mantle of rebuilding the Welsh county and consolidating on the good work of Maurice Turnbull. Wilf was certainly a ruthless and forthright leader, viewing cricket as much a mental battle as a game of skill. He would never give in, and always led from the front, standing fearlessly at short-leg, without any form of protection, or opening the batting against the fastest of bowlers. Under Wilf's leadership, Glamorgan developed a fine team spirit, with Wilf himself never asking another player to do anything he himself would not do. Together with the club's coaches, he helped groom a host of young players, including Tony Lewis, Peter Walker and Jeff Jones, all of whom went one stage further than Wilf and won Test caps for England.

He was widely regarded as one of the best tacticians in the county game, and was a fine leader of men, driving those who needed firm handling, and quietly cajoling and reassuring those who needed gentle encouragement. At times, his words in the dressing room, out on the pitch, or even in the committee room, were harsh, but they were spoken from the heart, as the one thing that Wilf wanted most of all was for his Glamorgan side to be successful. He may have fallen out with a few people, and ruffled a few feathers, but Wilf never harboured a grudge, and if you were the batsman at the receiving end of a few words from "The Skipper", the first person to buy you a drink in the evening would invariably be the Glamorgan captain!

Wilf retired from playing in 1962 with 13,593 runs and 958 first-class wickets to his name, before mixing a hands-on approach as the club's Secretary with journalism and broadcasting with BBC Wales. Indeed, it was Wilf who was at the microphone when Garry Sobers hit Malcolm Nash for 6 sixes at Swansea in 1968, and again the following year when Glamorgan secured their second Championship at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. Once again, Glamorgan's success owed much to Wilf's influence, as it was "The Skipper" who had groomed Tony Lewis as the county's leader.

In his reports on rugby and cricket, Wilf was not afraid to speak his mind. Some of his views were not to everyone's liking, as in the case of his pro-South African stance at the time of the Anti-Apartheid "Stop the Tour" campaign in 1970, and later as sanctions were imposed by the sporting world. But Wilf always stuck to his guns, and never wavered from what he thought was right, trenchantly pointing out that Britain had many trading links with harsh dictatorships or quasi-Communist nations who flouted the concept of human rights.

Wilf retired from the Secretary's post with Glamorgan in 1977, but it did not end his involvement with the Welsh club, as in recent years he became the club's President, and was always ready to offer advice on field placement, or on the state of the club and English cricket in general. Indeed, as one well respected Glamorgan player once said, "there has only ever been one leader of Glamorgan C.C.C. since the War - Wilf Wooller."

Further tributes to Wilf Wooller will be appearing on these pages over the next few days - so watch this space!