Kenneth George McCurrach
Ken McCurrach was a Scottish-born No.8 who came to Australia on a whim and played for Western Australia before he returned to the U.K. in 1973 as a Wallaby.
A tough, thoughtful, clever and tactically astute No.8, McCurrach was born in Keith, a small town in the north-east of Scotland. McCurrach played his first rugby for Harris Academy aged 11 and finished his schooling with three seasons in the 1st XV (1961-63), the last as captain. In that final year he was also selected to represent Midlands Schools. McCurrach then played a single season for both the Harris Academy Former Pupils and St. Andrews University before he enjoyed two years with Dundee University and representation for Combined Scottish Universities.
In 1969, McCurrach left his home for Perth, Western Australia where he played a season for Perth-Bayswater and two years with University W.A. It did not take long for McCurrach’s rugby pedigree to be recognised by the state selectors. He represented Western Australia against New Zealand -- with a backrow that included future All Black coaches Brian Lochore and Alex Wyllie -- in 1970 (L 3-50); South Africa in 1971 (L 18-44) where he faced the great Tommy Bedford; and France in 1972 (L 12-29).
Ahead of the 1973 season McCurrach left Perth, moved to Sydney and joined the Eastwood club to challenge himself against the top representative players on the east coast.
Late that season he was chosen for the Possibles vs. Probables trial, the curtain-raiser to the New South Wales vs. Queensland match that doubled as the main trial ahead of the Wallaby tour to Wales, England and Italy. McCurrach faced off against Tony Gelling while Mark Loane went head-to-head with John Lambie. When the squad was announced neither Loane, Lambie nor Gelling had made the cut. McCurrach had won his way into a very versatile forward pack, one that included the uncapped future Wallaby captain Tony Shaw.
McCurrach made a “good” fist of his first match for Australia, the 14-15 loss to South and South-West Counties, before he delivered a “sound performance” against West Wales, one that the press believed “probably wrapped up the Test lock [No.8] position.” McCurrach “was in everything and surprised the West Wales forwards with his frequent breaks down the middle.” Unfortunately, a niggling ankle injury that McCurrach had carried into the tour ultimately saw the selectors opt for Shaw at the back of the scrum, a position in which the Queenslander had never been capped at provincial level, to make his Test debut. McCurrach was chosen as a reserve for the English international however Shaw played out the whole game.
Following his return to Australia, McCurrach made his debut for Sydney in 1974, against Victoria, and two years later captained Eastwood to the Shute Shield grand final against Gordon. An Achilles injury gradually worsened before McCurrach made the decision to retire from rugby at the end of the 1978 season.
McCurrach’s impact on Australian rugby can be quantified by three facts. First, he was picked ahead of Mark Loane -- a future Wallaby captain and Hall of Fame inductee -- for the 1973 tour. Second, Tony Shaw, who edged McCurrach for the No.8 Test position, went on to captain Australia and be inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame. Finally, when Dave Jackson (Eastwood coach 1976-78 and 1983-88) chose his Woods’ ‘Dream Team’, he selected McCurrach at No.8 ahead of Eighth Wallabies’ Grand Slam winner Steve ‘Bird’ Tuynman.
McCurrach started five matches on the Wallaby tour of Wales, England and Italy - vs. South & South-West Counties at Bath (L 14-15), vs. Swansea (D 9-9), vs. West Wales at Aberavon (W18-13), vs. Northern Counties at Gosforth (L 13-16), and vs. an Italian XV @ L’Aquila (W 59-21)