Peter Harold Boyne Burge
- 74Wallaby Number
Peter Burge was called 'Emu”, doubtless because of his thin legs and the prancing walk of the 6-footer. Born in 1884, he was to die at 72 years of age. Burge has one record that he doubtless wished he never had. He was on two rugby union tours, to New Zealand with the first full Australian team in 1905, and the then tour of tours to the British Isles, Canada and the United States in 1908-09, the first such venture. In both trips Peter Burge only played one game, his injuries ruling out a second appearance. Peter made his first big-time appearance in 1904, playing for Metropolis against Great Britain The British were led by a tough character by the name of David Bedell-Sivwright. The British team included Pat McEvedy, who later on would become President of the NZRFU, and such immortal Welsh players as Rhys Gabe, Willie Llewellyn, Tommy Vile, who would become President of the Welsh Rugby Union, and Percy Bush. The experience was a good one for the 20-year-old Burge, though the team lost by 6 points to 19.
The 1905 NZ team under captain Jimmy Hunter came to Australia as a prelude to their tour of Britain, and only played three games. Peter Burge was in all of them, one for the Metropolitan Union (lost 3-22),a loss for NSW (0-19) and one surprising 8-8 draw for NSW in the last game. Peter Burge toured NZ that same year, but as mentioned played only one game. However he was part of history, as it was the first tour overseas by an Australian team.
In 1906 Burge was involved in a bitter incident. Jack Pollard described it in The Game and The Players:- “[Against NSW] Peter Burge jumped in the air and kicked Phil Carmichael, the high-scoring Queensland fullback, on the chest. The referee took one look at Carmichael writhing on the ground but ordered off the wrong player, Harold Judd. “An amazing scene developed, when NSW players, including 'Paddy' Moran, grouped around the referee, to support the alibi of the innocent Judd, while the real culprit hid silent in the background. In the end, Judd stayed on the field, but he did not relieve Queensland's intense bitterness when he demanded an apology. The crowd continued to shout insults at the NSW side for the rest of the game...” NSW won these brutal encounters 11-9 and 8-6.
By 1907 he was at the peak of his powers, playing four games against New Zealand, two for NSW and three for Australia, two of which he was captain, recording one draw and a loss. In 1908 he played in two matches for NSW against the touring Anglo-Welsh. Then came the ill-fated 1908-09 tour, when he broke his tibia in the first match against Devon. Peter Flanagan from Queensland also had his leg broken while acting as a touch-judge in the third match, and at 22 never played again. Burge and Flanagan hobbled around with crutches the rest of the tour. Replacements were sent over, one being his brother, 'Son' Burge, and Ken Gavin, great-uncle of the modern international.
When the 1908-09 Wallabies returned to Australia, fourteen of them defected to rugby league. A shock-wave went through rugby union circles, and it was many years before the game's popularity was restored. Peter Burge was one of the new professionals, and he signed on for 100 pounds. The others were Chris McKivat, Charles Russell, Arthur McCabe, John Barnett, Ken Gavin, Charles McMurtrie, William Dix, Edward McIntyre and Ed Mandible. It was a severe body blow to the amateur code. Burge would later tour with Chris McKivat's 1911-12 Kangaroos. ('Son') Peter ('Ernie') Burge was one of four brothers, the others being Albert, Frank and Laidley, and three played international football in either League or Union, while Laidley played league for NSW. The most outstanding had to be Frank. When inducted into the NSW Hall of Champions this is what was said about Frank:- “Frank Burge was the greatest scoring forward in representative football Rugby League has known.
A long striding 14 stoner (89kg) , over 6 feet (183cm) tall, when he burst 'down the middle' he was most difficult to stop. He was one of four century point scorers on the 1921-22 Kangaroo tour of England. From the forwards he scored an amazing 33 tries in his tally of 111 points, only surpassed by outstanding wingers Cec Blinkhorn (39 tries) and Harold Horder (35 tries). He was also the most versatile forward. Though primarily a lock he also played second row and in two Tests “Chunky” Burge played prop because of his strength, at the urging of veteran hooker 'Sandy' Pearce. Frank was also a severe tackler and competent goalkicker – the complete champion. After attending Darlington Public School he played one season (aged 14) Rugby Union for South Sydney before joining the old Glebe Rugby League Club where he played from 1911 to 1926.
From 1927 to 1930 he was captain and coach of St George.” In Lester's The Story of the Australian Rugby League the upbringing of Frank and his brothers was described:- “As a child, Burge and his mates would 'beg' for pennies and halfpennies outside grounds on match days from the University players, most of whom were from well-to-do-families, and build their catch up to threepence, the admittance fee for children, though, instead of paying at the gate, they would hop the fence and save the money for the trip next day to Glebe Island abbatoir where they would buy a bullock's bladder. At home, they would blow up the bladder, 'with our mouths', Burge recalled, tie it and they had a football that would last for weeks.” The Burge brothers were fitness fanatics and regularly went for long training runs on Sundays. A running companion was their neighbour, Sir William McKell, who later became Governor-General and patron of the NSW Rugby League. Young Frank was taught by his brothers that football was a tough game. They gave him no sympathy when he was hurt. Grooms and boat-builders by profession, the Burges were of the working class, and took little persuasion to turn towards professional rugby league when it began.