White knight

12 August 2013

Written by: Emily Fear-Gook

You can understand why Jesse White may have questioned his future as an AFL footballer at the beginning of the season.

The Sydney tall could only manage three games in his club’s premiership year, in 2012, and it was no surprise to see him put up for trade by the Swans, as they tried to acquire the services of, then Adelaide forward, Kurt Tippett during last year’s trade period.

Both clubs failed to agree on a deal, meaning White would remain at the Swans with one-year left on his contract, and Tippett would join Sydney via the pre-season draft.

The talent of the Swans’ ruck stocks and key position forwards ultimately saw him start this season in the reserves.

But then luck started to turn White’s way

An opening finally came for White in Sydney’s round seven clash against Hawthorn, which saw him replace the out-of-form Shane Mumford in the ruck. However, he failed to have any real impact in his side’s loss and was dropped a week later.

With his career on the line, White returned to Sydney’s reserves and kicked 19 goals over three weeks, including a 10-goal effort against Queanbeyan at the SCG.

His strong form in the seconds came at the right time when forwards Sam Reid and Tommy Walsh went down with injuries in successive weeks.

Recalled for the Swans’ round 11 clash against Adelaide, White made a statement in Sydney’s commanding 77-point victory. He presented well, held his marks and kicked three goals, as Crows fans watched on in despair.

Producing consistent performances on a weekly basis was the only way White could hold his place in a strong Sydney outfit, especially with Reid on the mend from a quad injury. White was poor in the next two games against Port Adelaide and Carlton, and was replaced by Reid for the round 15 game against Melbourne.

Reid re-injured his quad in the win over the Demons and with Swan champion Adam Goodes out of the side with a knee injury, White was given another chance to resurrect his career.

His form has been exceptional over the past month and he has finally regained the confidence of his breakout years in 2009 and 2010.

Despite starting as the sub in his return match against GWS, White kicked three goals in the second-half and was strong overhead in the Swans demolition of the Giants.

He backed it up the following week in their convincing win over West Coast, taking three contested marks and providing Tippett with valuable support across the forward half.

But his clinical effort against Richmond, less than a fortnight ago, was the game that caught the attention of rival coaches.

White’s strong leads up the ground and his capacity to affect the contests proved to be a headache for the Tigers’ defence. He finished the day with a career-best four goals and left a lasting impression on Fremantle coach, Ross Lyon.

With his side in desperate need of a key forward, Lyon revealed on radio last week that White will be high on the Dockers’ agenda over the trade period.

It is expected that Adam Goodes, Lewis Jetta, Ben McGlynn and Sam Reid will all be fit by the first week of September. Due to Sydney’s remarkable depth, he may lose his spot in the side if he doesn’t perform.

The Swans take on Hawthorn (1st) and Geelong (2nd) in the final month of the home and away season. Most would agree that White would be fully deserving of his place in his team’s finals side, if he performs well against these relentless opponents.

It’s clear that the next month will be a testing period for White, but the past few weeks suggest that he still has what it takes to play at a professional level.

He has made the most of his opportunities in the senior side and you get the impression that the Crows would be wishing that they had their time over again and reached a deal with Sydney, in October last year.

The 25-year-old would have been a handy replacement for injured Crows forward Taylor Walker, as the lack of a key forward option has taken a toll on Adelaide this season.

Hindsight really is a beautiful thing.

White has quickly rejuvenated his playing career and while opportunities at Sydney may be limited, his future in the game remains in relatively good stead.

Mitchell Wood is a second-year Bachelor of Sport Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @Mitchell_Woody


(Photo: Twitter – @Jessewhite_)