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Allan Robert Charles (Bob) McLean (1914–1989)

by Bernard Whimpress

This article was published:

Allan Robert Charles McLean (1914-1989), cricketer, Australian Rules footballer and sporting administrator, was born on 1 February 1914 at Mile End, Adelaide, son of South Australian-born parents George Robert McLean, motorman, and his wife Adelaide Annie Barker, née Thompson. Bob was educated at Norwood Central Public and Norwood Boys’ Technical High schools; his mother died when he was 14. Leaving school at 15, he showed early promise as a cricketer; bowling leg-breaks and googlies, he was also an adept defensive batsman. In 1931-39 he played in the East Torrens District Cricket Club’s A-grade team.

Six feet 4 ins (193 cm) tall, McLean was a powerful Australian Rules footballer, who appeared (1934-38) in seventy-five league matches as a ruckman with the Norwood Football Club. ‘Big Bob’ transferred to the Port Adelaide Football Club when it secured him a job with the local fire brigade. As first ruckman he was one of a brilliant triumvirate (also comprising the ruck-rover Allan ‘Bull’ Reval and the rover Bobby Quinn) that helped Port to win the premiership in 1939. In 1939-48 McLean represented Port in 147 games, for a league total of 222. On nine occasions he appeared for South Australia.

In March 1941 McLean enlisted in the Militia. He served briefly in Melbourne and, while there, played five games for St Kilda in the Victorian Football League. Categorised as being in a restricted occupation, he was withdrawn from military training in September. On 2 December 1944 at Pirie Street Methodist Church, Adelaide, he married Jean Drew, a member of the Australian Women’s Army Service.

Playing cricket for Port Adelaide from 1939, McLean was a steadfast opening batsman. His leg-spinning gifts gained him eighty-eight wickets in 1944-45, the second highest tally ever achieved in a South Australian Cricket Association district-cricket season. In December 1945 he appeared for South Australia in the first of twenty interstate matches. Improving with age, in 1949-50 he led the Australian batting averages, with a highest score of 213, against Queensland. In a district career that extended with Port Adelaide until 1953-54, he scored over 5000 runs and took more than 500 wickets.

McLean had left the fire brigade and subsequently pursued a sales career with J. Craven & Co. Pty Ltd’s department store, and worked as a representative for the H. J. Heinz Co., Australia, Ltd and as State manager for Cottee’s Ltd. In 1949 he was appointed honorary secretary (full-time general manager from 1969) of the Port Adelaide Football Club. In the post for thirty-one years, he created a league record in a top executive position and guided the Magpies to thirteen premierships. Much of the club’s success was due to his leadership skills, integrity, judgment, loyalty and trust. He represented Port on the South Australian National Football League for twenty-nine years, sitting at various times as chairman and as a member of the permit, ovals and general purposes committees. A State selector for sixteen years, he chaired the panel on several occasions. In 1959 he was awarded SANFL life membership. He compiled a club history, 100 Years with the Magpies (1971).

Retiring in 1980, McLean was appointed OBE in 1983; in 1986 he was named honorary chairman of Port Adelaide Football Club for life. He was also president (1981-86) of the Port Adelaide District Cricket Club. To colleagues he was a much-respected man of strong character and ‘dry and sometimes cutting wit’; his family saw a softer side. Widowed in 1987, he died on 9 November 1989 at Christies Beach and was buried in Centennial Park cemetery. His son and two daughters survived him. He was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

Select Bibliography

  •   B. Whimpress, The South Australian Football Story (1983)
  • J. Wood, Bound for Glory (1991)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 5 Aug 1980, p 16, 11 Nov 1989, p 30.

Citation details

Bernard Whimpress, 'McLean, Allan Robert Charles (Bob) (1914–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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