Matthew Peter Burke
- 646Wallaby Number
Big, strong and fast, Matthew Burke was one of the most prolific try scorers in the history of Australian Test rugby. An explosive running three-quarter and intensely competitive, Burke often gave the impression that he would rather go through an opponent than around him.
Born in Sydney and educated at Waverley College, Burke came from strong sporting stock. His father Peter represented Australia in rugby league and his elder brother Brad (Wallaby #675) played one Test for his country. Such was his talent that Matthew only needed a little more than two years to progress from the unbeaten 1981-82 Australian Schoolboys to become a Wallaby.
In 1984 Burke showed enough in his two performances for Sydney and New South Wales against the touring All Blacks to win a spot on the Australian tour of the U.K. and Ireland. Unfortunately a tragedy of sorts provided Burke with his opportunity when he came off the bench against England after Brendan Moon broke his arm. From his debut Burke played in 23 of the Wallabies 26 Tests through to the end of the 1987 season.
He was a member of the 1986 Australian side who became just the fourth team ever to win a Test series on New Zealand soil and he was selected in the squad for the 1987 Rugby World Cup. At the end of that inaugural tournament, and still well and truly in his rugby prime, Burke switched codes to play rugby league for Eastern Suburbs. Matthew Burke played 23 Tests for Australia, and scored 15 tries, in a four-year international career. His strike rate of a try in every 1.53 Tests ranks second all-time for Australia behind Roland ‘Pup’ Raymond (Wallaby #158).
Represented Australian Schools against Ireland Schools, Scotland Schools and Welsh Youth.
Selected in the Australian U21s squad against Fiji U21s. Represented Australian U21s when they defeated New Zealand U21s 36-12 at the S.C.G.
Represented Australian U21s when they defeated New Zealand U21s 26-18 at Pukekohe.
Burke won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Brendan Moon on the left wing in the 19-3 victory over England at Twickenham. He retained his spot a week later for the 16-9 win against Ireland in Dublin.
Burke played in all five Wallaby Tests, the first three on the left wing and the final two against Fiji at No.13 outside of Brett Papworth. He scored his first test tries in the 1st Test, 59-3 defeat of Canada in Sydney. Burke finished the season as equal top try scorer (5) with Peter Grigg.
Burke was capped in all seven internationals of 1986. He started in six of those Tests, once on the right wing against France, two on the left wing against Argentina and three times at No.13 against New Zealand.
In his final season of international rugby Burke earned nine caps, eight of which were as the starting left winger. He finished the year at the top try scorer with eight.