Michael and Angus McLean and Brett Quinn look forward to a memorial match for the late Chris McLean.
Michael and Angus McLean and Brett Quinn look forward to a memorial match for the late Chris McLean. Warren Lynam

'Heart like Phar Lap': Dad celebrated decade after freak hit

THE memory of a local larrikin with the "heart of Phar Lap" whose life was tragically cut short playing the game he loved will be celebrated tonight.

It's been 10 years since Chris "Chops" McLean died after a "freak" head clash in a rugby union game in Maroochydore.

The Caloundra Lighthouse flanker collapsed on the sideline and lost consciousness before he was rushed to the Royal Brisbane Hospital where he suffered an untreatable brain haemorrhage.

He left behind his loving wife Danielle, son Angus and daughter Jordyn, and countless friends.

 

Chris McLean tragically lost his life playing rugby on the Sunshine Coast 10 years ago.
Chris McLean tragically lost his life playing rugby on the Sunshine Coast 10 years ago. Barry Leddicoat/184051 26/07/200

Tonight, two teams closest to his heart will come together to remember their fallen teammate.

Caloundra Lighthouses and the Royal Australian Navy Old Salts will play a match in his honour.

Zahn Holden will fly up from Melbourne to be part of the "unmissable" match.

 

Chris McLean being taken away in ambulance after the freak accident.
Chris McLean being taken away in ambulance after the freak accident. Brett Wortman / 184013

He remembered his great mate as "mischievous, fiercely loyal, and genuinely likeable" but also for his love of a good night out.

"He wasn't the most skilful, wasn't big, but he was fearless. He would always play above his weight," Holden said.

"You'd always see him at the bottom of the pack. He had a heart as big as Phar Lap. You walked a bit taller running out with him.

"I always knew if I missed a tackle he'd be there to cover me up."

Holden said Angus, now 19, is a carbon copy of his father, who grew up at the Caloundra clubhouse.

"Some of my strongest memories of dad are when I spent my whole Saturday with him at Lighthouse Park," Angus said.

"He would watch me play rugby then I would watch him play."

His daughter Jordyn was only 10 when her father died.

"I always think about what he would be doing if he was here. This event sums it up," she said.

 

The funeral service for Caloundra's Chris McLean.
The funeral service for Caloundra's Chris McLean. Barry Leddicoat

Chris' twin brother Michael said he couldn't thank the community for the amount of support they'd shown his family in the past 10 years.

"It's over and above what we expected," he said.

"Anyone who knew Chris knows that he was as good off the field as he was on it.

"He was really just a great guy, a great brother. I feel privileged to be able to celebrate his life and his 10 years upstairs."

Former colleague Brett Quinn said Chops was always the "life of the party".

"He was funny as, and a larrakin, that description is spot on," Quinn said.

"He always had a smile on his face. A practical joker."

 

The funeral service for Caloundra's Chris McLean.
The funeral service for Caloundra's Chris McLean. Barry Leddicoat

Holden said it was cruel that an "absolute champion" was taken so young, in a freak hit with no malice.

He said people were coming from all over the country for the game.

"He'd love it. He'd be looking down gutted that he wasn't apart of it," Holden said.

"It will be emotional. But a celebration of who he was."

The match kicks off at 6pm.



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