Adrian William 'Pugs' McDonald
Who were the three Wallabies at the 1991 Rugby World Cup who did not play a match during the tournament? Many Australian fans could name two - David Knox and Richard Tombs - however very few outside the inner sanctum, or those who played at Coogee, Parramatta or Eastwood, could tell you the third was Adrian McDonald. ‘Pugs’, as he was otherwise known, a nuggety half-back with a renowned dedication to fitness and skills, spent much of his career playing in the shadow of Nick Farr-Jones and Peter Slattery. He was also a World Champion.
Although born in Victoria, McDonald was educated at St. Patrick's College, Goulburn and played his first rugby in the U13s. He finished his secondary schooling with two years in the College’s 1st XV (1979-80), the second of which saw the side go through the season undefeated. From there McDonald was selected to play for A.C.T. Schools against England Schools (1979) and Ireland Schools (1980).
After graduation McDonald joined Parramatta where, under the tutelage of Peter Fenton, he was quickly promoted to play in the first grade XV. He then went on to represent the undefeated Australian U21s in both 1982 and again in 1983. In that second year, McDonald enjoyed his first senior representative recognition when chosen as a reserve for Sydney’s 2nd XV (behind Philip Cox and Dominic Vaughan) and a reserve for New South Wales (against Argentina). He also won the first of his seven caps for Sydney, against Australian Services, and made the New South Wales U21 squad.
McDonald’s meteoric season hit new heights when he was picked for Australia. Vaughan, badly concussed when “run over” by a Puma forward in Brisbane’s first Test, was not considered for the return international in Sydney. Queensland’s Tony Parker was then promoted from the reserves to the run-on XV and McDonald brought onto the bench. Unfortunately for McDonald, Parker played all 80 minutes.
Further representative opportunities were made more difficult when Nick Farr-Jones shot from the obscurity of Sydney’s second division to be part of the 1984 Grand Slam winning Wallaby side. The emergence of Brad Burke in the mid-80s only complicated matters in that respect. Nonetheless, McDonald continued to ply his trade where, after six years at Eastwood, his luck changed when he joined Randwick. A debut for New South Wales off the bench against Canterbury at Concord (W 23-21) was followed by the first of four first-grade premierships with the Galloping Greens.
Early in 1991 McDonald was selected in Australia’s 35-man Rugby World Cup squad as a reserve behind Farr-Jones and Peter Slattery. That same year he played for the Emerging Wallabies against England (L 3-36) and was a reserve for Australia 'B' against the All Blacks at Ballymore. Although he missed selection for the final RWC squad McDonald’s participation was far from over. In the 19-18 quarter-final win over Ireland, Farr-Jones aggravated a knee strain while Slattery came away with a sore lower back. Consequently, McDonald flew to Ireland and was placed on standby in case one or both were unable to play in the semi-final against New Zealand, in the third-place play-off, or in the tournament final. While he did not make the match day squads for either final McDonald collected a winner’s medal and returned home a World Champion.
In 1992-93 McDonald enjoyed a career highlight when he played a season in France with Montchanin-Montceau. After a fourth Shute Shield victory with Randwick in 1994, McDonald left to play for West Harbour and was the newly named club’s inaugural first grade captain. A year later, and considering retirement, McDonald was lured west to play for the Associates club in Perth. Later that same season he captained his newly adopted state against Wales (L 20-62). Over the course of his eight-year career with Associates, McDonald played in five grand finals and won three premierships.
McDonald was an unused reserve for the 29-13 2nd Test victory over Argentina at the S.C.G.
McDonald joined the Australian Rugby World Cup squad as injury cover for both Nick Farr-Jones and Peter Slattery.