Robert Esmond "Wallaby Bob" McMaster
- 333Wallaby Number
‘Wallaby Bob’ McMaster was a comedic raconteur, goal-kicking prop, Wallaby, wrestler and publican. A larger than life front rower who revelled in ruck play, McMaster honed his rugby skills during six years at St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace. Like a large number of Terrace Old Boys both past and since, McMaster went on to play his club rugby with Brothers. He made his first grade debut in 1939 then played for Queensland against the AIF a year later. Early in 1941 McMaster joined the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. He served in the Middle East and New Guinea campaigns and finished at the Tarakan landing. McMaster was a member of the famous 2/9 Australian Infantry Battalion rugby league team and developed quite a reputation for forward play with the 2/2 Australian Tank Attack Regiment in Palestine and Syria. After the war McMaster was deemed to be the ‘forward find of the season’ as he created a great impression on debut for Queensland, against NSW, in Sydney.His crashing runs nominated him as a certain selection for the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. He played in 11 of the 12 matches including a Test debut in Dunedin. In 1947 McMaster was one of seven Queenslanders chosen on the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. and Europe. He played against Ireland and Wales but never quite recovered from ankle injury suffered at training ahead of the uncapped match against Glasgow-Edinburgh combined with an attack of malaria. After the tour ended McMaster switched codes to play rugby league with Leeds. The terms of his three-year contract included return first-class passage for both he and his wife, a job, accommodation, an £A1,200 transfer fee and match fees.
At the same time he tried his hand at professional wrestling and it was there that his nickname ‘Wallaby Bob’ became his formal stage name. In 2004 the Australian Rugby Union undertook an initiative to ‘cap’ all living Wallabies as caps had not been given out since the 1920s. When the Wallabies of the forties were to be recognised McMaster could not come to Sydney for the ceremony so the ARU waited for function to be held in Brisbane and made arrangements for him to attend. Tragically McMaster was outside of the room, waiting for his name to be called, when he had a massive heart attack and passed away. ‘Wallaby Bob’ McMaster played seven Tests for Australia in a two-year international career.
McMaster won his first Test cap at prop alongside Wal Dawson and Eric Tweedale in the 1st Test, 8-31 loss to New Zealand at Carisbrook. He picked up two more caps in the 0-20 loss to the Maori in Hamilton and in the 10-14, 2nd Test defeat to New Zealand at Eden Park.
He was one of only seven Wallabies to play both home Tests against New Zealand.
Strong early tour form earned Victoria’s Eric Davis a debut against Scotland before McMaster reclaimed his position to be capped in the 16-3 win over Ireland and the 0-6 loss to Wales.