- 245Wallaby Number
Bob Burge was a strong, attacking and enterprising centre three-quarter who who enjoyed a brief international career in the wake of the Waratahs’ momentous tour to the Northern Hemisphere in 1927/28 and prior to the reformation of the Queensland Rugby Union in 1929. Born and bred in the north-west of New South Wales at Inverell, Burge was something of a unknown in Sydney before he matriculated to the University of Sydney in 1924. Although he enrolled in a Law degree Burge did not begin his studies for a further twelve months. He made his first grade debut in 1926 and at the end of the following season was chosen to represent the Metropolitan XV on their tour to regional New South Wales.
In 1927 he also played for University in the closely fought three ‘Test’ series held in Sydney against New Zealand Universities. Although Burge started for the No.4 team in the Waratahs trials he was not selected for the tour however his big chance emerged when 13 members of that side had either retired or made themselves unavailable, predominantly due to financial reasons, for the 1928 trip to New Zealand. When the touring squad was first announced only 24 of the 26 names were listed as one centre and one half were to be added after the Victoria v. Metropolitan XV match the following day. Burge was not one of the 24 however he was selected for the Metro side and from there won the final centre spot alongside Cyril Towers, Don Bull and Cliff Caldwell.
On tour he played in six of the 10 matches, including the 1st ‘Test’ against New Zealand in Wellington. Although he did not know it at the time that match was Burge’s actual Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986). On that tour Burge became the first Wallaby to win more than one Test cap as a replacement when he came off the bench in the third Test against the All Blacks and again seven days later in the match with the Maori at Palmerston North. The following year the return of the Waratahs’ Sid King combined with the newfound ability of Australian selectors to pick players from two additional states - Victoria and Queensland - to dramatically increase the level of competition for places in the mid-field over the next few seasons.
He showed for University in 1929 but appears to have then put his rugby career on hold in order to complete his studies. Burge later became a delegate for the SURFC to the New South Wales Rugby Union Council and come wartime he enlisted in the 2nd Australian Infantry Force. Bob Burge played four Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.
Burge won his first Test cap at inside centre, partnered with Cyril Towers, in the 1st Test, 12-15 defeat to New Zealand at Athletic Park. Burke and Towers were also paired for the 2nd Test, 14-16 loss at Carisbrook. His third cap came in Christchurch when he replaced Cliff Caldwell (leg injury) and a fourth was earned, again off the bench, in the 8-9 loss to the Maori when Don Bull retired with a broken nose.