Paul White began his adult life as a young policeman and aspiring footballer, two aspects that would go on to shape his professional and personal life significantly. Paul and his wife Angela travelled throughout Queensland with Paul’s career in law enforcement. Paul soon built a reputation as an authoritative figure with strong moral values. Values he would transfer into a career change, which has placed him as one of the most respected and influential men in rugby league as Brisbane Broncos chief executive officer. Paul shared his thoughts on life, faith and illness at the recent Assembly of Catholic Professionals luncheon at the Hilton Hotel.
Question: What was it like to grow up in the White family?
Answer: It was a wonderful family to grow up in. Dad was a dairy farmer come a bank worker and Mum was a coal miner’s daughter who was a nurse here in Brisbane at the Holy Spirit Hospital. She loved the nuns and wanted to become a Holy Spirit Sister but dad convinced her otherwise. They met at Confirmation classes and eventually married. Mum and Dad didn’t have a lot of material wealth but whatever they had they gave their children. I’ve lived in over 30 houses but they’ve all been homes. Mum and Dad have always been involved in the Church and our home was always open to the community. They taught us you have to give something back whether it is through sport, the church or the school community.
Question: You were always Churchgoers and you’ve kept that going through your own house now haven’t you?
Answer: Yes, it’s a struggle at times with four young daughters and there will be parents in the room that know that it’s hard to get your kids to Mass sometimes. I think I was a little bit the same when I was younger. I think we owe it to our parents to give them what they gave us. Sometimes it’s a bit of a cop out if we say ‘well they’ll make their mind up when they’re old enough’. If you don’t give them a choice they don’t have a decision to make. That’s just been a rule if they live under our roof they’ll go to Mass. If nothing else you just sit for an hour and reflect about how you’ve spent your last week with your kids, it’s not a bad hour spent.
Question: In your time as a policeman going from town to town you always made connections through footy and the church?
Answer: The Church community has been a constant in our lives. We have always maintained a commitment and an involvement. In some communities a Parish Priest can get a little more out of you, like Fr Mick Lowcock in Mount Isa had me doing mens’ nights, marriage preparation, multicultural affairs. We were really pretty committed to that part of our life too.
Question: Coming to the White place for dinner has become a bit legendary around the Broncos with Angela and your daughters. Why so important?
Answer: The reason why the family home is so important, welcoming them into your own home is telling them ‘your okay and I’m okay’. If you sit at my table it shows I’m giving you as much respect as I can give you, I expect the same. Our players have been really good for the main part; they could have helped me by winning a couple more games a few years (laughs).
Question: Could you tell us what happened the day you had a seizure?
Answer: I’d made about 15 phone calls in an hour to different CEOs about the Broncos having two Thursday night games late in season, which would have had big financial repercussions on us. I was on the phone and my hands began to shake and I didn’t know what was going on. I thought I was having a heart attack or a stroke. I came good but was very disoriented. I ended up having a brain tumour causing the seizure. I’ve just finished my sixth course of chemo in six months. The doctors are amazed how well I’m handling the chemo they’re thinking of actually keeping me on it a bit longer.