James Douglas McLean

  • 3Caps
  • 54Wallaby Number
Date Of BirthApril 15, 1879
Place of BirthIpswich, QLD
Other ClubRoma (QLD)
SchoolNot known
Debut ClubSouths (Brisbane)
Debut Test Match1904 Wallabies v Great Britain, 2nd Test Brisbane
Final Test Match1905 Wallabies v New Zealand, Dunedin
DiedNovember 20, 1947


A prolific try scoring winger, Doug McLean was the sire of the famous McLean clan, probably the most outstanding family in Australian rugby history, covering three generations to date. In fact, Doug McLean improved the gene lines for the family by marrying the daughter of the legendary Jack Wieneke. A giant of a man, Wieneke stood six feet six inches and weighed seventeen stone. He was the son of a German immigrant and an outstanding athlete, whose prodigious track and field performances in the 1880’s earned him the status of a folk hero, particularly in Roma, his home town. His forte was the standing jump and he once won a bet in Roma by clearing more than 13 feet from the verandah of the Queen’s Arms Hotel across the footpath into McDowall Street with a standing jump.

Born on 15 April 1879, Doug McLean was strongly built, of medium height and possessed great speed. He was prominent in athletics. In a sprint race at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, he beat the world champion sprinters, Arthur Postle and ‘Blue Streak’ McDonald. But he is best remembered as a rugby footballer. Sporting a slim moustache, which he maintained throughout his career, McLean began his playing junior rugby in Brisbane for the Gregory Football Club. The team included future Australian winger, Tom Ward, and the Gaffney brothers – Tom and Frank. Both Gaffneys were fine footballers. Frank Gaffney became a teaching Brother and, as the renowned Brother Henry, was to become a superb coach for St Joseph’s College, Sydney, and the mentor for many famous footballers. The Gregory club won the Junior premiership in 1897 and 1898. In 1899, McLean played for Rosevales, the 1899 premiers. He first played senior football in 1900, when Queensland rugby was greatly strengthened with the great Lonnie Spragg moving up from Sydney. Spragg, who had played wonderfully well in four Test matches against the Reverend Mullineux’s team, was a prolific try scorer and goal kicker. He was joined by Jack Hindmarsh from the Newtown club. Both were outstanding backs and they provided stiff competition for McLean who was looking for an opportunity in first class rugby.

Fred Lea, the State selector, was impressed by McLean’s speed and picked him in the touring party for the interstate games in Sydney. En route the Queensland team played a match against 18 of Warwick and McLean scored three tries to stake his claim for a spot in the team. However, Queensland fielded a strong three-quarter line of Hindmarsh, Bob McCowan ‘Bluey’ Dixon and Spragg. The decision to play Spragg on the wing instead of centre cost McLean a place in the opening game against New South Wales. The Queenslanders had expected to win but were denied 11-10, when they failed to play the whistle and stood by as Charlie White ran around to score under the posts. McLean was given a run in the midweek match against a strong Metropolitan side that won 12-8. For the return encounter with New South Wales, McLean came in to make his debut on the wing when Hindmarsh moved to centre in place of Dixon. McLean had the difficult task of marking big, hard-running Charlie White in heavy conditions, with the pitch resembling a quagmire. Queensland lost narrowly by 11-9. When the teams met in Brisbane, McCowan was back to fullback where he had played his first two Test matches, Spragg was in his true position at centre with Alec Henry, while Hindmarsh and McLean were on the wings. This was a powerful Queensland side, boasting eight internationals and four future ones, and it had little trouble in winning both matches 8-0 and 20-0. In 1901, the QRU introduced electorate football and clubs were set up based on electoral boundaries.

McLean joined the South Brisbane club, which had the services of two international halfbacks in Alex Henry and Ernie Currie and State representatives in Fred Brandon, Billy Austin and Tassie Long. It was no surprise when Souths beat North Brisbane at the end of the season for the Hospitals Cup and the gold medals. McLean began the 1901 season in style, scoring two tries for Brisbane against Rockhampton. Meanwhile, after the decisive victories the previous season, the State side had suffered some losses. Bob McCowan had gone to North Queensland, Sine Boland had gone to the Boer War and ‘Brickey’ Freestone and Frank Nicholson, two big forwards, withdrew from the touring team to Sydney. McLean played in the first match, which New South Wales won 17-10 after trailing 10-5 at halftime. McLean was omitted from the return game for ‘Blue’ Dixon with Spragg moving to the wing. Again New South Wales was victorious – this time by 11 points to 8. Once again, the Queenslanders were a different team at home, winning both interstate matches – 25-11 and 15-6. McLean played in both games and had his best matches for Queensland to date, which established his reputation as a fine attacking winger and a sure choice for the State.

