Matthew John Ryan
Very few players in the history of Australian rugby have come closer to winning a debut Test cap than Matt ‘Bubba’ Ryan. He is the only Wallaby to go away on three senior tours yet remain uncapped. On seven separate occasions over a three-year period, Ryan was selected as a reserve in the then 21-man match day squad only to be either left unused on the bench, ruled out pre-game through injury or, as was the case in the third Test of the 1990 home series against France, had to withdraw due to a nasty case of “scrum pox”. If Ryan had played in the professional era it is almost certain that he would have been capped in all seven internationals.
A powerfully built, intimidating and technically proficient front row forward on both sides of the scrum, Ryan played his first rugby at McAuley Catholic Primary School in Sydney’s Rose Bay. He then moved onto Waverley College but left halfway through Year 9 to attend the famed St. Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill. Ryan went on to play two years in the College’s 1st XV (1984-85) and from there won selection in the GPS 1st XV (1984-85), New South Wales Schools (1985) and the Australian Schools (1985) with fellow future Wallabies Ricky Stuart, Scott Gourley, David Wilson, Richard Tombs, Michael Foley and David Dix.
Ryan played his first senior football in 1987 with Eastwood’s 3rd XV and was set to be graded in firsts before Steve Lidbury broke his jaw in the final trial against Warringah. A year later Ryan switched to West Harbour under 1982 Wallaby tourist John Griffiths. He made his first-grade debut for the Pirates in a tough forward pack which included Vili Ala’alatoa (father of Alan, Wallaby #896), Fetaiki Langi and Danny Naylor. In 1988 Ryan won selection for the Phil Kearns-captained Australian U21s and was a member of the team -- alongside Andrew Blades, John Ross, Gourley, Michael Cheika, Andrew Cairns, Paul Kahl, Tombs and Darren Junee -- that defeated New Zealand U21s 24-19 at Ballymore.
In 1989 Ryan faced a difficult decision. At the time New South Wales was somewhat blessed with several high-quality prop forwards -- Mark Hartill, Peter Kay, Ewen McKenzie and Mick Murray -- and as such the competition for a state jersey was quite intense. Ryan moved north to Brisbane and joined Brothers. The timing could not have been better given Cameron Lillicrap damaged his cruciate ligament in the 1st Test against the British Lions and Rob Lawton had accepted an invitation to play in South Africa. In the very first representative game of 1990, Ryan debuted for his new state in the 21-12 win over Fiji at Suva.
Ryan went on to play strongly in both of Queensland’s victories in the interstate matches and was rewarded with selection in the Wallaby match day squad for the first Test against France. Ryan was named in the squad for all three Tests of that series as well as the one-off fixture against the U.S.A. but was forced off the bench for the final two French Tests and the U.S.A. match after contracting a facial viral infection. To top off an already successful season, Ryan then won a spot on the Wallaby tour to New Zealand where he made his international debut in the opening match - the uncapped 21-10 victory over Waikato. Unfortunately, Ryan did not force his way into the Test team although he was named as a reserve for each of the three Bledisloe Cup matches. Ryan rounded out the year, one in which he was described as ‘the form Australian prop’, with selection for the Emerging Wallabies tour to the U.K. and Europe.
Ryan suffered a blow in 1991 when an inflamed disc in his back effectively ruled him out of contention for Australia’s victorious Rugby World Cup squad. Although still troubled by the injury, Ryan returned the following season and with Dan Crowley out of action due to a calf injury he earned a spot on the Wallabies’ short tour to South Africa. Crowley made his way back for the end-of-season trip to Wales and Ireland however Tony Daly then suffered a protruded disc in his lower back during the Wallabies' 38-11 win over Leinster. As a result, Ryan was called into the squad as Daly’s replacement and went on to be picked in the match day squad for both internationals.
In 1993 Crowley assumed the reserve front row spot throughout the Test season and early the following year Ryan suffered a serious neck injury when he came on as a replacement against Cordoba during Queensland’s pre-season tour of Argentina. The injury ruled Ryan out for the season however he did recover to play a role in the 1995 Super 10 final as the Reds beat Transvaal 30-16. Switched to tighthead Ryan performed well in the inaugural Super 12 rugby season before he played the last of his 45 representative matches for Queensland, the 24-34 loss to France at Ballymore in 1997.
In his post-playing career Ryan coached Penrith in the Sydney Shute Shield competition. He was also a technical adviser for both the Fijian (2007 RWC) and Singaporean national teams.
Represented Australian Schools
Represented Australia U21s
Ryan played six uncapped matches on the Wallabies’ tour to New Zealand – vs. Waikato (W 21-10), vs. West Coast-Buller (W 62-0), vs. Hanan Shield XV (W 34-0), vs. North Auckland (W 28-14), vs. North Harbour (W 23-12), and vs. Bay of Plenty (L 4-12)
Ryan started two matches on the Wallabies’ tour to South Africa - vs. Western Transvaal (W 46-13) and Eastern Province (W 34-8); and another five games on the tour of Ireland and Wales - Connacht (W 14-6), Swansea (L 6-21), Neath (W 16-8), Monmouthshire (W 19-9) and Welsh Students (W 37-6).