James Leslie McInerney
To play first XV rugby at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill is an excellent achievement. To do so for three successive years suggests a player is quite exceptional, special, or even out-of-the-box. One man who achieved that feat was a future Wallaby, the uncompromising No.8 James McInerney.
Born in Sydney, McInerney played his first rugby with the Lindfield club on the mid-north shore before he began his secondary education at Joeys. To top off his three years of 1st XV rugby (1976-78), McInerney captained the side in his final year and won the Brother Henry trophy as the best forward. James Gray wrote in The Tradition: “In a season when teams were evenly matched, the strong, heady play of James McInerney...often made the difference for St Joseph’s.”
McInerney went on to play Colts at Gordon but switched to University after he enrolled in an Economics / Law degree. At Uni, he formed a dangerous back-of-the-scrum combination with another exciting young prospect -- Nick Farr-Jones -- and together with the prodigiously talented fullback Rob Egerton the trio helped to lift the prestigious club out of Sydney’s second division doldrums after they won the 1983 premiership.
At the time McInerney faced stiff competition in the form of Peter Lucas, Ross Reynolds and Steve Tuynman, merely to play for New South Wales however his patience was rewarded in 1984 when he debuted at flanker for the Waratahs against Counties at Pukekohe. Two years later McInerney enjoyed his best representative season with three matches for his state and two for Sydney before he won selection for the Wallabies’ tour to New Zealand, a side that also included Reynolds and Tuynman. Chosen at No.8 in the opening match against Waikato, McInerney was forced to leave the field after he sustained a deep laceration to his calf muscle courtesy of hardman Richard Loe’s stray boot. Simon Poidevin wrote of the incident, “Jim McInerney suffered the worst rugby wound I’ve ever seen. I went over for a look when it happened and a huge chunk of flesh was hanging from his leg. One could only wonder how an ordinary football stud could cause such a horrific injury?” Not surprisingly McInerney was sidelined -- for five games / three weeks -- although he did return to start four of the final six uncapped matches that followed the first Test.
In 1987 McInerney suffered a neck injury, one in which the tendons were torn from the C3/C4 vertebrae, which put him out for the season. A year later he moved to Brisbane at the invitation of former Wallaby coach Bob Templeton. He played his club rugby for University and earned the first of his three Queensland caps against the ACT before a re-occurrence of his neck issue saw him retire from the game.
James McInerney played five uncapped matches for Australia in his one season of international rugby and he was part of just the second Wallaby team to win a Bledisloe Cup series on New Zealand soil.
McInerney made his Australian debut in the 21-21 draw with Waikato at Hamilton. He also started against Buller (W 62-0), South Canterbury (W 33-11), Southland (W 55-0) and Thames Valley (W 31-7).