In 1902, Phil Carmichael joined McLean at the South Brisbane club to begin a long career that was to take him away with the first Wallabies. McLean, however, resided for a time in the East Brisbane electorate but continued to play for Souths. Controversy about his residence was to flare up in the following year. McLean confirmed his class in an early State trial after the Country Week Carnival and was again chosen for Queensland. By now, he was one of the senior players in the team and no longer concerned about his place in the side. Prior to the start of the 1903 season, McLean moved to Hopetown, a village off the Gympie line, to manage a hotel. He therefore applied to play for North Brisbane, a powerful club that had the services of Lonnie Spragg and a number of representative footballers. The QRU rejected his application but ruled that he was permitted to play for East Brisbane or South Brisbane. After the controversy, McLean played for Country A against City A. The Country side included Charlie Redwood, ‘King’ Renwick, Jack Meibusch and Billy Richards but was beaten 24-3. Because of a dearth of class backs, McLean was selected in the centres for the opening interstate match but reverted to the wing for the second game. Poor Lonnie Spragg suffered a serious knee injury in a club match and ‘Blue’ Dixon was unavailable. Queensland lost both games.

Back in Brisbane, McLean had his first taste of international football when the powerful New Zealand team arrived. Taking his place on the wing again, McLean found the match a big step up in pace, as the tourists outclassed Queensland by 17-0 and 28-0. McLean and Charlie Redwood were the best of the Queensland backs. When New South Wales visited Brisbane, the QRU decided against the expense of using country players and refused to pay for Billy Richards to stay down from Charters Towers, nor was McLean invited to play and Phil Carmichael took his place on the wing. The 1904 season loomed as an important one with the impending visit from a British team, representative of the four home unions, and led by the Scottish forward David ‘Darkie’ Bedell-Sivright. By a strange quirk of the QRU, the Country Week carnival was not staged until after the State side was chosen for the southern tour. Thus, McLean, up at Gympie, was not considered for selection and, as he did not take part in Country Week, his prospects of playing representative football again were dim.

Fortunately for McLean, Bedell-Sivright’s team possessed those Welsh wizards in the backs who overran all opposition, defeating New South Wales and Australia convincingly. When the British team thrashed Queensland 24-0 in their first meeting, McLean was called into the Brisbane team to play centre with Phil Hassett, while Carmichael and Fred Nicholson were on the wings This Brisbane side did rather better than Queensland in losing 17-3. After a good performance, McLean was included in the Queensland team for the return fixture in the centres with Carmichael, while Charlie Redwood and Nicholson were on the wings. Queensland performed more strongly than any other side against the tourists and led 3-0 at halftime, before a typically dominant second half performance by the British gave them victory by 18 points to 7. McLean played brilliantly for Queensland and earned his first Test cap in the process, along with Phil Carmichael who joined him in the centres. This spirited Queensland performance won the State seven places in the Australian team for the second Test match at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground. A serious shoulder injury to ‘Bluey’ Burdon and, an injury to Carmichael, put paid to Australia’s hopes and they lost 17-3. McLean retained his place for the third Test match in Sydney but was shifted to the wing with a new centre pairing of Frank Futter and Stan Wickham. After a fairly even first half with the tourists leading 3-0, McLean showed blistering pace to follow up Wickham’s high kick and tackle the fullback, Arthur O’Brien. To the great dismay of the spectators, referee Tom Pauling ruled McLean off side and Australia lost a golden opportunity, and the momentum of an excellent restart. The result was that the Test was lost 16-0.

