VALE: Football loses former New Zealand captain and Player of the Year

Former New Zealand captain and Player of the Year Dave Wallace has died in Wellington, aged 83.

Wallace, who played five full internationals for New Zealand, was the first New Zealand-born winner of the NZFA Player of the Year award, and was a Chatham Cup winner with Western Suburbs in 1971.

He died in Wellington Hospital on December 13, 2023, and a celebration of his life was held in Porirua on December 19.

Wallace was a one-club man, playing all his senior football with Western Suburbs, for whom he made his senior debut in 1957 when he was 16.

In 1961, he was a reserve for a “shadow” New Zealand test team which defeated Auckland in preparation for a match with Tom Finney’s 1961 Football Association XI.

The following year, aged 20, he made his international debut against New Caledonia.

Described as fit and fast with fine ball control, he did much to hold the New Zealand defence together in the two “tests” against the visitors and demonstrated his determined tackling and undoubted ability as a wing half.

A feature of his game was an ability to propel a long throw into opposing defences,

The 1971 Chatham Cup-winning Western Suburbs and Dave Wallace (front row).

He won the NZFA Player of the Year award in 1968, as a 28-year-old with 12 years of local first division football, the first such achievement for a New Zealand-born player.

He played his last games in a national team shirt in 1968, adding two B internationals to his five full appearances, and captained New Zealand in his final two games.

In 1971, he won the Chatham Cup with Western Suburbs, scoring his side’s first goal in their 3-2 extra time win against local rivals Wellington City.

He retired from top level football at the end of 1971 when his Wests team lost their place in the National League, missing out in a play-off series with the three regional champions to decide which club joined the 1972 competition.

Wallace had made 27 National League appearances for Western Suburbs in the competition’s first two seasons, in 1970-71.

Excerpt from NZ Football Annual 1968

This year for the first time, the Player of the Year award went to a New Zealand-born player. Somewhat surprisingly, the winner was not one of our up-and-coming youngsters but, instead, a 28-year-old with 12 years of First Division football behind him.

Few, however, will dispute the award to Dave Wallace.

1968 was undoubtedly Dave’s season. He led his club, Western Suburbs, to victory in the Central League, he played for New Zealand against Cardiff City, Fiji and New Caledonia, captaining the side in the last two matches, and he earned the Arcus Trophy (for the second consecutive season), as the Best and Fairest Player in the Central League.

Dave has always been a player who trains hard and puts everything he can into a match but it was his ability to distribute the ball effectively that caught the selectors’ attention and won Dave the right half position in two tests against New Caledonia in 1962.

A leg injury interrupted his career just when it appeared that he would establish himself in the national side and it was not until 1967 that Dave received another invitation to play for New Zealand.

However, he enhanced his reputation by playing two fine games at right back for New Zealand “B* against Australia and New Caledonia.

In the 1968 season, Dave appeared mainly at inside right for his club, scoring 16 times in league and cup games, but in the New Zealand team he was used mainly as a defender.

Regardless of whether he is to be used as a link man or a defender, it seems that Dave will continue to play for New
Zealand for, like a good wine, his play improves with age.

Main photo: This photo of Dave Wallace accompanied the story in the NZ Football Annual.


Friends of Football thanks Barry Smith, QSM, Honorary Historian New Zealand Football, for the information in this tribute to Dave Wallace.

David Wallace (1940 — 2023)

The following notice has appeared in The Post

WALLACE, David. On 13 December 2023, peacefully at Wellington Hospital, aged 83. Absolutely adored husband of Pauline for 61 wonderful years. Beloved father and father-in-law of Karen & Scott, Stephen, and Philip & Sue. Cherished grandad of Amanda, Jodie, Andrew, Nicole, Kellsey, Regan and their partners. Loved great-grandad of Ryah, Oliver and one to come. The family wish to thank the HDU unit at Wellington Hospital for their dedicated care of David. In lieu of flowers, donations for the Wellington Free Ambulance would be appreciated and can be left at the service. A service to celebrate David’s life will be held at Gee & Hickton’s Guardian Chapel, 6 Norrie Street, Porirua, on Tuesday 19 December at 11.00am. “Catch you later, Cobber”


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