Born: 30 August, 1963
Test record: 21 Tests (1985-90) – 4 tries (16 points)
Tours: 1985 tour of Great Britain and France, 1986 tour of Australia, 1987 tour of Australia and Papua New Guinea, 1989 tour of Great Britain and France
Equally dynamic at fullback or centre, Darrell Williams played 21 Tests for the Kiwis after making his debut in 1985 and created history as the first New Zealander to win a Sydney grand final.
The Mt Albert product broke into the Auckland team as a 20-year-old in 1984 and played against the touring Lions. Called up by the national selectors for the tour of Britain and France the following season, Williams came onto the wing in a reshuffled backline for the third Test, which finished in a tense 6-all draw at Elland Road. He retained a spot on the flank for the series-opening win over France. Williams scored two tries in 11 minor match appearances, mostly at fullback.
The tyro was preferred ahead of veteran Gary Kemble at fullback for the first Test against Australia in 1986 at Carlaw, but Kemble was handed the No.1 jersey for the remaining Tests across the Tasman. Williams returned to the line-up for the third match at Lang Park on the wing for the suspended Dean Bell and scored both of New Zealand’s tries in a 32-12 loss as Australia completed a cleansweep. He was switched to centre for the two-Test series in Papua New Guinea, which finished one win apiece.
Williams was snapped up by high-profile Sydney club Manly-Warringah in 1987 and slotted straight into a star-studded backline at fullback, before moving to centre mid-season. He was an important cog as the Sea Eagles won the minor premiership and became the first Kiwi to taste grand final glory after their 18-8 defeat of a Canberra Raiders side containing New Zealand teammate Brent Todd.
In a sensational year, Williams was also at fullback as New Zealand stunned Australia 13-6 in the one-off Test at Lang Park. He wore the No.1 in 1988 in one-off home Test wins against Papua New Guinea (scoring a try) and Great Britain, but injury cut his season short and he missed the World Cup final at Eden Park.
Though Manly endured a horror year in 1989, Williams was named NZRL’s Player of the Year after played all eight Tests against Australia (though his series is perhaps most remembered for being hit a thunderous Wally Lewis tackle), Great Britain and France. Revered for his defence at fullback in the Kiwis’ disappointing 3-0 series loss to the green-and-golds, he switched to centre for the series-deciding loss to Great Britain and both Test wins against France, dotting down in the latter.
Williams featured in all three home Tests against Great Britain in 1990 (the first at fullback, the other two at centre) but the sudden death of his father when the Kiwis had just landed in Papua New Guinea saw him return home. The 26-year-old played his last Test match later that season in New Zealand’s 24-6 loss to Australia in Wellington.
Playing under his first Kiwis mentor, Graham Lowe, at the Sea Eagles, Williams played in the 1990-91 finals series but was frequently sidelined by injury and his 93-game tenure with the club ended in 1993. He joined Parramatta the following season but managed only five top-grade appearances for the battling Eels.
Williams later served as an NRL judiciary panel member, coached Samoa to the 2000 World Cup quarter-finals and was a New Zealand Test selector.