WRESTLING HERITAGE

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Heritage


M: Bob McMaster

Wallaby Bob

Bob McMaster

He was always Wallaby Bob. A man devoted to sport throughout his life, which began on 15th January, 1921 in Rockhampton, Queensland, and ended on 1st August, 2003 in Brisbane.  Rugby union and league player, wrestler, wrestling referee and hotelier, Wallaby Bob excelled at all he did.

Bob McMaster had already won caps playing rugby for Australia against New Zealand in 1946 and 1947, before coming to Europe to represent his country against Britain, Ireland and France. Had world events taken a different course Bob would have reached Europe  seven years earlier, when he was just eighteen years old. He was set for the Wallaby squad scheduled to tour Europe in 1939 and cancelled  by the outbreak of World War 2. Instead Bob enlisted in the anti-tank regiment and served in the Middle East and Borneo until discharged in 1946.

 In July 1947 Bob and the rest of the Wallaby squad boarded the liner Orion and sailed for England, visiting Colombo, Ceylon, Yemen, and Egypt before arriving in Tilbury, England. Weighing over 16 stones he was the heaviest of the squad. In the match against Gloucester, the Times reported that McMaster “Clearly is a first class as well as a strikingly powerful forward’ who contributed fifteen points to the score."

With his good showing in the 1947 tour Bob was lured to turn professional and signed a three year contract for Leeds Rugby League Club in June, 1948, setting sail back to Britain the following month and arriving in Liverpool on 17th August.

We believe Bob had already learned amateur wrestling whilst working in the Brisbane police force. In Britain he turned his attention to the professional style, being well placed to catch the attention of Leeds promoter George DeRelwyskow. We find him wrestling for Relwyskow at Hull in October, 1948, opponent the Canadian Pat Curry. During his years in Britain he combined rugby and wrestling, meeting men such as Kiwi Kingston, Jack Pye, Mike Demitre and Alf Robinson. Bernard Hughes remembers watching Bob wrestle as "... a rough tough Aussie wrestler.... It seemed to me at that time that McMaster, Verna and Coverdale were all from the same mould. Hard hitting, tough Australians." 
For a man fully committed to playing professional rugby Wallaby Bob was a remarkably active wrestler throughout northern England and Scotland for the next three years, our last sighting being in April, 1953. In 1952 Bob announced his attention to wrestle in America and then return home, but then surprised everyone in July by signing to play for Leeds for another season.

On his return to Australia in 1953 Bob continued to play rugby for another three years whilst continuing to wrestle, spending six months wrestling in South Africa in 1956.

On his return he became a wrestling referee on Australian television and bought  the Wallaby  Hotel at Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast.  John Shelvey told us, "Bob McMaster was a widely known figure years after his tenure as a Rugby Wallaby and League player. He was the no.1 Queensland referee for the Barnet and Doyle World Championship Wrestling that was arguably the most succesful wrestling promotion in the World for over a decade in the 60s and 70s. Bob was often the third man on the t.v. broadcasts and if I remember rightly even at his advanced age he challenged a wrestler or two after altercations.  I also ate at Bob's bush restaurant (that's being polite) where ‘TOADS TOOLS’ was among the fare chalked on the menu board!"  

Graeme Cameron is another Heritage member with memories of Wallaby Bob as a referee, and his “Propensity to deck any wrestler who tried to physically intimidate him when refereeing ,as Terry Garvin discovered the hard way in a TV match.  He was also known to issue  ‘fines’ to recalcitrant villains he felt had gone too far. “

Heritage member Ed Lock completes the story, "After retiring as a referee in 1979 Bob sold the Wallaby Hotel and operated a team of harness racing horses (trotters) until the early 1990s. McMaster was successful in sport and business and was regarded as a legend in Australia."

There's a memorial plaque to him in a Gold Coast park. The Wallaby Hotel is itself a 19th century listed building which is now part of "history walks" where no doubt tourists are regaled with tales of its most famous owner

“Wallaby” Bob McMaster was attending an Australian Rugby Union presentation ceremony (honouring him and his team mates) at the Brisbane Convention Centre on 1 August 2003 when he suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 82."

Wallaby Bob forever.
Page added: 14th March, 2020