Douglass Peter Gray (‘Buster’) McLean

  • 87Age
PositionUtility
Date Of Birth21 April 1934
Height6ft 3in
Weight14st 7lb
Place Of BirthSouthport, QLD
SchoolToowoomba Grammar School
Debut ClubSouthern Districts (Brisbane)
ProvinceQLD

Biography

Gray McLean was a tall, lanky utility forward with a preference for the middle row who joined the Royal Australian Air Force and earned Wallaby colours on the 1958 tour to New Zealand. 

Little is known of McLean’s early life however he did spend years nine and 10 of his secondary schooling at Toowoomba Grammar (1948-49). While there, McLean made the swim team and played rugby for the 4th XV. He also watched on as the college 1st XV, with fellow future Wallabies ‘Lou’ Hatherell (captain), Ian McMillian and Ray Colbert leading the charge, captured the 1948 GPS title as undefeated premiers.

McLean left TGS aged 15 before he entered the Royal Australian Air Force as a radio apprentice in 1951. He played club rugby with Souths however it was not until 1956 that McLean earned a taste of senior representative football when he won selection for Queensland Combined Services. That same year McLean won the first of his 23 state caps when he came off the bench in the 14-3 win over New England. 

The following year McLean took part in the controversial trials for the Fourth Wallabies tour. The ARFU had arranged an interstate carnival for the purpose of selecting the team. The program that was agreed had Queensland up against South Australia and then Victoria. The state with the best record was then to play the NSW No.1 side on the day prior to the naming of the squad. However, and at the last minute, NSW forced a change in the schedule to instead trial composite teams - Australia vs. The Rest, Possibles vs. Probables and Northern States (for whom McLean was selected) vs. Southern States - which allowed Country New South Wales players to be included with better company. The QRU protested but they were the sole vote against the motion. The controversy around the trial structure paled in comparison to that generated by the makeup of the final squad. Seasoned fullback / fly-half Dick Tooth, who was also the incumbent Australian captain (10 caps), Cyril Burke (26 caps) and Keith Cross (19 caps) were sensationally excluded by the five-man selection panel - Dave Cowper, Eddie Bonis, Tom Pauling, Bill McLaughlin and Max Carpenter. Of the 30 players ultimately selected there were seven from Country, just three Queenslanders and a single Victorian. 

In 1958 McLean missed out on the opportunity to face the touring Maori, both at state and national level however Dave Emanuel and Tony Miller - who were the locking combination for each of the three Maori Tests - declared themselves unavailable for the subsequent tour to New Zealand. McLean showed up well in the final trial, as Queensland edged New South Wales 10-6, and was rewarded with selection alongside Jon White and Jack Carroll as the only three locks for the arduous 13 fixture tour. 

McLean made his Australian debut in the second match - the 9-11 loss to Wanganui - and was then named as a 'reserve', on standby for Kevin Ryan (bruised thigh), for the opening international in Wellington. He started three further uncapped fixtures before the selectors chose to retain the core of the Test team for four of the final five games “to enable the team to work into a more solid combination for the third and deciding Test at Auckland.”

In 1959 McLean represented Queensland against the might of the British Lions (L 11-39) before he rounded out his representative career two years later in the state’s 9-13 loss to Fiji.  

Highlights

1958
McLean played four matches for Australia on the tour to New Zealand - vs. Wanganui at Wanganui (W 11-9), vs. Nelson at Nelson (W 20-11), vs. Southland at Invercargill (L 8-26), and vs. South Canterbury at Timaru (W 26-17)

 
Douglass Peter Gray (‘Buster’) McLean