Claude Williams always had an innate gift for playing sports, saying “I started playing sport as soon as I come out of the womb”. In this interview Claude talks about his phenomenal success across four sports: cricket, rugby league, basketball, and tennis.
Claude had no formal training in sport and attributes his success to every day kicking a ball, shooting and dribbling a basketball at Moore Park playground and recreation centres with the kids in the area honing his hand/eye coordination.
As a young 16-year-old Claude played cricket in the AW Green Shield, while also playing representative junior system in Rugby League and Basketball. He reflects on various competitions, graduating to the South Sydney Rabbitohs and moving further on up the career ladder in both sports. Eventually he had to make the decision about what sport to play, he chose Basketball. He talks about his US and Canadian tours, the stadiums, crowds, and changes to playing to accommodate the differences.
In 1977 Claude started work for the City of Sydney in the records and information services. He reflects on his time with the council, lunch time social sport games and moving on from council. In 1988 was appointed as the inaugural Sydney Kings coach.
CW: I always had good hand/eye coordination. I don’t know whether it was because of my Aboriginality, or whatever, because most of us – and a lot of people say, oh, you know, these blackfellas have got special skills and gifts, that they’re natural. So I was lucky in the sense that I would pick things up very quickly as far as a basketball or a cricket ball or a whatever. So I was playing with Cleveland St Boys’ High. We had a pretty good team and I think there must have been some scouts around for the representative cricket teams in those days. I was approached by the Sydney Cricket Club. I was approached to play AW Green Shield. I was happy to do that, so I played AW Green Shield for two years.
Was fortunate enough also – well, the Sydney Cricket Club that I played for, we played against all the other representative teams in our age group around Sydney. Then I was fortunate enough to be selected for the combined Sydney team. And I’ll never forget, we played – in those days it was a city versus country once a year, and that would be held, that game would be held, or played, at the Sydney Cricket Ground. And I thought, gee, Sydney Cricket Ground, that’s awesome. I thought we’d be out on – because there’s Sydney Cricket Ground 1 in those days, and Sydney Cricket Ground 2, which was alongside the cricket ground, the main part of the Sydney Cricket Ground. So, I was selected for that, and was very, very fortunate to play in the Sydney team at the Sydney Cricket Ground on the main cricket ground turf. And then we would go up into the changerooms and where the stands are and go into this beautiful long room. And there was all this supper – or lunch – that they put out for us. It was great food. It was so professional.
And intoxicating really, because I could see why anyone that played that, and experienced that, that would be their first choice of spirt. This is what I want to do, I was to be a first-grade cricketer, and then I want to and play with the Sheffield Shield, and then I want to play for Australia. So it was a fantastic experience for me doing that.
JF [interviewer] So why didn’t you do that?
CW At the same time I was playing basketball, because basketball was summer sport at well. And I sort of was representing in basketball as well. So I was a very good basketballer. I was playing Rugby League for Zetland United in the South Sydney Rugby League junior competition. So, I had a few choices. And the cricket would have been good, but I may have gone on to be a good representative cricket, but I couldn’t play all of them, so I had to make a choice. So basketball I’d play, that was my first choice, basketball.