- 252Wallaby Number
Bob Westfield was a reliable fullback, with a strong kick, who had the misfortune for his career to coincide with that of the great Waratah custodian Alec Ross. Described as fearless, a very clean-handler and a solid defender, Westfield was born in New Zealand but completed his secondary schooling at Sydney’s Saint Ignatius College. While at Riverview he played two seasons in both the 1st XI and the 1st XV (1923-24) and in his final year won selection in the Combined GPS 1st XV. In 1926 he joined Randwick and from there represented the Metropolitan XV on their tour of regional New South Wales.
A year later he started in the wing for New South Wales in the uncapped match against Japan’s Waseda University but missed a spot on the Waratahs’ tour to the Northern Hemisphere when the selectors only named one specialist fullback, Ross, in the 29-man squad. Westfield’s fortunes took a turn for the better in 1928 after 13 Waratahs’. Ross included, either retired or declared themselves unavailable for that year’s tour to New Zealand. He went away as the No.1 choice fullback and played in eight of the 10 matches, including the first ‘Test’ against New Zealand in Wellington. Although Westfield did not know it the time that match would be his Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 retrospectively granted Test status to all 34 remaining New South Wales fixtures played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986).
The Wallaby captain on that tour later said of Westfield that his football in New Zealand “was equal to, if not better in many respects than, that of Alex Ross at his best. His attacks from fullback often thrilled the New Zealand fans. The tackling of this 10 stone 'midget' against 14 stone forwards often made them think that they had run into a 'powder magazine.' Time and again he would take the ball from the toes of forward rushes, and, with beautiful kicks, find touch. This brought mighty applause from the sporting crowds of New Zealand.” Westfield also benefited from Ross’ absence the following season when his rival suffered synovitis of the knee and missed the final two Tests of the home series whitewash of New Zealand.
The boot was on the other foot in 1930 when Westfield cruelly injured his shoulder just a few weeks out from the Test against the British Lions. Ross then returned from a self-imposed rugby ban, undertaken in order to focus on his medical exams, to take Westfield’s place. Unfortunately for Westfield the national selection door remained firmly shut through to the end of the 1934 season when Ross announced his retirement after leading Australia to their first ever Bledisloe Cup series win. During that period Westfield matriculated into the University of Sydney to study Economics and represented Australian Universities on their 1933 tour of New Zealand and to Japan, as captain, in 1934. In 1935 Westfield relocated to Melbourne in order to join his father’s business.
He linked up with the Kiwis club from where he won selection for the state side and led them to a surprise 17-14 victory over New South Wales. Unfortunately, Australia did not play any international rugby that season and as such Westfield was denied the opportunity to add to his six Test caps. The following year Westfield returned to Sydney and played club rugby with Eastern Suburbs until his retirement at the end of 1938. During World War II he enlisted with the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and was mobilised to Palestine where he captained Pioneers in their 0-15 loss to the Len Smith-led Ordnance in late-1940. Bob Westfield played six Tests for Australia in a two-year international career.
Westfield won his first Test cap at fullback in the 1st Test, 12-15 loss to New Zealand at Athletic Park. He earned a further three caps in the final two internationals against the All Blacks and the one-off Test against the Maori.
He earned his final two caps, both at fullback, in the second and third Test victories at home over New Zealand.