After the excitement of the British tour, McLean was away in Gympie and missed the return matches against New South Wales in Brisbane. However, in the 1905 season, McLean was back with Souths and was named captain of the Queensland team in both matches in Brisbane. His team won the first match 8-6 but lost the second 15-3. After the match, the Australian selectors chose the Australian team to tour New Zealand and McLean was one of nine Queenslanders named in the touring team. There were still two interstate matches to be played in Sydney before the players left for the tour. For a change, Queensland forsook rail travel and sailed to Sydney on the Warregoonly to strike bad weather, which forced the Warrego to put into Newcastle, which forced the team to complete the journey by rail. The visit that started badly ended badly with New South Wales running up scores of 24-9 and 22-6 over a team racked by influenza. There were cries in the Sydney press for the Australian team to be re-selected. McLean, who had been suffering with influenza, had not been at his best and he and Fred Nicholson were two players targeted by the media. They called for both to be replaced in the touring team by New South Wales players, but the QRU stood firm and refused. After all, they were footing a large part of the bill. The NSWRU tried to have Eddie Mandible added to the team and again the QRU resisted. Not to be denied, the NSWRU sent Mandible on the tour, hoping to get him into the party but without success.

The first fully representative Australian side to tour New Zealand departed on the Warrimoo immediately after the second interstate match in Sydney. They wore newly designed jerseys with blue and maroon hoops. McLean’s form picked up again and, after missing the first match, he played well but was not originally in consideration for the Test match, which came as the fourth match of the tour. He was only chosen when ‘Boxer’ Russell was unable to play. New Zealand was not at full strength with 27 players sailing en route to a tour of Britain. Continuous showers that fell throughout the game ruined the match at Tahuna Park, Dunedin. After New Zealand led 5-0, the Australian backs moved the ball to McLean who scored in the corner. Along with Stan Wickham, McLean was the best of the Australian three-quarters in the loss by 14-3. He does have the distinction of scoring the first try by an Australian against New Zealand. Doug McLean played in the remaining games on the tour to complete six of the seven tour matches. He was the leading try scorer with five of the nine tries scored by the tourists. This set a record that was emulated by two further generations of McLeans – yet another notable milestone in the history of this remarkable family.

In 1936, Doug’s son, Doug McLean junior, was the leading try scorer with 13 tries and in 1972, Doug’s grandson, Jeff McLean, was the top try getter for the ‘Woeful’ Wallabies with nine tries plus 11 conversions and nine penalty goals. In 1906, Doug McLean was living in Roma and he was chosen to play for Country in a State trial against Brisbane but withdrew before the game. He was then selected for Queensland sight unseen by the selectors. There was a public outcry over this but McLean took his place in the team and was roundly hooted by the crowd who blamed him for dropping the kick-off. However, in their fury at McLean’s selection, the spectators missed the fact that it was Esmond Parkinson, on debut, who missed taking the ball. The two interstate matches in Brisbane proved to be McLean’s last games for Queensland, as he could not obtain leave from his employer for the interstate games in Sydney.

By 1908, Doug McLean was a hotelier in Roma. He had not played any serious rugby since the interstate matches in 1906 in Brisbane. But rugby league was being launched in Queensland and he was persuaded in May 1908 to play for a team styled ‘Australia’ in a rugby league match against Baskerville’s New Zealand All Stars along with fellow Queenslanders Bob Tubman and Mickey Dore. On 11 May 1908, the QRU Executive Committee quickly passed the following resolution: It having been reported Dore, McLean and Tubman had taken part in a Rugby League match in Sydney last Saturday, it is resolved that under the rules of professionalism of the Rugby Football Union, the following players Michael James Dore, James Douglas McLean and Robert Tubman have forfeited their amateur status and are therefore expelled from all clubs playing Rugby Union football and shall not be eligible for re-election or election to any club. It seemed that McLean took part in the rugby league game as a ‘bit of a lark’. He was then 29 years of age and past his prime - so why not? In fact, he was not finished with rugby. He continued to promote the rugby code in Roma and was President of the Roma Rugby Union in 1912.

