- 113Wallaby Number
Bob Stuart was a cooper in real life, one of the working class who got caught up in the fervour of professionalism. The signing of Dally Messenger in 1907 was one thing ,but rugby league did not prosper until fourteen of the Wallabies defected following their 1908 tour, in 1909. James Joynton Smith had put up one thousand pounds, and the Wallabies signed for between 150 and 50 pounds. The cream of the Union crop defected: Peter Burge, Bob Craig, Ed McIntyre, Paddy McCue, Chris McKivat, Chris McMurtrie, Bill Dix, Eddie Mandible, Jim Hickey, Boxer Russell, Arthur McCabe, Jack Barnett, Ken Gavin and Albert Burge.
It was a body-blow to the Union code. However Stuart did not rush into professional ranks, indeed he burst into prominence in the 1910 season, when New Zealand toured. This would be the only New Zealand team selected between 1908 and 1913. Stuart did not play in any of the early games against New Zealand, which included two New South Wales games and one Test. However, in the second Test at the MCG, flanker Bob Stuart was selected and ‘Brickey’ Farmer displaced. It was a game won by Australia 11 to 0. Wins against the NZ side were rare in those days. Injuries did not help NZ’s cause. It was a reason for celebration as it was the first Test win over NZ in seven meetings (one match had been drawn) and it was the first time Australia had held an opponent scoreless.
Howell, et al, in They Came To Conquer, stated: “At a time of turmoil for the game, Australia’s second Test win was a real fillip. All in the home side played with distinction...The home pack definitely won the struggle for home supremacy.” Stuart was automatically selected for the third Test, the last match of the tour, and as is so often the case New Zealand rebounded and won the match comfortably 28 to 13. The Australian team on his debut Test against New Zealand on 27 June 1910 at the SCG was Larry Dwyer, Herb Gilbert, Dinny Campbell, Ward Prentice, Alf Dunbar, Charlie Hodgens, Fred Wood, Norm Row, Syd Middleton (capt.), Bob Stuart, Fred Timbury (replaced by Leo Reynolds), Paddy Murphy, Harold George, Tom Griffin and Jimmy Clarken.
Bob Stuart played against the Maori that same year. There were no Tests, but he played for NSW in one match. They defeated the Maori 27 to 13. He also played for NSW against Queensland in 1911. Stuart then turned to rugby league with his friend Herb Gilbert. He was selected for the 1911-12 Kangaroo tour captained by Chris McKivat, but could only manage to play in two matches out of 35 because of a serious injury. He never played in a rugby league Test. Pollard, in Australian Players, noted: ”Bob Stuart, who was born in Annandale, Sydney, on 13 June,1887, always celebrated his birthday on 14 June because his mother was superstitious about the number 13...Bob Stuart was the father-in-law of John Bosler...”