Paul Edward McLean
- 571Wallaby Number
Paul McLean was born into Australia’s greatest rugby dynasty. His grandfather Doug Snr. (Wallaby #54) played three Tests for Australia before he switched to rugby league and became a dual international. His uncle Doug Jnr. played 10 Tests for Australia from 1933-36 before he also became a dual international in rugby league. His uncle Jack was selected on the 1946 Wallaby tour to New Zealand but did not play a Test.
His uncle Bill (Wallaby #332) was selected for the Second Wallabies tour to Britain in 1939, arrived in England the day before war broke out, and was duly sent home after the tour was cancelled. Bill then captained the 1946 Wallabies to New Zealand, and in 1947-48 led the Third Wallabies on their tour to U.K. Paul’s brother Jeff (Wallaby #541) played 13 Tests and cousin Peter (Wallaby #596) played 16 Tests. Some dynasty indeed.
Paul was a masterful fly half / fullback and a world-class goal kicker, something the Wallabies had lacked for many a year. He was also a footballing genius who could read a game better than any of his contemporaries, controlling both time and space. His coolness was legendary, he was virtually unflappable. Some believe he was born and bred to right the embarrassments of Queensland rugby over the years.
McLean attended Nudgee College and received the James Baxter Memorial Prize as the most outstanding cricketer, student and footballer in the school.
In 1973, aged 19, McLean made his debut for Queensland against Sydney and a year later was chosen for his maiden Test against New Zealand in Sydney. McLean was not found wanting despite the quality of the opposition.
In 1975 he was selected for the Sixth Wallabies tour to Britain, played in 18 of the 26 matches, predominantly at fullback, and scored 154 points which was the highest ever tally by a Wallaby tourist. His general play was consistently excellent and on some occasions, inspirational.
In 1979 he kicked three clutch penalties to help Australia defeat New Zealand 12-6 and win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 30 years. A year later McLean became the 56th Wallaby to captain his country when he led the team against Fiji in Suva. The finish of his career could not have been more dramatic than if it were scripted.
New coach Bob Dwyer dropped two of Queensland’s favourite sons, Roger Gould and McLean, for the first Test against Scotland at, of all places, Ballymore. Australia lost 7-12 and the public clamour was so great that Gould and McLean were reinstated for the second Test in Sydney. Adding to the sense of occasion, McLean announced that it would be his final Test. Between McLean and Gould the two Queenslanders scored 29 of Australia’s 33 points and McLean equalled his own Australian individual record of 21 points (5C, 3PG).
McLean retired as Australia’s highest point-scorer (260), succeeded his old coach Bob Templeton as President of the QRU and then went on to be President of the Australian Rugby Union.
Paul McLean played 30 Tests for Australia, one as captain, in a nine-year international career. He was inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame in 2011.
McLean won his first Test cap at fly half alongside John Hipwell in the 1st Test, 6-11 loss to New Zealand at the S.C.G. He and Hipwell were the halves for both the 2nd and 3rd matches of that series.
He was an unused replacement behind Ken Wright for the two home Tests against England but returned for the subsequent series with Japan. He started at No.15 in in Sydney and set a new Australian individual point scoring record in a single Test of 21 points (2T, 5C, 1PG) surpassing the 15 points of Arthur McGill (vs. New Zealand, 2nd Test, 1968) and Russell Fairfax (vs. France, 2nd Test, 1972).
McLean played fullback in all four Tests against the Home Nations. In the 20-10 victory against Ireland, McLean broke Arthur McGill’s individual career Test match point scoring record (72).
He partnered Rod Hauser all three home Tests against Fiji. In the 3rd Test, 27-17 win in Sydney, McLean became the first Australian to score 100 career Test points. McLean and Hauser combined in the halves for both away Tests against France.
The Wallabies did not play a Test match in 1977. Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
McLean played No.10, again with Hauser at No.9, for the two wins against Wales. He made his first tour to New Zealand but damaged the medial ligaments in his right knee and as such only played in five matches. McLean started at No.15 in the 2nd Test, 6-22 loss however he damaged the cartilage in his right knee and had to be replaced. Represented Australia at the Hong Kong 7s.
He started all five Tests of the season, the first two at fly half against Ireland and the final three - New Zealand (1) and Argentina (2) - at fullback.
McLean, at fullback, won a single cap when he became the 56th Wallaby to captain his country in the 22-9 win over Fiji in Suva. A knee injury kept him out of the squad for the first two Bledisloe Cup Tests however he was included on the bench for the third Test in Sydney. The knee finally gave out in August and led to reconstructive surgery.
McLean played in both home Tests against France, the first at No.10 in combination with John Hipwell and the second at fullback when Mark Ella was recalled to fly half.
McLean started in all four Home Nations internationals on the Seventh Wallabies’ tour to Britain. He played fly half against Ireland and Wales, inside centre against Scotland and fullback against England.
In his final season of international rugby McLean was dropped for the first Test against Scotland but returned for the second Test in which he equalled his own Australian individual point scoring record of 21 (5C, 3PG) set against Japan in 1975.