Robert Peter Anderson
- 207Wallaby Number
Bob Anderson was a remarkably tricky and clever inside back who emerged from country rugby in the mid-1920s. Nicknamed ‘Tacks’ because he was deemed ‘as hard as nails’, Anderson first came to notice in 1922 when he played rugby league for Kurri Kurri in the Newcastle district. Two years later the Kurri League Football Club broke away from the parent League and its members, including Anderson, linked up with rugby.
In 1925 the club entered the union competition in Newcastle where Anderson, at fly half, immediately impressed with his ‘brilliant’ attacking football. After just a handful of first grade matches he was selected to represent Newcastle against the Navy. A week later T.S. Griffin, Wallaby #77 and one of the three New South Wales selectors, visited the Coal City “to find some players”.
Griffin said he was “very impressed with the players’ performances and agreeably surprised. I have picked out R. Anderson, H. Snell and C. V. Morrissey among the backs as being the most promising players”. Anderson then ‘played very cleverly’ as Newcastle defeated Combined Country 20-8 ahead of the inbound tour by New Zealand. From there Anderson’s “all-round ability” won him selection, albeit out of position, at inside centre for the first Test. The press of the day wrote that Anderson ‘has the most pronounced side step seen on the rugger field in some time’ although there appeared to be ‘a little uneasiness’ regarding his defence.
One game day preview read: “Interest will also centre in the play of Bob Anderson, the Newcastle representative. The Kurri player reminds many of Stanley Wickham (Wallaby #44) in his palmy days.” High praise indeed. Unfortunately New South Wales were trounced 3-26 and then just four days later a state 2nd XV upset the tourists 18-16. As a consequence of those two results one of the great selection culls of all-time saw 11 of the starting 2nd XV chosen for the second Test. Five of the first Test run-on XV, Anderson included, never played ‘Test’ rugby again. Although Anderson did not know it at the time the first international of that series was his official 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).
Anderson missed selection for the return tour to New Zealand however he was in the Kurri Kurri side that defeated Surf Club 14-3 to win the Newcastle grand final and the Earp Shield. A year later Anderson was back in the representative hunt when he played for Combined Country against Metropolis before he suffered a serious injury (a ‘probable rupture of liver’) when kicked during one the of the Country Week matches. As a result he was unavailable for consideration for any of the state matches that season. In 1927 Anderson walked away from any chance of his participation on the grand Waratahs tour to the northern hemisphere when he switched back to rugby league. ‘Tacks’ Anderson played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #207.
Anderson won his first Test cap at inside centre, alongside fellow debutant Arthur Toby, in the 1st Test, 3-26 defeat to New Zealand at the Sydney Showgrounds.