Mark Antony 'Spider' McInnes
"He was a great man, a wonderful player and more importantly as a youngster coming into club rugby he looked after us. He was like a father figure for us at Easts Rugby Club and a great leader both on and off the field. From a personal experience, as a number nine I always felt incredibly safe whenever I knew Spider was playing alongside me. Win, lose or draw, once we got back to the club, he was in the thick of it, making sure everyone was having a good time and looking after each other. That was Spider." George Gregan (2020)
Mark McInnes was one of those players whose personality changed when he crossed the stripe. A tough-as-they-come No.8, McInnes transformed into the most intense individual -- “a white-line demon” -- who possessed the ability to dominate a game through sheer tenacity. Unfortunately, a catastrophic knee injury ultimately denied McInnes a potential Test debut.
Born in Canberra, McInnes was educated at St Edmund’s College where he played three years in the 1st XV (1979-81) and from there won selection for ACT Schools in both 1979 and 1981.
After school McInnes left the capital to pursue an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner. McInnes played three seasons with the Vikings Club in the Illawarra competition and a single year with Port Hacking in Sydney before he returned to Canberra and joined Easts in 1986. Local selectors jumped at the opportunity to select McInnes and it was no surprise when he made his debut, at lock, for the ACT in the opening match of the representative season against Illawarra. Two months later McInnes faced his first senior international opposition as the ACT stunned France in an 18-18 draw at Rugby Park.
In 1987, McInnes won the Tommy Byrne Memorial Trophy as the best and fairest first grade player in the ACT competition before he spent the off-season in the U.K. and played rugby at Wasps. Two years later McInnes was appointed captain of the Easts’ first grade team, played for the ACT in their 25-42 loss to the British Lions after throwing away an 18-4 lead after 25 minutes, before he earned a spot in the Wallaby tour to Canada and France. McInnes made his debut for Australia in the 24-6 victory over the North American Wolverines. He played a further three matches on the tour however Tim Gavin was preferred at the back of the scrum in both internationals. McInnes wound out a memorable year when he was awarded the prestigious MacDougall Medal as the outstanding first grade player in the ACT.
Unfortunately, early the following season McInnes suffered a devastating knee injury playing for the ACT against New South Wales. McInnes tore the lateral ligament, ruptured the medial ligament and snapped the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He spent a total of two months in various hospitals on five different occasions for four operations. The injury became infected after the first surgery and put McInnes back in hospital for three weeks. Fluid on the knee was then the catalyst for the injury twice more breaking down with each reoccurrence costing him a further two weeks in hospital. Three months after the NSW match McInnes’ rehabilitation / restrengthening phase began. Afterwards he admitted that there were a few times he had seriously considered giving the game away. “I just didn’t think I could go through all that agony of getting the leg back in shape. But then I thought I couldn’t leave football in that way. I’d toured France with the Wallabies in 1989 and I was building on that for the 1990 rep season. Then it all came to a halt.”
McInnes returned to representative rugby with the ACT in mid-1991 however by that point in time Gavin was at the peak of his powers -- all before his own tragic knee injury, one that forced him to miss the World Cup victory -- and from late 1992 Gavin played 25 consecutive Tests through to the 1995 RWC.
ACT Rugby lost an element of its soul, a connection with the pre-Brumbies days, with McInnes’ passing in 2020 at just 56 years of age.
McInnes started four matches on the Wallaby tour to Canada and France - vs. North American Wolverines at Edmonton (W 24-6), vs. Languedoc Selection XV at Beziers (L 10-19), vs. Auvergne Selection XV at Clermont-Ferrand (10-19), and vs. Ile de France at Massy (L 19-21).