William Phillips Webb
- 30Wallaby Number
Born and educated in New Zealand, William Webb came to Australia and joined the formidable Wallaroos Club. In fact, in the year 1899 he played for the Wallaroo team was in the final season before Sydney adopted a district system, whereby you could only play for the team in the district where you resided. He learned his rugby at Otago Boys’ High School, and played for Zingari-Richmond in Otago in 1888, before coming to the Wallaroos, where he played from 1894 to 1900. He was described as ‘a squat, powerfully built backrow forward.” His first appearance against an international team was for NSW against the 1899 Britain side, led by the Rev Mathew Mullineux, who was immortalised by the Australian bush bard, ’Banjo’ Paterson. The other Wallaroos in that NSW team that lost 3 to 4 against Britain were Frank Row, Charlie White, Lonnie Spragg, Iggy O’Donnell, A. Gardiner and G. Wheeler.
Webb impressed in this and the following match for the Metropolis (lost 5 to 8), but he was not selected for Australia’s first-ever Test. Nor was he invited to Queensland for the second Test. He was not picked for the return encounter for NSW, but was for the following Metropolis game, which was an 8 to 5 win for the locals. Despite the heavy conditions, Webb impressed and was selected for the third and fourth Tests against Britain at the SCG. These were lost 10-11 and 0-13. The team for his initial Test against Great Britain on 5 August 1899 was Wally Cobb, Lonnie Spragg, Frank Row (capt.), Syd Miller, Peter Ward, Iggy O’Donnell, Arch Boyd, Alf Colton, Roger Barton, Sine Boland, Patrick Carew, Walter Davis, Charlie Ellis, Bill Webb and Bob Bouffler. Australia played a 2-3-2 scrum against Britain, copying New Zealand, and it is thought that Webb was in the front row of 2. These two Tests for Australia were the highlight of his career, which also saw him playing 14 times for his adopted State.