Jack McDonald was a footballer of immense natural talent whose career actually suffered from the fact that he was such a good goalkicker.
McDonald who died at the age of 92 on May 1, was used in a key position for the great majority of his 113 games with St Kilda, but standing just under 183cm tall and weighing 77kg he was always conceding size to opposing centre half backs and centre half-forwards.
As a teenager at Scotch College he had been a rover and when he looked back on his career he believed that he was best suited to playing in that role or as a centreman.
But prodigious goalkicking feats at Federal League club Camden would dictate the course of his career. Little wonder, when it is noted that he kicked 106 goals in one under-17s season and then 144 the next year including a tally of 18 in one game.
Melbourne, Carlton and Collingwood were all keen to recruit him, but he was residentially bound to St Kilda and he debuted in the opening round of 1948. He lost his senior place after six games, but by the start of 1949 he had learned more about the game at the top level. Early in the season he kicked seven goals as full-forward out of a team total of eight goals. His path as a key forward was set.
McDonald was a big factor in St Kilda’s tearaway start to the 1950 season as centre half forward in a highly talented goal-to–goal line. Injuries de-railed the side with champion centreman Harold Bray the first to go down, then State full-back Bruce Phillips and centre half-forward McDonald who strained his ankle ligaments and missed the second half of the season.
Despite his light build, McDonald provided plenty of headaches for defenders. Footscray’s premiership full-back Herb Henderson said of him: “McDonald had too much pace for me and gave me a tough time.”
One of the great disappointments for McDonald was being selected twice to play for Victoria, but then being ruled out by injury and suspension on both occasions. McDonald didn’t see eye to eye with new coach Alan Killigrew in 1956. When he was not given reasons for being dropped early in the season he rang in sick and said he wouldn’t be able to play for the reserves.
He opted to head off to the races where he was unfortunately spotted by Saints president Jack Reilly who was a leading racing official. As a result, McDonald was stripped of the vice-captaincy and suspended by the club. In his first game back in the seniors he was reported and copped a four-week suspension.
He left St Kilda at the age of 26. As a travelling salesman he journeyed to all parts of Victoria, and in Wangaratta the locals approached him to take on a captain-coach role. Playing as a centreman, he guided the club to a flag in his first year, but for his second season selectors talked him into playing at full-forward. Not surprisingly he booted 100 goals. In later years he played at VFA side Yarraville.
Jack always continued to follow the fortunes of the Saints and our Museum co-ordinator Georgie Day always dropped in to give him the latest St Kilda Heritage newsletter.