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The NSWRL was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Queensland player, coach and administrator John McDonald, aged 79.

McDonald has been part of some of the greatest Rugby League moments both as a player, coach and official.

Although a dyed-in the-wool Queenslander, he played for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles for three seasons (1969-71) in the era when players at Sydney clubs were eligible for NSW.

“He was always a true blue Queenslander shall we say, even though he played half-a-dozen games for NSW City and NSW City Firsts,” said NSWRL President Bob Millward OAM.

“He was a very good footballer – even better man.”

McDonald, who passed away peacefully in Toowoomba yesterday, made his Test debut for Australia against Great Britain in June 1966 playing in the centres with Immortal Graeme Langlands.

As Manly Warringah captain he led the Sea Eagles to the 1970 Grand Final against South Sydney, which has become folklore since opposing skipper John Sattler broke his jaw in the Rabbitohs 23-12 win.

As coach he his remembered for steering Queensland to a 20-10 win in the first State of Origin game in 1980 – it was the one and only time he coached the Maroons.

But the man affectionately known as ‘Cracker’, represented Queensland 10 times from 1965-68.

He later served as chairman of the Queensland Rugby League for 20 years from 1992-2012 and was the first Queenslander to be elected Chairman of the Australian Rugby League (1998-99).

“And there he showed why he was one of the best,” Millward told

“He was fair, respectful and a great friend to all who served on the NSWRL Board when he was in charge of Queensland and also ARL Chairman.

“I was a NSW representative on the Australian Rugby League in the late ‘90s – we went through some difficult periods as there was always great rivalry on and off the field between NSW and Queensland.

“But John was a gentleman and a very good administrator.”

Millward shared not only keen interest in Rugby League with McDonald, but the same profession.

“He had a printing business in Toowoomba ‘Cracker Print’ and I’m also a printer by trade,” he said.

“We often shared great stories about the industry and the changes that were taking place in printing. He was great company.

“So John had a bit of everything – tremendous knowledge of the game, a good administrator and a damn fine person.

“On behalf of everyone at NSW Rugby League we send our best wishes to Joan, his children, grand children and many, many friends.”

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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