Former Swans player and East Sydney Captain/Coach Neil Cordy profiles the nomination of Mark Maclure to the NSW Hall of Fame.
When Mark Maclure arrived in Sydney as a 12 year old footy was his passport to fitting in.O
Over the decades it would become so much more. He went on to win three premierships at Carlton, play 243 games, captain the club and develop into one of the AFL’s great personalities.
Born in Perth into a navy family, his father Murray was a Chief Petty Officer and spent a lot of time at sea. His mum Joan took care of Mark, his older brother Steve (aka ‘Bomber’) and younger brother Peter. Their grandmother Molly was a mad West Perth follower and passed on her love of the game to the boys.
Mark’s footy career got off to a flyer at the Manning Park under 10s. Playing alongside Robert Wiley (Richmond, West Coast), Brian Peake (Geelong) and Peter Spencer (North Melbourne) the boys went through the season undefeated.
The next year the Maclures were off to Queensland when Murray took a two-year posting in Brisbane. Remarkably the boys from Manning Park met decades later when Mark lined up for Victoria against Western Australia in Perth and Wiley, Peake and Spencer played against him.
That was all in the future for the young Maclure who was on the road again in 1967 when Murray took another posting to Garden Island in Sydney. The family lived in Paddington, Trumper Park and the East Sydney Bulldogs were just down the road, it turned out to be match made in heaven for player and club.
“The East Sydney Football Club was a very social place,” Maclure said.
“It was a melting pot of people who played Aussie Rules, so you got all walks of life.
I enjoyed that; it was fantastic. The club owned two terrace houses right next to the ground, that was the social club. It was full of people like me from other parts of Australia, there were people from Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria.”
In March this year Maclure was back in East Sydney heartland as the club celebrated their 140th birthday at the Paddington RSL. His respect for the club and its great characters was clear for all to see as he interviewed some of East Sydney’s greats.
It was a reminder to the Carlton champ why he had such a strong attachment to the place.
“I love the differences in people,” Maclure said. “If everyone is the same, it’s a boring, boring world. There’s a 1000 people who make up a village. They can’t all be choir boys, they’re all different types”.
“That was East Sydney, it was full of rogues and that is what you want in life. It was a learning process. They were knockabout blokes and you learned to navigate your way through. Nobody was better than everyone else, we were all equal and I loved that. This was our club and that’s where we’re going to be for the rest of our lives”.
“That’s what I felt before I left for Carlton. Where I had to start again and build relationships with another group of people”, Maclure said.
As well as developing his social skills East Sydney helped hone Maclure’s footy talents which ultimately caught the eye of the Blues. After starting in the under 12s he graduated to the under 19’s by 15 and senior footy at 16. On one day he played on all three grades.
“It was a big day,” Maclure said. “I started in the under 19s at nine o’clock, I was taken off at three quarter time and was on the bench for the reserves. I played a quarter and and then a bloke pulled out of the seniors so I was on the bench for that game. I was there all f….. day! My old man was there at 5.30pm and he asked me what I wanted to do, I said I want to go home, I was stuffed.”
It wasn’t just an endurance test for the young Maclure, playing senior footy in the 1970s was a tough going at any age, the Sydney comp had more than its fair share of hard men.
“I was very young and very well protected,” Maclure said.
“Playing against men isn’t easy but it was part of the game, part of growing up and it was great to be thought of.”
Trumper Park was full of big personalities who made an impression on the young Maclure and still do to this day.
“There was a bloke there called Jack Dean (East Sydney Legend) who was a great man,” Maclure said. “Ralph Waldock ran all the kids competitions and he was a great bloke. Roy Hayes (seven consecutive premiership player) was a fantastic bloke, he was one of the best people I met in my life. Greg Harris (East Sydney triple premiership coach) and I played together in rep footy, “Huey” was the ruckman and I was the rover, the slowest rover that ever played.”
While he may not have been the quickest across the ground but Maclure had plenty of ability and footy nous. He needed it playing three football codes each week. Rugby League on Saturday for the Coogee Sharks, Aussie Rules on Sunday for East Sydney and Rugby Union for his school (Randwick North High School) on Wednesdays.
It wasn’t long before Carlton secretary and Brownlow Medallist Bert Deacon came calling.
“Bert Deacon turned up when I was 16,” Maclure said. “He me asked if I wanted to come to Melbourne. I didn’t know him and my dad didn’t know him so it started from there. I went there in June 1973.”
Sadly Deacon didn’t live to see the great player Maclure was to become. He suffered a heart attack while holidaying in Balnarring just six months after recruiting Maclure.
The kid he signed debuted against Geelong in round 13 the following year and played another 13 seasons retiring at the end of 1986 one of Carlton’s very best.
“My footy life has been fantastic and East Sydney was a big part of that,” Maclure said.
“I loved it. What else would you want to do.”
Maclure was honoured to be named in the ‘Greatest NSW Team of All Time’ and is a selector for the NSW AFL team of the year.