Ken Irvine

Ken Irvine

Infobox rugby league biography
playername = Ken Irvine
fullname = Kenneth John Irvine
nickname = Mungo

caption =
dateofbirth = 1941
placeofbirth = Sydney
countryofbirth = Australia
dateofdeath = Death year and age|1991|1941
countryofdeath =
height =
weight =
position = rlp|WG
club1 = leagueicon|North Sydney|16 North Sydney Bears
year1start = 1958
year1end = 1970
appearances1 = 176
tries1 = 171
goals1 = 59
fieldgoals1 = 1
points1 = 633
club2 = leagueicon|Manly Sea Eagles|16 Manly-Warringah
year2start = 1971
year2end = 1973
appearances2 = 60
tries2 = 41
goals2 = 11
fieldgoals2 = 0
points2 = 145
teamA = leagueicon|New South Wales|16 New South Wales
yearAstart = 1959
yearAend = 1967
appearancesA = 24
triesA = 30
goalsA = 4
fieldgoalsA = 0
pointsA = 98
teamB = leagueicon|Australia|16 Australia
yearBstart = 1959
yearBend = 1968
appearancesB = 31
triesB = 33
goalsB = 11
fieldgoalsB = 0
pointsB = 121
source = [ Rugby League Project] and [ Yesterday's Hero]

Ken Irvine (born 1941 in Sydney, New South Wales, died 1991) was an Australian rugby league player for the North Sydney Bears and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in the New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership, primarily as a winger. Irvine holds the standing record for the most number of tries in a first-grade career - 212. No other player has yet managed 200 tries in their career. He is considered one of the nation's finest footballers of the 20th century. [ [ Century's Top 100 Players] ]

Childhood and early career

Attending Marist College North Shore, Irvine originally excelled in both baseball and sprinting, playing in the New South Wales junior baseball side alongside future Australian team mate Reg Gasnier while also competitively running for the Randwick-Botany Club. After deciding to attend a trial at Wentworth Park for the North Sydney rugby league club as a 17-year-old, their first grade coach Ross McKinnon stated "sign that kid for life", and Ken was signed and playing for the club the following year.

Playing career

North Sydney Bears

Making his debut for the club during the 1958 season on the wing, he was an instant success for the club, proving to be a frequent try scorer. In NSWRFL season 1959 he was the season's leading try-scorer with 19 and was rewarded with selection in the New South Wales side and the Australian side to tour Europe.

In 1961 Irvine showcased his speed at a specially-arranged event specifically in an attempt to break professional world record over 100 yards. Irvine won the event and equalled the record of 9.3 seconds. During the same event he would also win the 120 yard Dubbo Gift after starting a yard behind scratch, displaying his much-publicised speed.

Ken Irvine excelled at running with pace along the sideline, his small frame in perfect balance as he did what all great wingers must do, finish the play and score. His very high leg speed and balance allowed him to make larger defenders grasp at straws as he evaded them with ease. There is little doubt amongst Rugby League historians that Irvine was one of the quickest accelerating and highest top speed players ever seen, certainly capable of International athletic medals.

Irvine would go on to make 184 appearances for the Bears, scoring 171 tries. He also had the honour of captaining the side on occasions, although he infamously threatened to lead his team off in protest of referee Keith Page, in a 1969 match against Canterbury.

His stint with the Bears ended at the end of 1970 after disagreements with head coach Roy Francis.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles

Irvine joined Manly in 1971, making 58 appearances for the club, scoring 41 tries. He helped Manly to claim successive premierships in 1972 and 1973 before retiring.

Representative career

New South Wales

After only one full club season with Norths, Irvine was selected for New South Wales in 1959. He would play for NSW on 24 occasions over the next nine years, scoring 30 tries and kicking four goals.


Irvine made his Australian debut in 1959 on the Australian tour to Europe, against France, scoring a try on debut. In all Irvine played 31 Test matches, scoring 33 tries. Irvine's Test career ended in 1968 when he suffered a broken leg against France, ruling him out of much of the following season.


North Sydney Oval's Ken Irvine stand was named in his honour. Irvine was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2004. [ [ Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame] ] In August, 2006 he was named at winger in the North Sydney Bears' team of the century.

In February 2008, Irvine was named in the list of Australia's "100 Greatest Players" (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL tocelebrate the code's centenary year in Australia. [cite web|publisher="NRL & ARL"|title=Centenary of Rugby League - The Players
] [cite news|author=Peter Cassidy |publisher="Macquarie National News"|title=Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players |url= |accessdate=2008-02-23|date=2008-02-23] Irvine went on to be named as one of the wingers, along with Brian Bevan, in Australian rugby league's "Team of the Century". Announced on 17 April, 2008, the team is the panel's majority choice for each of the thirteen starting positions and four interchange players. [cite news|author=Todd Balym|publisher="Fox Sports Australia"|title=Johns, Meninga among Immortals |url=,8659,23557351-23214,00.html |accessdate=2008-04-17|date=2008-04-17] [cite web|publisher="NRL & ARL"|title=Team of the Century Announced |url= |accessdate=2008-04-17|date=2008-04-17]

Irvine passed away at the age of 50 in 1991 after battling leukemia.

Career playing statistics


Irvine's 212 career tries is the standing NSWRL/NRL career record for the most first grade tries. This extraordinary tally was achieved in 296 first grade and representative games and is over 40 tries clear of his nearest rivals in the rankings: Steve Menzies, Andrew Ettingshausen and Terry Lamb who achieved their 160+ totals in respectively 300+, 384 and 387 first class games.

Irvine's 33 tries for Australia is the standing record for career tries scored in Australian Test matches.

Point scoring summary

Matches played


External links

* [ Ken Irvine at]
* [ Ken Irvine at]
* [ 20th Century Top 10 Rugby League Players]

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