John Charles "Cracker" McDonald
- 319Wallaby Number
Jack McDonald was a hardened, pacy and vigorous flanker who, like many of his contemporaries, had his international rugby career ended in its prime by World War II.
Born and raised in Toowoomba, McDonald was educated at the Toowoomba Grammar School and played two years in the 1st XV (1930-31). In 1936, and after four years out of the game, he returned to rugby with the Past Grammars club and was named as captain for Toowoomba in the intercity match against Brisbane. The locals won 32-21 and of the many home team players that enhanced their reputations none did more so more than McDonald who, it was written, 'was the star forward on the field’ and had 'immense possibilities.’
Nonetheless the equally impressive Boyd Oxlade was the Queensland open-side flanker for the major representative matches that season. A year later McDonald’s form was so compelling that the Queensland selectors had little option but to shift Oxlade to the blind-side of the scrum. In 1938, and with the benefit of some extra poundage that did not detract from his speed from the base of the scrum, McDonald continued to push his claim for higher honours and it was said he was 'the finest product of [Darling] Downs rugby union since the game was revived in 1929’. He then starred in the interstate series to be dubbed the ‘find of the season’ yet surprisingly Oxlade was picked at open-side for the first Test against New Zealand.
A one-sided, 9-24 defeat saw the selectors make seven changes for Brisbane and McDonald was named for his Test debut. He delivered a 'striking display’ and followed it with a similar performance in the final match of the series to be dubbed a near certainty for the following year’s tour to the U.K. One of eight Queenslanders chosen for the Second Wallabies the tour was unfortunately abandoned just two days after their arrival in England when war was declared on Germany. Nonetheless the team did enjoy the rare privilege of being received at Buckingham Palace for an hour with the King and Queen. McDonald wrote of the experience: 'They are both very human. The Queen is particularly charming and conversed freely on any subject discussed. She told, me she remembered quite well visiting Toowoomba when they toured as the Duke and Duchess of York. The two Princesses had been shifted out of the danger zone to a country residence and the Queen appeared very pleased when given two Wallaby badges for them.’
McDonald returned home to the family printing business in Toowoomba and joined the RAAF. Later, he coached rugby at TGS, refereed representative matches in Toowoomba and became a Queensland selector.
McDonald won his first Test cap at flanker, in a back-row combination with Boyd Oxlade and Aub Hodgson, in the 14-20, 2nd Test loss to new Zealand at the Exhibition Ground. That same trio were retained for the 3rd Test, 6-14 defeat at the S.C.G.