- 437Wallaby Number
Ken Yanz was a big, tough and intimidating loose forward who terrorised Sydney’s inside backs during the 1950s. Known for his scything and offensive tackles, Yanz benefited from the success of his Gordon club to be a surprise inclusion on the Fourth Wallabies tour in 1957/58. Born in Sydney, Yanz played his first rugby with the Lane Cove and Gordon Juniors. After school he played his club rugby for Gordon and made the First Grade side in 1951 however he served a long apprenticeship behind a surfeit of outstanding local flankers including Keith Cross, Dave Brockhoff and Vince Heinrich.
In 1956, Gordon were the minor premiers and finished runners-up to University in the grand final. Gordon’s success helped Yanz catch the eye of the selectors and he was chosen in a New South Wales XV against Victoria and for Sydney against Queensland. When the All Blacks toured in 1957, it was expected that those players who took part in the representative matches against the tourists would be at the forefront of selection for the Wallaby tour of the British Isles, Ireland, France, and North America however Yanz did not figure in any of those matches. Nonetheless, the Australian selectors stunned when they omitted several prominent players including Keith Cross and ‘Chilla’ Wilson, and chose a number of less well known forwards.
Yanz, who had not yet represented New South Wales, was one of the shock selections in the touring team. On tour he played in 19 of the 41 matches and was rewarded with a Test debut in the final international against France in Paris. Although there was no score in the first half, the Wallabies could not stay with the brilliant French team and lost 0-19. The French side then toured South Africa and shattered the myth of Springbok invincibility in their homeland when they won the two-test series (1-0) and thus inflicted the first Springbok defeat at home since 1896.
Ken Yanz played one Test for Australia and will forever be Wallaby #437.
Yanz won his first Test cap as a flanker in combination with John Thornett and ‘Mac’ Hughes in the 0-19 loss to France at Stade Colombes.