George Robert McKay
- 160Wallaby Number
“Big George” McKay, so called to distinguish between him and his similarly-named club teammate “Little George” Mackay (a fullback who played one match against New Zealand in 1926), was a mobile, hard-working tight forward who scored more than his share of tries. Although never a sure selection, his name was always among those under serious discussion in the early 1920s and he would, these days, be regarded as an ideal squad man – almost as good as the first-choice but versatile enough to give cover in more than one position. His first major contest was in 1919, when he represented New South Wales against the returning AIF team, and did enough to be regarded as a good prospect.
He made his full State debut (now recognised as Australian representation) in the second match of the tough 1920 series with New Zealand, displacing Bob Marrott, but was replaced by the same player after New South Wales took a second loss in that match. The fact he was in contention for the main matches was borne out by his selection for both Metropolitan Union fifteens that opposed the All Blacks; the first match was a sternly-contested fixture but the second was one the locals would wish to forget, as the New Zealanders ran riot in posting a record 79-5 scoreline. McKay was right in the mix in 1921, when the first Springboks played three matches against New South Wales within a week.
He missed the first match but replaced Charlie Fox for the second and third contests; the visitors won both matches but McKay was rewarded for an industrious afternoon in the last match with a try. He again won Metropolitan selection for the union’s match with the tourists. Following the home series, New South Wales made a 10-match tour of New Zealand, although the majority of opponents were drawn from the second rank of provinces – a fact that tends to obscure the very successful nature of the trip and the quality of players available in Sydney at the time. The Waratahs won the first nine matches on tour, including a resounding 17-0 win over a below full-strength All Black side, and did so despite having a pack of midgets competing for possession.
McKay, who weighed 14 stone (90kg), was the second heaviest forward, as eight of his colleagues weighed less than 13st (83kg). Even in those days that was a tiny pack and the side gave away a significant weight advantage to every side met, conquering through speed in the loose and an extremely good backline who took a large percentage of its chances. McKay was not one of the tour’s stars and Fox and Ray Elliott were the first-choice locks for much of the trip, although ‘Big George’ played well enough when called upon; his best match was against Marlborough but despite being given three straight matches before the Test he was unable to secure a place in the fifteen that won such a notable victory.
His brief international career ended when he took his place in each of the matches against a strong New Zealand Maori team in 1922. After being one of the best forwards on the ground in the first match of three thrillers, McKay continued to be prominent throughout the series and scored tries in each of the next two matches, demonstrating his ability to remain close to the ball in the loose without shirking his tight responsibilities. Despite this good showing, however, he was replaced by Bond Bonnor for the series with a full All Black team a month later, representing the two lesser combinations of Metropolitan and the State Second XV against the tourists. McKay scored a try in the latter match although his team received a heavy defeat. This proved to be McKay’s last major outing, even though he was still young at 25 and by now quite experienced, although he continued to play at club level in the city.