Arthur John Michael McCabe
- 102Wallaby Number
Born on 23 June 1887 at Tamworth, McCabe moved to Sydney and linked up with South Sydney. There he played five-eighth and partnered Harry Goddard, a fine halfback who was unlucky not to tour with the Wallabies. Playing behind a powerful pack that featured the two Burges, Peter and Albert, and well served by Goddard, McCabe used his ability to beat a man with a swerve or sidestep, to be the top try scorer in the Sydney premiership in 1905, 1906 and 1907. At the end of the 1907 season, he visited Western Australia with a New South Wales team that included many country players as well as Ward Prentice, Bob Craig and Paddy Moran, the eventual captain of the Wallabies.
With this experience behind him, McCabe moved on to better things in the following season. After playing in the Metropolitan Seconds against Country Seconds in 1908, McCabe made his interstate debut in Brisbane, playing on the wing, and he scored a try in his team’s by 13-8 victory over Queensland. When Eddie Mandible was unable to play in the return match, McCabe partnered ‘Darb’ Hickey in the centres and scored a try that earned New South Wales a 9-all draw. After such a fine debut against Queensland, the New South Wales selectors named McCabe as a centre in the team to tour Britain later in the year.
But first, his South Sydney side met the powerful Newtown team in a semi-final on a water-logged SCG. McCabe and Peter Burge who were both selected in the touring team elected not to play in the game, which Newtown won 14-0. McCabe was not required for the two matches played by New South Wales against the visiting Anglo/Welsh team before the side left for Britain. As soon as the team arrived at Plymouth, McCabe and Danny Carroll managed a game with Plymouth against Gloucester and each scored a try. It was just as well for McCabe that he did, because he was not selected for the first eight games of the tour.
Ironically, McCabe’s initial chance came in the Olympic final at the expense of tour vice-captain, Fred Wood, who dropped out and Chris McKivat moved to scrum-half with McCabe at five-eighth. The match against the United Kingdom, represented by Cornwall, was staged at Shepherd’s Bush, London. McCabe was superb, scoring two tries in Australia’s 32-3 victory that brought the team Olympic Gold Medals. With McKivat in his proper position of scrum-half at last, McCabe established a fine partnership with him and proceeded to run in a number of tries in later matches. Rather unluckily, McCabe fell from favour after Australia’s 24-3 win over London in the return encounter at the Rectory Field at Blackheath.
Ward Prentice finally got an opportunity and played well enough to earn a place in the Welsh international. After a long absence, McCabe re-appeared on the wing against Swansea, missed the next game against Cardiff and found himself at five-eighth for the England international, with Prentice moving to centre to replace Mandible. In the match, McKivat and McCabe revived memories of their great combination in the Olympic final with the latter’s bewildering sidestepping bamboozling the English defenders. McCabe really made his reputation in this scintillating display, with the Wallabies securing three tries in winning 9-3.
Thereafter, McCabe became a vital part of the team, featuring at centre when not required at five-eighth. In all, he played 12 games in Britain and Wales and scored sixteen tries. In California and Canada, McCabe played in all five matches and scored four tries. He returned to Australia established as the best five-eighth in the country. In 1909, McCabe continued on in rugby but, early in the season, he signed a contract to play three matches of rugby league in September that year for the princely sum of 150 pounds, the second highest fee paid to the 14 Wallaby defectors. Before switching codes, McCabe played two matches for New South Wales against Queensland and took part in the Wallabies versus New South Wales game on June 5, 1909.
McCabe opened the Wallabies’ account when he pounced on a dropped ball and scooted down the right wing, sidestepping hapless opponents before changing pace to touch down for a superb try that showcased his array of talents. The Wallabies won easily by 22-16 and then eight of the side linked with Craig, McMurtrie, McIntyre, Mandible, Peter Burge, Dix and Billy Farnsworth to play the Kangaroos in the three matches in September. Subsequently, a fourth match was added. In his first season of rugby league, McCabe played for South Sydney and represented New South Wales against Queensland but was supplanted by Newtown’s Billy Farnsworth, a demon tackler, for the games against the touring British team.
When the Kangaroos toured Britain in 1911, Farnsworth was again preferred. Undaunted, McCabe continued playing for South Sydney and was a member of the Rabbitohs when they won the City Cup in 1912. In an all too short rugby career, Arthur McCabe played four games for New South Wales, scoring five tries and appeared in just the one Test match but it was a beauty against England. In addition, he won an Olympic Gold Medal. He died on 1st May 1924 at 36 years of age.