Malcolm Julian McArthur
- 101Wallaby Number
Born on 30 July 1882 in Sydney, Malcolm McArthur left school early and went into the insurance industry. He began playing senior rugby at the early age of 14 years in 1898 with the Warrigul club. This club was centred around Double Bay and had the likes of Dally Messenger, Sandy Pearce, Billy Cann and the great all-rounder, ‘Snowy ‘ Baker, in its playing ranks. The Warriguls were a founding member part of the City and Suburban Association in 1901, a forerunner to sub-districts. When the NSWRU decided to disband club football after the allegations of professionalism in 1899, they formed a competition based on electorate lines.
A powerful new club, Eastern Suburbs, was formed in 1900. As players began to drift off, Easts looked to the Warriguls as a feeder club and chased Messenger and others. Subsequently, they did secure the services of ‘Snowy’ Baker with the promise of a good job. In 1901, the Warriguls won the premiership and were runners up in 1902 when Snowy Baker, Messenger and McArthur were with the club. In 1903, McArthur transferred to the Randwick club – then a second-division club. After one season with Randwick, McArthur was invited to play for Eastern Suburbs in the senior competition and joined them in 1904. There he played with strong forwards in ‘Jersey’ Flegg , ‘Buck’ Buchanan and Harry Hamill – three players who later joined the rugby league.
Short, slim and clean-shaven with hair neatly parted in the middle, McArthur cut a dashing figure as befitted one who was to become a successful insurance broker. He was blessed with speed about the field coupled with strong defensive qualities that caused Easts to play him often at number eight. However, he was to make his name in representative football as a prop forward. In 1905, the large area zoned to the Eastern Suburbs club was broken up and a new club named Sydney joined the competition. Some of the players from Easts such as Eddie Mandible left to join the Sydney club, but McArthur remained with Easts.
In 1906, McArthur captained Easts when the club made the semi-finals then took a break from the grind of club rugby and merely played social rugby while he concentrated on improving his insurance career with the New York Life Insurance Company. With the prospect of a tour of Britain and North America looming in 1908, McArthur returned to Easts and was appointed captain. A number of Easts players had been instrumental in establishing rugby league in New South Wales that year and they formed the Eastern Suburbs Rugby League Club. This greatly weakened the Easts rugby club, which saw the departure of players such as ‘Dally’ Messenger , “Sandy’ Pearce, Lou D’Alpuget, Albert Rosenfeld and ‘Jersey’ Flegg to rugby league.
Although McArthur was not required for the interstate matches that year, he played solidly for Easts. By the time of the return interstate matches in Sydney, the New South Wales selectors had released the names of 23 players who had accepted an invitation to tour the British Isles and North America at the end of the season. In conjunction with the final interstate matches, a trial match was arranged between a Metropolitan side and Western Districts, who had a number of tour candidates. McArthur was named in the Metropolitan side in the front row along with Jimmy Clarken and Charles Hammand. After performing soundly, McArthur was selected for the tour, along with Hammand, despite both not having represented his State.
An insurance broker, McArthur had no difficulty in obtaining leave from his employer, the New York Life Insurance Company. Indeed, the company arranged a special gathering for him at which the Australasian General manager, Dr FG Braithwaite, presented the buoyant McArthur with a travelling bag on behalf of his fellow workers. With Jack Barnett on the injured list, McArthur was selected to represent New South Wales against the visiting Anglo-Welsh team at the SCG in the opening match of their tour as a prop forward alongside Tom Griffin and Eddie McIntyre. Unfortunately for the organizers, the weather had been very bad in the lead-up to the game and the match took place in a sea of mud aggravated by heavy rain and the metropolitan club finals a couple of days earlier. The tourists took scrums instead of lineouts and the match proved a gruelling affair for McArthur.
The only score of the match came when the Welsh scrum half Willie Morgan kicked ahead over the line and was awarded a try. Sydney University’s Charles Hammand replaced McArthur for the return game three days later. This was also the day on which McArthur was due to sail to Britain with his team -mates. At the conclusion of the game, he and his colleagues enjoyed the official send-off and then boarded drags (open coaches) to be transported to Circular Quay where the SS Omrah awaited – delayed more than six hours to accommodate the match. Some 40,000 were present to farewell the team. Once in England, it became apparent that the tour selectors were intent on fielding the strongest team throughout the tour to ensure a creditable record. Despite being the team’s fastest forward, McArthur suffered from this policy.
Barnett had overcome his nagging leg injury and he formed the front row with Griffin and Hammand in the first four matches. Finally, the selectors relented and made nine changes to the team for the fifth match of the tour against PenygraIg on the Mid-Rhondda Ground at Tonypandy. McArthur made his tour debut in the front row with Barnett and Hammand. With the Wallabies hard-pressed at 8-3 in front, McArthur broke away and almost scored, being halted just short of the posts. Row then kicked a penalty goal and the Wallabies scraped home by 11 points to 3. This disappointing result convinced the tour selectors to revert to playing the strongest team.
However, McArthur was chosen in the eighth game of the tour against London at the Richmond Athletic Field and played impressively in his team’s narrow 3-0 victory. He was retained for the Olympic Gold Medal clash with Cornwall representing the United Kingdom at Shepherd’s Bush, London. The Wallabies scored a thumping 32-0 win to secure the gold medal , which was a handsome bonus for the victorious players. Thereafter, McArthur played regularly until Combined Midlands and East Midlands, with the great Edgar Mobbs, routed the Wallabies by 16 points to five in the penultimate match before the international with Wales.
McArthur lost his place to Hammand , who formed the Test front row against Wales. Thereafter, apart from an outing against Glamorgan League at the Taff Vale Ground, Pontypridd, the Wallabies maintained the Barnett, Griffin, Hammand front row until Griffin was sent off against Swansea. With the Wallabies never certain of the peculiar British system of dealing with players sent from the field, the Wallabies did not play Griffin in any of the remaining tour matches, including those in the United States and Canada. McArthur formed the front row in each of the remaining matches with Barnett (hooker) and Hammand. This meant that McArthur played in the international against England at the Rectory Field at Blackheath in South London.
Part of a dominating Wallaby pack, McArthur played a storming game - full of dash and energy - as the Wallabies enjoyed a satisfying 9-3 triumph over England. Enjoying the greater match play through the enforced absence of McIntyre (injured) and Griffin, McArthur continued his outstanding form as the tourists moved on to criss-cross the North American continent before returning home to a tumultuous welcome at Circular Quay. The last official match for the Wallabies proved to be a Wallabies versus New South Wales match scheduled by the NSW Rugby Football Union for 5th June 1909. Unfortunately for McArthur, Griffin was restored to favour and he formed the front row for the Wallabies with Barnett and Hammand, while McArthur was a reserve for the game along with Bob Craig and Charlie McMurtrie.
When the 1909 season started, McArthur continued with Easts and, while some of his teammates switched to rugby league in the ‘Great Wallaby Raid’, McArthur did not. He was not required by the New South Wales selectors again but continued on with Easts until 1914 when World War I erupted and competition rugby was suspended. A loyal club stalwart, McArthur donated his Olympic Certificate to Easts where it is proudly displayed in the clubhouse. In the late 1920’s McArthur began coaching Easts and the Club secured the Sydney Metropolitan first grade premiership in 1931. In all, McArthur played in 15 matches in England and Wales and in each of the five games in North America with the one international appearance against England. His sole appearance for New South Wales in Australia remained the opening match of the tour by the Anglo-Welsh in 1908. He was a fine footballer and a very popular club figure.