Patrick Aloysius McCue
- 79Wallaby Number
Born in Marrickville (NSW) on 24 June 1883, Paddy McCue came to rugby by accident. A well-built cricketer and cyclist, Paddy’s footballing skills emerged at the age of 22, when he was asked to ‘make up the numbers’ for a rugby team playing against his brother’s works team. Before long, Paddy became a regular in the premiership-winning Marrickville second grade team of 1906. His natural talents in scrummaging, dribbling and handling the wet football attracted the interest of local first-graders, Newtown. McCue joined Newtown, along with Marrickville’s Bill Noble and brothers Viv and Bill Farnsworth, in 1907. McCue asserted himself in the second row and after five matches with Newtown, gained the attention of the New South Wales selectors.
In June 1907, McCue was chosen for the New South Wales seconds to play Queensland, but an injury to Harold Judd saw Paddy promoted to the firsts. He represented New South Wales against Queensland and twice against New Zealand, scoring a try in the Waratahs’ 14-0 win in Sydney. A week later, McCue found himself playing in Australia’s 26-6 loss to the All Blacks, and in the drawn second Test. In 1908, several of Paddy’s Marrickville and Newtown colleagues helped establish the Newtown District Rugby League Football Club to play in the fledgling New South Wales Rugby League. Paddy remained with the amateur game for the season and featured prominently in newspaper match reports. In a bumper season for Newtown, McCue played ten matches and helped secure the premiership with only one loss. The rest of McCue’s season was devoted to representative football, his successes for New South Wales against Queensland earning him a trip ‘home’ to the British Isles with the inaugural Australian tourists.
Paddy McCue played 29 matches in the second row for Australia on the 1908-09 tour. He played when Australia won its gold medal for rugby union football at the Olympic Games in London, in an easy 32-3 win against English county champions, Cornwall, representing Great Britain. (Paddy’s Olympic gold medal was donated to the National Museum of Australia in 2006, by his nephew Bill McCue.) He played in two Tests: the 9-6 loss to Wales in Cardiff on 12 December 1908, and the 9-3 win over England at Blackheath on 9 January 1909. Having scored a try against Cheshire early in the tour, Paddy hit his stride on the North American leg, with tries against the University of California (Berkeley), Stanford University, California and Victoria (British Columbia).
After two tryless seasons with Newtown in 1907 and 1908, McCue scored five tries in 11 matches in his third club season. Newtown made the semi-finals but were unable to retain the premiership. The powerhouse forward’s only representative duty that season was for Metropolis I against Country I. Until, that is, McCue was invited to represent a professional Wallabies team in a series of matches against the Kangaroos, Australia’s national rugby league team. This meant disqualification from the New South Wales Rugby Union, leaving little option for McCue but to defect to rugby league football. Paddy and Chris McKivat, Glebe’s Wallaby halfback, were entrepreneur James Joynton-Smith’s ‘jewels in the crown’ in enticing other rugby players – as well as the hearts and minds of the New South Wales public – over to rugby league football. Jack Pollard has identified McCue as ‘Joynton-Smith’s chief negotiator’, allegedly accepting £150 to play in the professional series.
Season 1910 saw McCue, expelled from playing in the Metropolitan Rugby Union, link with Newtown’s first grade rugby league team. McCue’s size and speed were transferred to the front row, where he played most of his rugby league career. Brimming with current Kangaroos and former Wallabies, Newtown RLFC grabbed the premiership in 1910. McCue toured Great Britain with a team representing Australasia - consisting of 24 Australians and four New Zealanders - in 1911-12. This team was the first to defeat England in rugby league, winning 29 tour matches, losing only five with two draws. McCue served as vice-captain to Chris McKivat. His leadership qualities were recognised further with the captaincy of New South Wales on the 1912 tour of New Zealand, in which the Blues won eight of their nine matches.
Paddy later captained Newtown, in seasons 1914 and 1916. Paddy McCue left Newtown briefly, transferring to near neighbours Annandale in season 1913. He played only one match for the ‘Dales before protests from Newtown. The league was based on residential districts and McCue lived in Marrickville. McCue was ordered by the NSWRL to return to his old club, for which he played until his retirement at the end of season 1916. In 1917, McCue married Winifred Rose Slatter and moved to the southern Sydney beachside suburb of Sans Souci, but he didn’t stay away from football for too long. Over the next 25 years, McCue accepted short-term coaching or management roles for a host of rugby league and rugby union clubs. These included posts as assistant coach – along with former dual reps Alex Burdon and Arthur Hennessy – for Sydney University’s rugby league team in its inaugural season, 1920; committeeman and selector for St George RLFC in its inaugural season a year later; premiership-winning coach for Newtown RLFC’s reserves in 1922 and four seasons coaching the St Ignatius’ College, Riverview First XV.
McCue’s most substantial coaching positions were at the Sydney University Football Club, where he coached in seasons 1926, 1927, 1932, 1935 and from 1942 to 1944. While the first two seasons with Sydney Uni resulted in back-to-back premierships, McCue was unable to recapture that magic in his later stints. Winifred McCue had died in 1943, and Paddy, with no children to support, was still totally immersed in sport. McCue continued playing cricket with a St. George veterans’ team well into his 60s, and was a participant and an administrator in lawn bowls, golf and motor boating. Paddy McCue died at his Cronulla home on 7 September 1962. His funeral took place the very next day, a Saturday, and was well attended by administrators and supporters of both codes. The football finals held that day featured a minute’s silence, paying tribute to a man who had a major impact on the struggle for supremacy between rugby union and rugby league in Australia.
Peter Sharpham, in his definitive book The First Wallabies, wrote: “He was a big, fast and versatile forward who revelled in the ‘engine room’ of the of the front-row but was equally effective in the back row…… A trader in animal skins, he was an inveterate practical joker and took part in forming a ‘secret society’ to terrorise his team-mates with outrageous pranks on the long voyage to England. They duly nicknamed him ‘Big Dog’, a reference to his size, his occupation and his insatiable hunger for the football on the rugby fields…..Team photographs show him smiling broadly in a leather head guard…… He loved swimming and surfing…..”