Ian McDonald, the Australian Cricket Board’s first media manager and also longtime manager of the national team, has died aged 88 on the Gold Coast after a long illness.
McDonald led the internal investigation that confirmed Mark Waugh and Shane Warne had been paid for their exchange of information with “John the bookie” during the 1994-95 season. Waugh (A$10,000) and Warne (A$8,000) were privately fined by the ACB immediately before travelling to the West Indies in 1995, and while McDonald drafted a press release to announce the decision, the story was kept in-house by the ACB and did not reach the public eye until December 1998, well after his departure.
A long and eventful career as a journalist and sports editor for publications including The Argus, The Sporting Globe and the Sunday Press, and then as media manager for the VFL, set up McDonald to be recruited to the ACB by then chief executive David Richards in August 1983.
The governing body was still coming to terms with the demands of the new era heralded by the “peace treaty” with Kerry Packer after World Series Cricket and needed a better idea of public relations. At the time, McDonald described his role as bringing a “more human public image” to a “faceless and mysterious body”. McDonald would remain at the ACB until 1997, an instantly recognisable figure with his stocky build, moustache and brown-framed glasses.
Over that time, McDonald’s duties were many and varied, as the go-between for a cricket board and national team that struggled amid the many ructions of the early 1980s before taking on a more robust and successful form under the leadership of Allan Border and Bob Simpson on the cricket field and Richards, cricket manager Graham Halbish and chairman Malcolm Gray in the latter years of the decade.
McDonald was a confidante and advisor for all these leaders, presiding over events such as Kim Hughes‘ tear-filled resignation as captain in 1984, some 80 home Test matches, the World Cup co-hosted with New Zealand in 1992 and ultimately Australia’s rise to the summit of the game by defeating the West Indies in the Caribbean in 1995. McDonald’s duel role as media and team manager gave him a unique perspective on a time when support staff were few and players and administrators worked closely together on limited budgets.
In January 1992, when the selectors chose to drop Border’s longtime lieutenant Geoff Marsh from the final Test of a series against India, causing the captain to refuse to walk onto the field for day five of the fourth match at Adelaide Oval, McDonald fielded calls from the press box about his absence. His immortal reply when asked why Border was absent, “he’s got the s***s”, momentarily had the fourth estate concluding that the captain was battling gastro.
As a media manager, McDonald was pivotal to creating a system of national media accreditation to allow access to all Australian venues during the international summer. He recruited and mentored Patrick Keane, a former Australian Associated Press journalist, as Australian team media manager, before he went on to a long and influential career with the AFL.