Arthur Edward Toby
- 212Wallaby Number
Arthur Toby was a consistently good fullback of the 1920s whose representative opportunities suffered due to the presence of Otto Nothling and then the emergence of the great Alec Ross.
Born and bred in Sydney, Toby attended Bourke Street Public School from where he represented at junior levels in both rugby and cricket.
He first emerged in senior rugby with the YMCA 2nd XV in 1922 and was reported to be ‘the outstanding player of the side’ which went through the competition undefeated. It was also suggested Toby was ‘as good as any of the first grade fullbacks, with the possible exception of [Otto] Nothling’. A year later Toby graduated to YMCA’s first grade side where his ‘all-round play was an eye-opener to those who had not previously seen him’, he became ‘a tower of strength to his side’ with ‘a penchant for scoring tries’ and each match ‘continued to enhance his reputation’. It was reported that Toby ‘kicked and fielded with remarkable accuracy and tackled tenaciously’ and that ‘he should have a great future’.In 1924 it was opined that Toby had become ‘more consistent’ than Nothling and that fact appeared to be recognised by the state selectors when he was chosen for the first ‘Test’ against New Zealand. Then, somewhat incredibly, Toby caught ‘a severe chill’ when he attended an informal reception for the All Blacks at the Hotel Mansions four days ahead of his prospective debut. As a consequence Toby withdrew at the eleventh hour and Nothling came in as his replacement. An assured display in New South Wales’ stunning 20-16 win secured Nothling’s place for the final two Tests. The following season a fit and well Toby was selected for the NSW v 2nd XV trial ahead of another inbound tour from New Zealand. The fullback for the 2nd XV was Alec Ross, a youngster from the University of Sydney. When the side for the first Test was announced Ross won the fullback spot and Toby, rather surprisingly, found himself in the unfamiliar outside centre position with ‘Bot’ Stanley unavailable due to a fractured finger and with the selectors not prepared to throw young Samoan giant Ernie Reid to the proverbial wolves.
The decision to play Toby out of position coupled with the selection of Kurri Kurri fly half ‘Tacks’ Anderson at inside centre for his first Test proved to be a monumental blunder, especially after ‘Sheik’ Bowers was forced off and another inside back - Randwick’s Pat Mulligan (who was also on debut) - replaced him on the right wing. New South Wales were trounced 3-26 however just four days later a 2nd NSW XV upset the visitors 18-16. In response the selectors undertook one of the greatest culls in the history of Test rugby when 11 of that starting 2nd XV were promoted to the run-on side for the second Test.
Toby recovered to start the final match of the tour, for E.J. Thorn’s XV, where he ‘gave an assured display on a quagmire of a pitch’ at Manly Oval. A few weeks later New South Wales were set for a return tour of New Zealand. Ross chose to make himself unavailable ‘due to the pressure of examinations’ and Toby went away as the No.1 fullback. He played in nine of the 11 matches including the sole Test although that too was another tough day at the office against a rampant All Black side that included 14 of their 1924/25 ‘Invincibles’.
In 1926 Toby switched codes to play rugby league with Eastern Suburbs. He played seven seasons of first grade, the last three with Balmain, and upon his retirement in early 1934 the press wrote that he was known as the ‘gentleman’ footballer of both codes and was an ornament to each.
Arthur Toby played two Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.
Toby won his first Test cap at outside centre, alongside fellow debutant Peter ‘Tacks’ Anderson, in the 1st Test, 3-26 loss to New Zealand at the Sydney Showgrounds. He earned a second cap, this time at fullback, in the 10-36 defeat to the All Blacks at Eden Park.