Alexander Robert Dunbar
- 105Wallaby Number
Dunbar, a strong winger from the old Newtown Club, took over the position vacated by Charlie Russell at the Club when Russell converted to rugby league in 1910. He made an instant impression for the Club and the State. He played five games for NSW in 1910, one against Queensland, two against the NZ Maori and two against New Zealand. He made his reputation as a fine finisher by scoring two tries in the first game against New Zealand and another try in the second game. However in the three Tests against New Zealand he was starved of possession and was unable to score. Dunbar was not fast for a winger and there were a number of fliers at centre and wing around that era, so he tried his luck at fullback.
He played well enough to play in that position and played two games for NSW and made the tour to North America with the Australian team captained by Ward Prentice in 1912. He shared the fullback spot with Larry Dwyer and played 12 of 16 games, including the one-off Test against the USA, won 12 to 8. He beat Dwyer for the fullback position and Dwyer played in the centres. Dunbar retired after the North American tour with four Tests for Australia, nine games for NSW and 53 games for Newtown.
Alf Dunbar moved into the representative scene in 1910, when he was selected for NSW against the New Zealand team at the SCG. It was a dream debut, as he scored two tries in the 8 to 21 defeat. He was automatically picked for the return match four days later, and again scored in the 11 to 17 defeat. Though not fast, he had strength and ruggedness to burn. Howell, et al, wrote in They Came To Conquer: “Larry Dwyer and Dunbar were the best home backs.” When the first Australian team was selected, Dunbar was in it. The team on his debut was Larry Dwyer, Bert Gilbert, Dinny Campbell, Ward Prentice, Alf Dunbar, Charlie Hodgens, Fred Wood, Norm Row, Syd Middleton ( capt.), ’Brickey’ Farmer, Fred Timbury, Patrick Murphy, Harold George, Tom Griffin and Jim Clarken. It was a close, hard-fought game, New Zealand winning 6 to 0. The second Test was two days later, and Australia sprung a huge surprise, roundly thrashing New Zealand by 11 to 0.
The match was a significant milestone in Australian rugby. It represented the first Test win over New Zealand in seven meetings ( one match was drawn) and it was the first time Australia had held a team scoreless. At a time of turmoil for the game, fourteen of the 1908 Wallabies defected to rugby league in 1909, Australia’s second Test win was a real fillip. The NZ Maori followed and Dunbar played for NSW against them, winning again (11-0), and was also in the return match, also won, 27 to 13. It was in 1912 that he was picked to go to North America, undoubtedly Australia’s worst- ever touring team. He appeared to be more stable than most of the others, playing in 12 of 16 games, including the one Test, but few could hold their head high when the team arrived back in Australia.