A cool, accomplished follower from Strathalbyn, young Bob Wilson gained selection in the Norwood team for the decisive final match in both the 1889 and 1891 seasons - and celebrated a premiership each time. In 1893 he helped Fremantle take the WA flag.
Born at Willaston on 3 January 1867, Bob first played with North Park and Adelaide. Accuracy was the key as Norwood clinched the 1889 premiership, beating Port Adelaide 7.4 to 5.9 before an Adelaide Oval crowd of 10,000. The Southern Argus correspondent wrote that Wilson "played a very good game, and prominent footballers look upon him as a coming man - one of the most promising in the team. Of course he is only one of the 'colts' yet, but let me remark that he must be a colt of very good points or he never would have been chosen to play in what was regarded as the most important match of the season."
In 1890, Bob and future Norwood player Tommy Fallon guided Strathalbyn to a premiership. They repeated the feat in 1891, recording 10 wins, one draw and just one defeat, but at the end of the season the committee regretfully reported the removal from the town of Wilson - the club's energetic secretary, practice captain and "one of the best (if not the best) men".
He had more to do that season. For the match which would decide the 1891 SAFA premiership, against Port as in 1889, Norwood brought Bob into the team along with George Kirby, George McKee and the veteran 'Topsy' Waldron (for his second game of the season). Again before an Adelaide Oval crowd of 10,000, Norwood prevailed 5.4 to 3.4 after Bob capped a strong game with a vital late goal. He and Port's 'Goodie' Hamilton were reported by umpire 'Nug' Plunkett after punches were exchanged in a fracas near the end.
In 1892, 'Onlooker' remarked in The Express and Telegraph that "Bob Wilson is a glutton for work, and is a conscientious player who never loses an opportunity of doing something effective for his side." He began and ended the season with Norwood but in between led Strathalbyn. At Adelaide Oval that year he played in the inaugural match between combined teams from the North and the South of the colony. Fallon kicked five goals and Wilson was named in the best players as South won 9.5 to 3.8. In the fiery match which completed the 1892 SAFA season, umpire McIntyre reported Bob for throwing South Adelaide's Ted Monck with unnecessary roughness and he was fined £2 2/-.
In 1893, Bob sailed to WA in the steamer Tenterden - which would come to grief on a reef off Cape Northumberland late that year - and took up the captaincy of York Imperials, 97 km east of Perth. In stepped Norwood legend Arthur J. Diamond, who persuaded Bob to play for Arthur's adopted team, Fremantle, against West Perth in the vital last match of the metropolitan season. Bob helped Fremantle battle out a draw, which was enough to secure another link in the club's chain of premierships from 1887 to 1896. A week later he led Imperials to a 7-4 win over Fremantle at York.
In August 1895, Bob and his old Norwood comrade Jimmy Thomson "played the game of the forty" for Imperials, said The Eastern Districts Chronicle. Bob, "with all his tricky play", was still in action at York in 1897.
The Saturday Journal of 3 January 1925 reported that Bob enlisted in 1914 for World War I service, sailed for the front, "did his bit" and returned to help the pay corps at Keswick. Later he was employed in the Lands and Survey Department on the west coast. He died at Bassendean WA on 5 December 1947. He and his wife Zayda had six children, Jessie, Stan, Marion, Frank, Dora and Ruth.
* Picture kindly supplied by Michael Grambeau, secretary of the Strathalbyn National Trust.
P Robins March 2018