- 267Wallaby Number
Gordon McGhie was a flying winger who came to prominence in the late 1920s / early 1930s as the Queensland Rugby Union reformed following a ten-year hiatus. McGhie defied his slight, diminutive frame - he stood just 157cms tall - to become a prolific tryscorer and enjoyed an enviable Test record in which he did not play in a losing team.
Born in Maryborough, McGhie played rugby league for Trinity in Cairns after he left school. He moved to Past Grammars in the Brisbane competition and in 1928 represented Brisbane against Central Queensland.
In 1929, and following the revival of rugby union in Queensland, McGhie switched codes and played for YMCA where his impact was immediate. ‘Said to be of spectacular class’ he soon found himself on debut for Queensland against New South Wales and it was written that his ‘speed, swerve and change of pace are the best since Harold Horder.’ Although not chosen for the opening Test win against New Zealand, McGhie was called up to replace Cam Gordon on the left wing for his debut in Brisbane. Like Eddie Thompson, McGhie was refused leave by his employer to attend at the Exhibition Ground for a team photograph. As a consequence both players had to be content with an insert. In that match, and just as the visitors looked likely to extend their lead, McGhie turned the tide for Australia in what was said to be ‘the best individual effort of the match’.
The All Blacks unfolded a smart three-quarter movement when McGhie picked up a loose pass and kicked ahead. Racing through he was upon Waterman when the latter attempted to field it. Waterman failed and McGhie regathered. ‘Swerving this way and that he tricked the fullback and scored between the posts. Lawton subsequently goaled’ and Australia went on to both wrap up the win and record the first series victory over their great rival. The following year , McGhie and the equally diminutive Owen Crossman were Australia’s wingers when McGhie scored Australia’s second try to help Australia beat the British Lions 6-5.
In 1931 McGhie was declared unavailable for Queensland’s tour to New South Wales and as a result he effectively gave up the chance of selection in the Wallaby team to tour New Zealand. A year later he was ‘in rare form’ yet missed a spot on the 1933 tour to South Africa. One Australian selector later admitted that McGhie, ‘was, in my opinion, the outstanding winger in the Commonwealth and it is a tragedy that he was not asked to make the South African trip.’ As a consequence McGhie formally retired from representative rugby.
McGhie won his first Test cap on the right wing in the 2nd Test, 17-9 victory over New Zealand in Brisbane. In that match McGhie became the 22nd Wallaby to score a Test try on debut. He retained his spot in the side, but was shifted to the left wing in order to accommodate the return of Eric Ford, in the 3rd Test, 15-13 win at the S.C.G.
He started on the left wing, and scored what proved to be the decisive try, as Australia defeated the British Lions 6-5 in Sydney.