Walter George Cobb
- 27Wallaby Number
In his time, Walter “Wally’ George Cobb was an outstanding, tough young fullback, and one of the best tacklers and kicks in the State, a fact confirmed when chosen to fill the position in many Intercolonial matches between 1892 and 1899. As Wally took the ball followers of the game would chant “Cobb-Cobb-Cobb” in the hope of witnessing an impressive tackle, a decisive run, or a well- judged line kick to improve the situation. In the local Newcastle competition Wally Cobb captained the Centennials, and for many seasons was selected as fullback in Intercolonial matches, including those against Queensland and also New Zealand.
In 1894 he toured New Zealand with the NSW team, acquitting himself admirably. One of the great highlights of his career came in 1899 when he was chosen to represent Australia. Wally Cobb played in the 3rd and 4th Test matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 5th and 12th August 1899. These, the first officially recognised Test matches, were against the Reverend Matthew Mullineaux’s Great Britain side. After retiring from competitive football Wally, joining several other veterans, continued his interest in the game, by becoming part of the Veterans Club in Newcastle. For many years this group of veteran footballers raised money to help injured players by holding smoke concerts and other popular activities, and would occasionally put together a team to contest the top players of the day.
At the funeral of Wally Cobb in 1933 members of organisations that he had been involved with 40 years earlier were in attendance, including those of various football clubs. There were many individual wreaths from people associated with the old football days, and one of particular interest came from the Centennial Old Boys - Wally’s team from the 1890s. Wally was in his 64th year. As noted, Wally Cobb was one of two fullbacks, the other being the captain, James McMahon, who toured New Zealand in 1894.There were only 25 members of the team, and they played 12 games. Cobb played in nine of them, five as a fullback and four as a winger. He went up against North Island (3-15), Taranaki (6-21), Wanganui- Manawatu (0-13), Wellington (5-7), South Canterbury (23-0, try), Canterbury (3-11), New Zealand (8-6), Nelson (13-4) and Wairarapa (3-21). Although the team won only four games, Cobb was a great success.
Prior to this tour Cobb had played for NSW against New Zealand in 1893 (8-17). Howell, et al, noted in They Came to Conquer:” Cobb, whose selection had raised eyebrows, then showed real mettle when he took Mckenzie head-on and flattened the big Wairarapa forward.” He also played in the return game, kicking three conversions and a goal from a mark in the stirring 25-3 victory over the visitors. The Herald noted: “While Cobb played well in the first match, he played brilliantly in the return.” It was the first loss ever suffered by New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand did not lose by a bigger margin in any game for 99 years. There was a third match against NSW, Cobb again being fullback in the 0-16 loss. Howell wrote: ”Surman and Cobb were picked out as the best home backs, though most of their work was defensive.” Unfortunately, Australian teams were not picked until 1899.
In 1897 Cobb was not picked to play against New Zealand. In 1899 the Rev Mathew Mullineux’s British team visited Australia, and Tests were played for the first time. In their fourteenth match, Cobb captained Newcastle against Britain, his team losing 0 to 28. There was an amazing incident in the game. Howell noted : ”A sensation occurred when the local captain, Wally Cobb, was downed in a scrum and adjudged by the referee to have kicked an opponent, and was sent off. The decision was met by hooting from the crowd.” The Referee observed :”With regard to the ordering off the field of W.Cobb in the English match at Newcastle on Thursday, Mr Corr [the referee] tells me that he fancies Cobb lost his head for the moment. He is reported to have, while lying upon his back, kicked out indiscriminately. It is all very much to be regretted, for Cobb has a good reputation for playing the game in a proper spirit.” Despite this occurrence, Cobb was picked for Australia as fullback in the third Test at the SCG. The team on his debut Test was Wally Cobb, Lonnie Spragg, Frank Row, Iggy O,Donnell, Syd Miller, Peter Ward, Arch Boyd, Alf Colton, Bill Webb, Charlie Ellis, Paddy Carew, Bob Bouffler, Walter Davis, Sine Boland and Roger Barton. It was a close 10-11 loss, Iggy O’Donnell missing a kick which would have won the game in the final seconds.
Cobb retained his place for the final Test, won by Britain 13-0. That marked the end of his representative career. Walter Cobb is adjudged to have played two Tests for Australia and played 18 times for NSW from 1893 to 1895.