Bill Cerutti

Bill Cerutti, or ‘Wild Bill’ as he was known to friends and opponents alike, was also a lifelong contributor to the game.
 
Born on 7 May, 1909, Cerutti was the son of an Italian immigrant and represented Australia in 21 Tests, played in 46 interstate games and an incredible 247 first-grade matches.
 
Originally a soccer player it was fate that led ‘Wild Bill’ to Rugby.
 
In 1925, at the age of 15 his soccer team had a bye and while on his way to a practice run at a local park, a friend persuaded him to spend the afternoon watching a local Rugby match.
 
Fascinated by the rucks, scrums and line outs, ‘Wild Bill’ decided to try his hand at Rugby.
 
A former school mate who was playing for YMCA, then in the top Sydney competition, secured Bill a run in the second row of the YMCA third grade side, coached by Bill Fry.
 
The following year, Bill attended the YMCA pre-season trials, relishing the physicality of the new game, and played in the thirds, seconds and firsts on the same day.
 
Because he was still 17 YMCA made him play two second grade games, but after that he was selected in the first grade team.
 
Word soon spread about this tough, squat character with a fair turn of speed, and he was picked in a metropolitan team to tour NSW country districts.
 
After plying his trade at Club and State level for two years, Cerutti was selected in the Australian side and earned his first Test cap in 1928 against the All Blacks in Wellington.
 
Cerutti was as tough as nails and never took a step backwards.
 
As a prop he was never beaten in his position during his career, he was strong, fearless and surprisingly fast when he found space.
 
As a prop, he played 21 Tests from 1928 to 1937, won 10 of those matches, and scored three tries from the front row.

Great Australian Rugby journalist Greg Growden tells a story about Cerutti when he came up against a young Rex Mossop, himself to go on to become a Wallabies legend.

Writes Growden: "Mossop's initiation in the Sydney club ranks when picked in the Manly first grade team at 16 was to confront the feared hardnut, the legendary St George and Wallabies forward ''Wild Bill'' Cerutti. Cerutti's first words to him were: ''Strike for the ball in the scrum, son, and I'll kick your shins in.''

It wasn't long before Mossop's shins were cut to pieces. Mossop got Cerutti back in the second half by driving him into the turf. As Cerutti grunted with pain, Mossop exclaimed: ''Ha Ha. Take that! I hate you, you bastard, I hate you.''

After the game, Mossop was ''stretched out in the dressing sheds, a mass of bruises and cuts'' when suddenly Cerutti walked in.

''Oh Christ,'' Mossop thought 'He's going to belt me.'' Instead Cerutti thrust out his hand and said: ''Shake, son, you did well today.""
 
Following his playing days Bill went on to become the Wallabies team manager.
 
He was in charge of the 1949 side that went to New Zealand and became the first to bring home the Bledisloe Cup from a series played on New Zealand soil.
 
Bill Cerutti passed away in July 1965 aged 56.