BRISBANE Broncos rugby league chief executive officer Paul White sat down with Donna Lynch to discuss faith and family.
Question: Could you tell me about the Paul White early years?
Answer: All very happy years, Donna. I was born in Charleville in Western Queensland in 1966. We probably didn’t have a lot as a family but my parents gave us everything they had.
Question: Was the faith involved in a big way back then when you were a child?
Answer: Yeah, definitely. I mean I often laugh about it now and tell my own, I’ve got four daughters of my own now, about how Mum and Dad enforced Mass upon us.
And I think that a lot of us were in that position as young people.
I think we were reluctant participants but I think you know having my mum and dad having that commitment to their faith and ensuring that we were given the opportunity to learn what it’s like to grow up in a Christian or Catholic family was a wonderful opportunity for us.
A lot of people tell me or they speak to me now as parents and say, “Look, my children can make their own mind up whether they practise religion”.
I guess if you don’t practise it as a parent, you don’t give your children an option. So, you can’t make a decision if you’ve never known it.
Question: You’ve had structure from your mum and dad, and as you said, your schooling because you went to those Catholic schools all those years, and you’ve instilled structure into your daughters, bringing them up about going to church, do you think structure has played a major part in your life?
Answer: God knows where I would’ve ended up, Donna, to be honest. That’s why I say Mum was a great influence for me because you know I was one of five, I was the second-oldest.
I guess, yeah, I could stray from the path, I had a bit of a temper, I was little bit wild as a young man, so if I didn’t have that strong parenting and structure, I might not be in the position I’m in today. Mum and Dad guided me with discipline but also with plenty of love along the way.
Question: It’s been well documented about your illness, how big a part did faith play a role in that time?
Answer: I think it played a big role, Donna, if I was honest.
And I often say, when people sort of walk away from the Church or stop going to Mass and things like that – and I’m not one to preach about people going to Mass, each to their own – but when you’re confronted with your own mortality, it brings into heavy focus what lies beyond and the need to call on that to give you some inner strength to keep going.
I think the thing for me during those times was I had great inner strength.
I’ve always been a deeply determined individual. And I’m proud of that.
But, in those really quiet times, when you’re going through some, not so much self-doubt, but you’ve got a pretty ordinary diagnosis, I think you do call on your faith at those times.
I know when I was going through my treatment, the radiation treatment, I used to often just say a prayer when I was in the machine because you’d be there for 20, 30 minutes getting your treatment.
It was quite claustrophobic, I probably didn’t handle that too well first up.
People said how do I get through it? Probably meditating, but I used to say a decade of the Rosary and sort of get myself through it that way.
So, what I learned as a young boy came back into real focus at that time in my life.
Question: You and your wife Angela have four daughters and you’re a great father figure – do you see yourself as a father figure in the Broncos organisation as well?
Answer: Yeah, definitely. It’s something they talk about: it takes a village to raise a child.
I think it’s a bit the same with a footballer, rugby league player; it takes an entire organisation to raise and develop a young man.
We all play various roles there.
Leadership doesn’t sit with one individual in this club, and certainly not with me.
Likewise with looking after our players and even parenting them through some tough times.
The thing I know about is if you really care about your children – I love and care about my children – they need honesty and they you need to hold them to account, and where necessary they need you to provide structure and discipline if they’ve stepped off the straight path.
I really enjoy that aspect of my role.
I don’t find that challenging because I just think anything less is a sort of a cop-out.
I find it really easy to have tough, honest conversation with players and staff because I care about the club and I care about them also.
Question: Your faith is so strong; it must make you proud when you see the odd player also practising their faith.
A: Yeah, and they sort of, the guys that practise their faith here, they sense you out, it’s not because you’re walking around telling people to pray or overt with it, but they know you’re a person of faith.
And sometimes that’s hard to declare because, when you declare that you do have a faith it’s not that you’re trying to be virtuous or say look I’m better than anyone else, you’ve just got to have an awareness that there’s something bigger than the individual.
When you think about that, life’s a lot easier to participate in because we’re all coming to the world the same way, relatively the same way, and we’ll all go out the same way. Often times it won’t be a time of our choosing.
Question: Speaking of going out, you’re off to Rome this year with your lovely wife Angela, how exciting is that?
Answer: Yes, yes, we’re hoping obviously to visit the Vatican and take in all the sights and I guess the historical significance of what lies beyond here and where our Catholic Church is based.
Question: I think the Pope would love a Broncos jersey, wouldn’t he?
Answer: I’m happy to purchase one of those and take it over. Yeah it would be great. For people who have gone, they tell me, even non-religious people say it’s hard not to think about religion when you experience the Vatican in its original state I guess.
Question: I cried the first time I went there, do you think you will too?
Answer: Possibly, I’m a bit more emotional than my wife; I cry in movies these days – even comedy movies. So I think that’s a result of what I’ve gone through over the last few years, but I’m probably quite an emotional person.
I’m happy to express my emotions. I think that’s probably given a capacity to lead in a different way than I possibly would have a few years ago.