CRAIG White had a tremendous season with the Balmain Dockers in 2012 as playing coach, but the pull of South Fremantle life membership and a new career opportunity sees him back at the Bulldogs for 2013.
White has been a tremendous servant of South Fremantle as part of successful colts and reserves teams before finding his feet in the league side in 2004, and going onto play in the premierships of 2005 and 2009, and 139 games all up to the end of 2011.
However, after the losing first semi-final of 2011 White received an opportunity with work that he couldn’t refuse with PowerPlay Sports to head to Sydney, and thought it might be his chance to experience life outside of Western Australia for the first time as well.
Life and work in Sydney went well as did White's football with the Balmain Dockers where he was a playing coach of a team that made the grand final, and he was their star performer all year long.
He originally was going to remain for another year, but the desire to make sure he returned to South Fremantle to get to 150 games and earn life membership, and a new career opportunity at the Fremantle-based Empire Property saw him back for 2013.
"I originally was going to go to Sydney for two years, but the opportunity arose to come back here for work," White said.
"The life membership was always a big factor. It wasn’t easy to leave the club being so close to it, but hopefully this year with no injuries and my form is alright so I can get there and it's something I will always cherish.
"I'm very grateful that Anthony van der Wielen gave me the chance to set myself up with his commercial real estate company and I'm really looking forward to it, and the challenges it will present over the next five or 10 years."
Helping White feel comfortable in Balmain was the fact that his South Fremantle premiership teammate Gerard Wilkie was with him, as well as former East Fremantle trio Leigh Conway, Ben Taggart and Selby Lee-Steere, and Claremont 134-game veteran Tom Matson.
White won the club champion award and came third in the league's fairest and best. Wilkie was runner-up to him at the Dockers with Taggart starring as captain kicking 76 goals for the season.
Combine those players he was familiar with and the fact that former Sydney Swans cult hero Troy Luff was still kicking around, and White thoroughly enjoyed his time with Balmain.
"It was a great experience and the opportunity through work came about. I never really had the chance before to do the travelling thing so I thought this was an opportunity to get away and do something a bit different than what I had been doing," he said.
"Coaching over there really opened up my eyes and hopefully that might help me coming back here as a player. There was in the end 12 or 13 guys from WA who played with Balmain last year and we had over 450 games of WAFL experience between us all.
"Tom Matson was there from Claremont, a heap of East Freo guys and then Wilkie from South and a couple of others who played reserves through the WAFL. It was really good fun.
"There was obviously a connection through the Freo Dockers and through work I did a bit with Balmain, but we were all really over there for different reasons and just ended up playing together."
Not only did White have a tremendous season on the field in 2012 to show himself as being a class above most others in the Sydney AFL competition, but his role as coach was something he feels will be of great benefit now that he's back with South Fremantle.
"The coaching opens up your eyes in terms of selection and everything that goes on with players," White said.
"It's not just about everything you take for granted, it's not that easy. You definitely get a different perspective and hopefully now out on the ground I can help out as a fourth or fifth coach."
By Chris Pike