Stuart Douglas McLaren
- 237Wallaby Number
Stuart McLaren was a young winger who emerged from non-district rugby to play Test rugby before his 20th birthday. Born in Stockton, near Newcastle, McLaren was educated in Sydney at Ashfield Public Boys’ School and Technical High School, Ultimo. In 1924 he ‘played splendidly’ with the YMCA 3rd XV when they finished the season as runners-up. The following year McLaren was a newcomer to the top grade where he showed as a good finisher, a more than handy goal-kicker and generally ‘shaped well’ as a wing three-quarter.
In 1926 New Zealand came to Australia for an six match tour that included three games against New South Wales. The visitors came back from a 20-26 loss in the opening match to win the series 2-1. Somewhat surprisingly the NSWRU hastily scheduled an extra match against the tourists, one that required New Zealand to return to Sydney from Melbourne following their scheduled fixture with Victoria. The local selectors made nine changes for this game, one that appeared to be treated by them as an unofficial trial ahead of the Waratahs tour the following year.
McLaren was chosen as a reserve for that match however he received an eleventh hour call up to the starting side when ‘Sheik’ Bowers withdrew with a fractured wrist. Although McLaren did not know it at the time that match was also his Test debut after an ARU decision in 1994 elevated the remaining 34 New South Wales matches played against international opposition in the 1920-28 period to Test status (the five 1927/28 Waratahs’ internationals were given Test status in 1986). In 1927 McLaren was said to be ‘in the running’ for a wing spot for the northern tour however an injury saw him miss both the trials and, as a consequence, the squad.
A year later he returned to play for Ted Thorn’s XV v. Rhodes Scholar Vernon Treatt’s XV in the curtain-raiser to the Waratahs v. The Rest post-tour match and later continued to show for YMCA. In 1929 the press of the day reported that McLaren was unavailable for his club however there are no additional references to his activities from that point forward. McLaren did serve his country during World War II when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve as an Engine Room Artificer. Stuart McLaren played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #237.
McLaren won his first Test cap on the left wing in the 4th Test, 21-28 loss to New Zealand at the Sydney Showground.