Malcolm Riggall Blair
- 243Wallaby Number
Malcolm Blair was a stocky front-row forward who toured with the Waratahs to the northern hemisphere in 1927/28 and with Australia to New Zealand in 1931 but never played a Test on home soil. An unassuming, compact prop who revelled in the hard and tight exchanges Blair proved a tower of strength in the set piece and was said to be ‘always on the ball’ in the loose. Although Blair was born in Rockhampton, Queensland, where his father was a well-known journalist, he was educated at one of Australia’s greatest pre-World War II rugby nurseries - Sydney Grammar School. Blair played two seasons in the 1st XV (1923-24) and was a member of the side that won the GPS premiership in 1924. He also represented the Combined GPS 2nd XV that same year.
Blair made his first grade debut with Western Suburbs in 1926 and immediately showed that he was not intimidated or overawed by the step up to senior rugby. The following season New South Wales did not play a single match prior to the selection of the Waratahs and as such club form became the crucial barometer for many players, particularly those deemed to be 'fringe’ or possible candidates. The selectors named 28 of the 29 man squad in early June and Blair was 'the surprise selection' in the forward department however the press suggested that ‘his consistent play' had been rewarded. Unfortunately before the team sailed on the Ormonde Blair fractured a small bone in his wrist which then kept him out of the early matches.
Worse was to come when he injured a knee ligament in the clash with Lancashire and Cheshire a week prior to the Scottish Test. He spent a month on the sidelines before a disappointing forward performance in the loss to England combined with an injury to Harry Woods saw a now-recovered Blair chosen to play against France in Paris. Although he did not know it at the time that match was Blair’s Test debut following a decision by the ARU in 1986 to elevate the five Waratahs internationals to Test status. While he only played in seven of the 42 matches Blair returned to Australia a far better player for the experience. In 1928 Blair was one of 13 Waratahs who had either retired or were unavailable for the tour to New Zealand.
The following year rugby was resumed in Queensland and the national selectors now had two additional states from which to choose the Australian side. As a result Ted Thompson joined fellow Queenslander Eddie Bonis and the now firmly established ‘Wild Bill’ Cerutti in the Wallaby front row for all three home Tests against New Zealand. In 1930 Blair was chosen for New South Wales against the British Lions but could not displace Thompson for the one-off Test. A year later Thompson, as the new Queensland captain in Tom Lawton’s absence, was told at the New Zealand tour trials that he would be named vice-captain for the Wallaby tour. Sadly the big New South Wales No.8 Tom Perrin trod on Thompson’s hand. X-rays revealed a bad break and Thompson missed the tour.
Blair’s good form ensured his selection and he went on to start both Tests. In 1932, and as the incumbent tight head prop Blair, had a home series against New Zealand and then the trials for the following year’s tour to South Africa ahead of him. Tragically, immediately prior to the All Black Tests, Blair injured a knee against Queensland and later, in a training run with Wests, displaced / tore a cartilage in the same knee which not only ended his season but also his career. Blair later coached the Briars Sporting Club (1933-34, 1938) and although he only played 60 games for Wests was still selected in the club’s team of the century. Malcolm Blair played three Tests for Australia in a five-year international career.
Blair won his first Test cap at prop alongside Jock Blackwood and Jim Tancred in the 11-8 win over France at Stade Colombes.
Blair joined Eddie Bonis and ‘Wild Bill’ Cerutti in the front-row for the away Tests against the Maori in Palmerston and New Zealand at Eden Park.