The rugby stars were truly aligned for Dick Webb. Born, bred and educated at Rugby in England, Webb appeared destined for a great future in the game. The surprise was that Webb’s future was forged in Australia.
Webb played his first rugby for the Murray School for Boys. An all-round sportsman of some repute, Webb represented Rugby Schools against Sheffield Schools aged just 13. He left school just two years later, joined the local Newbold-on-Avon club and was immediately drafted into their 1st XV at fly-half. Aged 18, Webb moved to Coventry RFC for whom he scored two tries on debut at the famed Cardiff Arms Park.
Amid unrest in the U.K auto industry the Webb family chose to take up the government’s £10 assisted passage and emigrate to Australia in 1965. As one of the first migrants to leave the U.K. by jet one day and arrive in Australia the next, young Webb was asked by the Australian Immigration Department to be part of a story on his experience. The article, which appeared in both U.K and Australian newspapers, also mentioned that Webb had played rugby for Coventry. The day after publication Webb was contacted by Jack Clarke, President of the Melbourne Rugby Football Club.
Webb soon transitioned to the three-quarter line under the tutelage of Wallaby and former Australian coach Bryan Palmer. Unsurprisingly it did not take long for Webb’s form and pedigree to be noticed by the representative selectors and he soon debuted for Victoria, alongside Wallabies Danny Kay and Norm Storey, in the state’s 14-12 win over the ACT. The glow of that victory dimmed rather quickly when the Springboks came to town and handed the locals a 52-6 thumping. The season did end on a high note when Melbourne won the first of their successive Dewar Shield premierships.
The following year Victoria faced the might of the British Lions however in a far more respectable result than that suffered against South Africa, the home side pushed the visitors all the way before going down 14-24. Australia then fell to a rather ignominious 0-31 defeat in the second Test of the Lions’ series. The fallout from that result saw a group of up and coming backs - including Peter Ryan, Dave Grimmond, John Brass, Rick Trivett and Webb - chosen for a Minister of the Interior’s XV to face Combined Services in Canberra. Webb, with “pace and finesse”, could not have picked a better match to score a hat-trick of tries given Chairman of the Australian selection committee Bill McLaughlin had made a special trip to the capital solely to watch the fixture.
Ahead of the trials for the Fifth Wallabies’ tour, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Jim Webster wrote: “Sydney wingers who thought they had the field to themselves could be surprised at Dick Webb”. Surprised was an understatement. Playing for Geurassimoff’s XV Webb scored three tries in a 29-14 win over Shepherd’s XV. “For the first he stepped clear of three tackles in a 60-yard run to cross near the posts. He merely finished off the other two tries but showed in general play that he had the ability to figure prominently in selection calculations”. In the second series of trials three days later Webb was chosen for Thornett’s XV. Although the side only scored one try, “it was a delightful piece of work” by Webb who “beat full-back Mick Stynes with a splendid change of pace and raced over the line and into the touring team.” Incredibly three Victorians, Paul Gibbs, Russ Tulloch and Webb, were named in the 30-man squad.
Despite enjoying a rich vein of form throughout the tour a run of injury both interrupted and ultimately robbed Webb of his Test debut. He played his first match for Australian in the uncapped fixture against North-East Counties (L 14-17) but then missed three games with acute shin soreness. A strained right hamstring in his very next match (vs. Cambridge) didn’t help. Nonetheless Wallaby hooker Peter Johnson, in ‘A Rugby Memoir’, was effusive in his praise for the Victorian: - “Webb bamboozled the Munster team. In this match Webb provided more raw excitement than any other player on tour, except Catchpole and Hipwell”. “Right on time [against Languedoc-Roussillon] Webb made one of the most remarkable runs I ever witnessed. He covered eighty metres, his course impossible to chart, but he seemed bent on challenging every member of the opposing team and humiliating them. He touched down for his second try to give us a 12-5 victory.” “Dick Webb seemed on track to force his way in the Test team for Paris.” “The worth of Dick Webb must have, at last, become apparent to the selectors and for my money he was a certainty for the French Test”. “The selection of [Alan] Cardy in place of Dick Webb [for the French Test] must have been difficult as they both had outstanding attributes. I opted for Webb on his sensational current form but his badly broken nose [suffered against South-West France in a “stiff-arm tackle late in the game”] may have tipped the scales against him.”
Upon his return to Australia Webb switched codes to play rugby league for Canterbury-Bankstown (1967-69). Post-league Webb moved back to Victoria where he played one season of Australian Rules for the mighty Melton Bloods 2nds in the local Bacchus Marsh Football League. The side was undefeated throughout the 1970 regular season and went on to beat Darley in the grand final.
Webb played 16 matches on the Fifth Wallabies tour – vs. North-Eastern Counties at Gosport (L 14-17), vs. Oxford University (W 11-9), vs. Cambridge University (W 6-5), vs. Swansea (L 8-9), vs. Pontypool and Cross Keys at Pontypool (L 3-12), vs. Leinster at Dublin (W 9-3), vs. North of Scotland at Aberdeen (W 6-3), vs. Southern Counties at Oxford (W 27-6), vs. West Midlands at Coventry (L 9-17), vs. Llanelli (L 0-11), vs. Munster at Cork (L 8-11), vs. the Barbarians at Cardiff (W 17-11), vs. Languedoc-Roussillon at Perpignan (W 12-5), vs. France ‘B’ at Toulouse (D 8-8), vs. South-West France at Bordeaux (W 11-9), and vs. British Columbia at Vancouver (W 24-11).