William Malcolm McLean
- 332Wallaby Number
Bill McLean belonged to the greatest dynasty in Australian rugby history. His father Doug Snr (Wallaby #54) played three Tests before he switched to rugby league and became a dual international. His older brother Doug Jnr. (Wallaby #285) played 10 Tests before he too became a dual international in rugby league. His younger brother Jack was selected on the 1946 Wallaby tour to New Zealand but did not play a Test. Three nephews - Paul (Wallaby #571, 30 Tests), Jeff (Wallaby #541, 13 Tests) and Peter (Wallaby #596, 16 Tests) - each played Test rugby. Extraordinarily fit, strong and svelte, Bill McLean revelled as a flanker / No.8 and occasional lock who constantly harassed the opposition however his was a career tainted with misfortune. Born in Ipswich and educated at both Brisbane State High School & St. Laurence's College, McLean played his club rugby with GPS Old Boys.
In 1939 he made his Queensland debut and was then a member of the ill-fated Second Wallaby tour to the British Isles under captain fellow Queenslander Vayro Wilson. War broke out as the team arrived in England and they did not play a solitary match. Upon his return home, McLean enlisted with the 2nd Australian Imperial Force from where he rose to the rank of Captain in the 2/3 Australian Commando Squadron. He saw operational service in Borneo during 1945 before being discharged in early 1946. After the war McLean again stripped for GPS, trained hard with the objective of reaching his old form, and won selection in the first post-war interstate match where he was ‘a Triton amongst the home side forward minnows’. He then ‘brilliantly led’ The Rest to victory against the Australia XV to clinch the captaincy of the Wallabies’ tour to New Zealand. Unfortunately he developed fluid on his right knee, had an operation and missed the opening six matches.
A year later McLean successfully came through a second captaincy trial to lead the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. and Europe. Disaster struck in the sixth match, against Combined Services, when McLean broke his left ankle, an injury that ruled him out of the rest of the tour. In 1950 he made a bold attempt to resurrect his international career against the British Lions. McLean was the best all round forward on the field when NSW beat Queensland 32-12 and the Australian selectors were greatly impressed by both his display and leadership. Then, prior to the Lions tour, McLean formally retired citing business commitments. He went on to coach both Queensland and Australia. Bill McLean played five Tests for Australia in a two-year international career.
McLean won his first Test cap at lock and as captain alongside fellow debutant Phil Hardcastle in the 1st Test, 8-31 loss to New Zealand at Carisbrook. He was then capped at No.8 in the 0-20 loss to the Maori in Hamilton and at flanker in the 10-14, 2nd Test defeat to New Zealand at Eden Park.
He earned his final two caps in the home series against New Zealand, the first at lock and the second, as captain, at flanker.