Jan Melville Swain McShane
- 305Wallaby Number
Jan McShane was an outstanding halfback who walked away from near-certain Wallaby selection to further his education in the U.K.
As much a scholar as a rugby player, McShane was a man of ‘sterling qualities’. A state school graduate from Tamworth High School he moved to Sydney Technical High School, played for Mosman juniors, and then entered The University of Sydney. A stout defender, and an accurate and speedy passer, he enrolled in Engineering and won the 1929 inter-faculty lightweight boxing championship.
In rugby McShane was graded in the fourths however, due to his fine form, he was soon in first grade and in 1931 had the unexpected honour of representing in the three ‘Tests’ against New Zealand Universities. McShane won two rugby Blues (1931-32) and was then selected as New South Wales’ Rhodes Scholar in late 1932. That same year McShane graduated with his Bachelor of Science and soon thereafter informed the Australian selectors that due to his studies he would not be available for the tour to South Africa in 1933.
The brilliant young half, favourably compared by many with Sid Malcolm, and generally voted as the Waratahs’ logical successor in representative teams, was considered almost certain to fill one of the tour’s halfback positions. He departed for Oxford, joined New College and won three Blues in rugby (1933-35). McShane also captained the University and played in their narrow 9-10 loss to the 1935 All Blacks. He returned to Australia in late 1936, moved to Newcastle and joined the Wanderers’ Club for the 1937 season.
McShane picked up where he left off and was back in the Waratah jersey for their third match of the year against Queensland. The Sydney Mail said his play, ‘was as graceful and rhythmic as a poem. Here was a master craftsman moulding some delicate pattern.’ Five weeks later McShane started inside ‘Shirts’ Richards as New South Wales upset South Africa 17-6 and as a consequence he was chosen for his Test debut, as vice-captain no less, in Sydney.
In 1938 McShane walked away from representative rugby in order to concentrate on his career with the Broken Hill Proprietary Co., a.k.a. BHP.
McShane won his first Test cap at halfback in the 1st Test, 5-9 loss to South Africa at the S.C.G where it said his play was ‘outstanding among the Australian players.’ He partnered Paul Collins in the 2nd Test, 17-26 defeat, also in Sydney.