Herbert Melville Abbott
Bert Abbott was born in Beaconsfield, Tasmania, and he had a varied sporting career. He played first grade soccer and Australian Rules in Western Australia 1920-21, beginning as a 17-year-old. In 1922 he arrived in Sydney and was in the lower grade of rugby with Manly and the Manly Life Saving Club. A nomad and certainly a free spirit, he transferred to Victoria in 1925 and played Australian Rules with the St. Kilda Club. At the time he was associated with the revival of Rugby Union in Victoria.
From 1925 to 1928 his role were varied with the Melbourne Rugby Union Club as captain, coach and selector, and was also captain, vice-captain and selector of Victorian representative teams. It had been some years since Victoria had a Victorian team but the 1926 Maori team played against a Melbourne team, Abbott appearing as a flanker in the 0-30 loss, and presumably played for the Victorian team against them that year. Newspaper descriptions of the Victorian team appear to be non-existent but we know the score was 57 to 0 for the Maori.
The 1926 New Zealand team included Victoria in their tour and Abbott was on deck once more, suffering a 58 to 15 landslide. The Victorians were simply lacking in experience and interstate matches had not started, though they would the following year. Waseda University from Japan also came to Victoria in 1927 and a game against NSW encouraged the die-hard players. New Zealand played Victoria in 1928, records have been lost but the presumption is Abbott played in that 9 to 58 loss.
The other fact we know is that in 1928 he played for Manly and for NSW and was picked to go to New Zealand that year with NSW. These games are all counted as international games now, Queensland not resuming competition until 1929. At the time of his selection he was 23 years of age, 6 foot 1 inch in height and he weighed 14 stone 2 lbs, a weight exceeded by only one other forward, Northern Suburbs’ Eric Bardsley. Only three members of the famous 1927-28 team made this 10-match tour, so the Wallabies were mainly young and inexperienced.
The 1928 tourists were Bob Westfield, Don Bull, Bob Burge, Bruce Caldwell, Bernard Croft, Bill Hemingway, Alf Smairl, Cyril Towers, Bill White, Harry Bartley, William George, Syd Malcolm, Harold Snell, Bert Abbott, Eric Bardsley, Geoff Bland, Bill Cerutti, Ian Comrie-Thomson, John Lamb, Bill Langenberg, Bob Loudon, Allan Munsie, John O’Connor, John O’Donnell, Walter Phipps and Myer Rosenblum. Bland and Loudon were the others from the Manly Club. There were 26 in the party and Abbott would play only three games, against Wanganui (won 26-16, scoring a try and a penalty goal), Southland (lost 26-31) and Marlborough (won 27-15, with another try). In all the games he was a backrower and he did not play in any of the four matches now ruled as Tests.
Chester and McMillan in The Visitors had this to say about Abbott: “[Wanganui] Munsie, Abbott and Cerutti shone in the forwards… [Marlborough] Abbott sprinted over for a spectacular try between the posts which Bartley converted.” So Abbott fared well enough, scoring two tries in three games, and he could kick as well. It appears, however, that Rosenblum, Munsie, Bardsley and Loudon were preferred in the back row.
When he returned to Manly, he played against New Zealand in 1929, representing a NSW Second XV, which lost 12-20 to the All Blacks. This ended his Australian representative career.
Eddie Kann has this to say about Abbott in his Easts Rugby Story: “From 1929 to 1931 Bert Abbott played for the Manly first grade team. He starred as a back rower for Manly, heading the point-scorers for 1929 with 70 from 9 tries, 11 conversions, 7 penalty goals. He scored four tries in a match against YMCA on August 17, 1929, at Manly Oval. “Abbott shared with Fred Ruthven (Northern Suburb) the distinction of scoring most points for the season in first grade. “Bert Abbott, then 23 years, 6.1, 14.2, toured New Zealand with the 1928 NSW team with Myer Rosenblum 21 yrs, 6.0, 12.10 and four Easts players Ian Comrie-Thomson, J. S. Lamb, A.M. Smairl and H.W. Snell. Bobby Westfield was fullback. “Abbott returned to Manly after his season with Easts to take a leading part in administration and was elected a life member of that Club in 1961. He also served as a selector of GPS Rugby teams. His two eldest sons, Errol and Ian Abbott, captained Manly firsts; Errol also represented NSW in 1961. Two other sons Michael and Wayne played with Manly lower grade teams.”
Bert Abbott made a considerable contribution to the game of rugby, both in Victoria and NSW. Although he did not play in a Test, he played in three Australian representative games. He played four games for NSW from 1928 to 1929.