Kevin James Ryan

  • 89Age
  • 5Caps
  • 432Wallaby Number
PositionNo. 8
Date Of BirthAugust 26, 1934
Place of BirthIpswich, QLD
SchoolSt Joseph's Nudgee College
Debut ClubBrothers (Brisbane)
Debut Test Match1958 Wallabies v England, London
Final Test Match1958 Wallabies v New Zealand, 3rd Test Auckland


Kevin Ryan was one of the hardest men to ever play rugby for Australia. Referred to as an enforcer during his rugby league days, Ryan was feared by most opposition players, not just as a barnstorming runner of the ball, nor as a punishing defender, but as a highly qualified heavyweight boxer. Ryan was Queensland Amateur Boxing Champion and was beaten in a trial for the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Born in Ipswich, Ryan’s rugby career started at Nudgee College, Brisbane. After school he joined the Brothers’ club and from there, aged just 19, he debuted at lock for Queensland against New South Wales and a couple of weeks later played two matches against the touring Fijians. Unfortunately Ryan’s path to higher honours was slowed by the presence of the well established locking pair of Alan Cameron and Tony Miller who started every Wallaby Test for the next three seasons (1954-56).

In 1956, Ryan shifted to the side of the scrum for the two interstate clashes and the match against the Springboks. A year later he ventured into the front row, on both sides, without cracking national selection before he reverted to No.8 ahead of the Fourth Wallabies tour. That change proved successful and Ryan was named in the 30-man squad. ‘Mac Hughes’ played No.8 in the opening two internationals however when John Thornett was omitted for the Test against England, Hughes moved to the side and Ryan came in to make his Test debut. When Hughes stayed abroad after the tour to further his career as an architect, Ryan became the first choice No.8 however at the end of that season he switched codes to play rugby league with St George.

Ryan played in seven successive grand final wins from 1960-66 and in 1964 became a dual international when he represented the Kangaroos against France.

Kevin Ryan played five Tests for Australia in a one-year international career.



Ryan won his first Test cap at No.8 in combination with ‘Mac Hughes’ and Peter Fenwicke in the 6-9 loss to England at Twickenham.


Ryan started at No.8 alongside Ted Purkiss and Jack Pashley in the 1st Test, 15-14 victory over the Maori in Brisbane. In the first quarter of the match Maori flanker Hone Emery knocked down Australian halfback Don Logan. Ryan calmly walked up to Emery ‘and floored him’ with a right to the mouth. Emery resumed with badly cut lips, a loose tooth and plaster over his upper lip. While the incident took place right in front of the referee, and Ryan was cautioned, Australia received a penalty on the grounds that Emery had committed the original infringement. It has been suggested that this indiscretion was the reason Ryan failed to be selected for the final two Tests of the series. Ryan did tour New Zealand where he played No.8 in all three Bledisloe Cup Tests.

Kevin James Ryan