In all, Doug McLean played 21 matches for Queensland, including 18 against New South Wales, two against New Zealand and one against Great Britain, and scored four tries. In addition, he played in three test matches for Australia and five other tour matches in New Zealand. In the McLean dynasty, Doug McLean had four footballing sons, Doug junior, Bill, Jack and Bob. Doug junior, Bill and Jack represented Australia, with Bill captaining the Wallabies on tours of New Zealand and the British Isles. Bob, Bill and Jack played for GPS during the War but injuries and War curtailed Bob’s football. He was the father of Jeff and Paul McLean who also played for Australia. Paul also captained the Wallabies, while Bill’s son, Peter McLean, represented Australia, and his other son, Ian, also played representative football, to complete the most remarkable Australian Rugby family.

Born in Brisbane on the 15 of April 1879, he died in 1947. Douglas’s Wallaby number was 54, he played in three Tests, two against Great Britain in 1904, and one against New Zealand in 1905. Doug was the founder of the McLean clan’s rugby tradition. He was described as a strapping winger (although he did play some games for QLD as a centre) whose sporting versatility was legendary in western Queensland. He was adept at cross-cut saw jumping and standing jumps, and riding buck jumpers. He was an outstanding sprinter and competed in athletics around Queensland were he met the legendary athlete Jack Wienecke and married his daughter. Doug started playing his football for the Roma club, later he played for south Brisbane, when he moved to Brisbane. However, there was some controversy when he applied to play for North Brisbane, even though he was living in East Brisbane electorate. By this stage he was managing a hotel in Hopetown – a village off the Gympie line. His application to play for North Brisbane was rejected, but he was allowed to play for either East or South Brisbane .

Between 1900 and 1906 he played 21 games for Queensland, 18 of which were against NSW. He captained the State on four occasions. On the 1st of August 1903 he played for Queensland against New Zealand at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground, New Zealand won the match 17 to 0. This was followed up with another match on the 8th of August also against New Zealand at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground; New Zealand won 28 to 0. His Test career consists of three games, two in 1904 and one in 1905. He played twice against the touring Great Britain side in 1904. The first game was played at Brisbane on the 23/7/04, were Australia lost 17 to 3. The second game played in Sydney on the 30/7/1904 lost again 16 to 0. When Australia toured New Zealand in 1905, he played against New Zealand on the 2/9/1905 in Dunedin. Australia lost the match 14 to 3, with Doug scored one try. He played in five tour matches during the tour, the first was against Marlborough, Nelson, Buller and the West Coast, and Australia lost the match 12 to 3.

The second tour match was played against Canterbury – South Canterbury on the 26/8/1905. Australia lost the match 8 to 3. The third tour match was played only four days after their loss to New Zealand in Dunedin, against the Manawatu – Hawkes Bay team on the 6/9/1905. Australia won the match 7 to 5, with Doug scoring one try. The fourth tour match was against Wanganui – Taranaki on the 9/9/1905. Australia won 18 to 13, with Doug scoring two tries. The final tour match was played in and against Auckland on the 16/9/1905. Australia won this tight match 10 to 8, with Doug running in one try. Doug McLean was the first of the McLean rugby clan, His three sons also played for Australia – A.D. McLean (Wing) in 1933, 1933 and 1936, W.M. McLean (forward) in 1946 and 1947 and J.R. McLean (Wing) in 1946, and three grandsons have done so since, Jeff McLean, Paul McLean and Peter McLean. Doug passed at Rockhampton in 1947.

As for rugby league, he, Mick Dore and Bob Tubman were the first Queenslanders to turn professional. As Diehm put it in Red! Red! Red!: “It having been reported Dore, McLean and Tubman had taken part in a Rugby League match in Sydney last Saturday, it was resolved: That under the rules of professionalism of Rugby Football Union, the following players Michael James Dore, James Douglas McLean and Robert Tubman have forfeited their amateur status and are therefore expelled from all clubs playing Rugby Union Football and shall not be eligible for re-election or election to any club”. The three players had played for the Australian Rugby League team during the New Zealanders tour of 1907-08, and were the first players banned in Queensland for playing Rugby League. The Brisbane Courier report of that first game stated: “The game was fast and open and play shifted from one end of the ground to the other with amazing rapidity.” Diehm also wrote: “Doug McLean, then 28 and a hotelier at Roma, had not played any serious Rugby for two years and he quickly faded from the scene, later to link up with the Roma Rugby Union”. In 1912, Doug McLean was back in the Rugby Union fold, as president of the Roma Rugby Union club.

James Douglas McLean