Kenneth Howard "Killer" Kearney
- 346Wallaby Number
Ken Kearney was a tough and uncompromising hooker, short and solid in stature who forged an international career in both rugby and rugby league. Fearless and mobile, Kearney was the single greatest influence behind one of sports’ greatest ever dynasties, the St. George Dragons, during their run of eleven consecutive rugby league premierships (1956-66).
Kearney was born in Penrith and played rugby league with the local juniors however at the same time he also played rugby union at Parramatta High School. He then worked in the public service and made his First Grade debut with Parramatta while still 17 however when World War II came Kearney joined the R.A.A.F. They sent him to England and while there was selected to play rugby for the Combined Services’ team.
Upon his return to Australia, and club rugby with Parramatta in 1946, Kearney was due to enter hospital for a mastoid operation until a ‘brilliant display’ against Easts’ international rake Alby Stone convinced him to postpone the surgery in order to enhance his prospects for representative selection. While Kearney did make his debut for New South Wales, against Toowoomba, the operation became necessary and he missed the opportunity to tour New Zealand with the Wallabies.
The following year Randwick’s Don Furness out-hooked All Black rival Eric Catley in the tourists’ match against NSW but surprisingly missed a place in the first Test team. Kearney, who had been left out of the State team, was then chosen for his debut in Brisbane. Upon his subsequent selection on the Third Wallabies tour to the U.K. and Europe, Kearney resigned from his job after he had been told by his employer, the Department of Munitions, that he would not be given time off for the trip if chosen.
Kearney went on to start all five Tests of the tour however it was then that he began to consider his future and in mid-1948 he signed a three-year contract, for A￡1,250, to play rugby league for Leeds in the U.K. While the financial side of the deal was attractive so too was the opportunity for Kearney to follow his heart with a “lovely little Welsh girl” he had met during the Wallaby tour. After three seasons with Leeds Kearney returned to Australia and joined St. George. Aside from the unprecedented club success Kearney enjoyed he also played 25 Tests for Australia, nine as captain. In 2006 he was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame.
Kearney won his first Test cap at hooker in the 1st Test, 5-13 loss to New Zealand at the Exhibition Ground. He retained his spot for the 2nd Test, 14-27 loss at the S.C.G.
Kearney was capped in all five internationals on the Third Wallabies tour however he was paired with four different sets of props - Eric Davis and Eric Tweedale (Scotland), ‘Wallaby Bob’ McMaster and Tweedale (Ireland), McMaster and Davis (Wales) and Shehadie and Tweedale (England & France).