George Arthur Mackay
- 236Wallaby Number
George Mackay, a fullback of great pluck was known as ‘Little George’ who had the misfortune to emerge at the same time as Alec Ross, the great Waratahs’ custodian. That moniker was not meant as a slight on Mackay but rather to differentiate him from ‘Big George’ McKay, his fellow clubman and Cambridge Blue winner.
Born and raised in Sydney, ‘Little George’ was educated at Newington College where he played in both the 1st XV and the 1st XI in his final year (1922). Described by the press of the day as ‘game’, ‘reliable’ and ‘lightweight’, Mackay made his first grade debut with Glebe-Balmain in 1926. He immediately impressed with faultless fielding, good kicking and tackling, and his rush stopping was said to be ‘fearless’.
As a consequence Mackay won selection in the Third XV for the key trials ahead of the incoming New Zealand tour however it was opined that he “was more worthy of selection in the second side”. Ross started in the each of the first three ‘Tests’ of that series however an injured shoulder suffered in the second international was further damaged in the third match. Somewhat surprisingly the NSWRU hastily scheduled an extra match against the tourists, one that required New Zealand to return to Sydney from Melbourne following their scheduled fixture with Victoria. As a result of his injured shoulder Ross was ruled out of that fourth game and Mackay came in as one of nine changes to the third Test XV.
Although he did not know it at the time that match was Mackay’s Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986). Unfortunately Mackay was injured during the first half and West’s Sid King came on as his replacement. The following year Ross was considered the ‘only outstanding [fullback] claimant’ for selection on the Waratahs tour to the northern hemisphere. In a press review of other candidates it was written that next to Ross “comes George Mackay who is steadily improving his standard of play and becoming reliable and dependable in every grade of rugger. None of the other contenders appear to have the big match temperament”.
In the early trials Mackay hurt his wrist against Combined Universities but carried the injury into the key No.1 (with Ross at fullback) v No.2 trial where his tackling, particularly one on a rampaging Jack Ford, showed that size would not stop him. Unfortunately he aggravated the injury and then immediately stood down from his next club match right at the time the touring side was selected. It is not known if Mackay’s injury played a part in the final selections however when all came to pass only one fullback - Ross - set sail for England with the 29-man touring party. There appears to be no record of Mackay’s rugby career or otherwise after this time.
George Mackay played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #236.
Mackay won his first Test cap at fullback in the 4th Test, 21-28 loss to New Zealand at the Sydney Showground.