Ken Irvine

Career Stats & Summary

Vital Statistics

Full Name
Kenneth John Irvine
Nickname(s)
Mongo
Born
Tuesday, 5th March, 1940
Died
Saturday, 22nd December, 1990 (Aged 50 years and 291 days)

Awards & Accolades

International Hall Of Fame
2004
National Rugby League Hall Of Fame
2004
NSWRL Hall Of Fame
2018

Biography

Ken Irvine's records and achievements place him at the very top of the list of Australia's champion wingers. Irvine was a sprint champion with a unique gift for scoring a try. In a career spanning 16 seasons, he scored more tries than any other player in the history of the code (212 tries in 242 games for Norths and Manly). In 31 Test appearances, including three Kangaroo tours (1959-60, 1963-64 & 1967-68), Irvine scored 121pts (33t, 11g). Appearing in 24 matches for NSW he still heads the try-scoring list with 30 tries. A student of Mosman Marist Brothers Irvine had very little rugby league experience as a youngster, preferring instead athletics and baseball. He was a member of the NSW Colts baseball side (along with Reg Gasnier) and could have pressed for selection for the 1960 Olympics in athletics had he not chosen to follow a career in league. In early 1958 Norths' secretary Harry McKinnon signed Irvine after spotting the 17-year-old in a trial match. The season's leading try-scorer in 1959 (19t) he made his Test debut against France on the 1959-60 Kangaroo Tour. Not only a prolific try-scorer, Irvine was also a fine goal-kicker. In the Third Test against Great Britain in 1962, Australia was facing a series whitewash until Irvine converted a late try (with guidance from referee Darcy Lawler who told him to re-align the ball) to post an 18-17 win. In the early 1960s, he held the world professional 100 yards record (9.3 seconds) and on one celebrated occasion, even took on a racehorse, ‘Gili’, in a match race. (The horse won). Irvine scored two tries in Australia's 50-12 Second Test win at Swinton to take the Ashes but was not to fare as well on his next tour of England and France in 1967-68. Despite taking his tally to a record 12 tries in Anglo-Australian Tests he broke his leg in France and missed most of the 1968 season. Irvine returned to the game and was the season's leading try-scorer in 1969 (17t) but the following year, he led an infamous player walk-off in a game against C’bury after he was sent off by referee Keith page for swearing. In 1970 he played for Australia in an international match against France at the end of the World Cup despite not having been part of the original squad. After further disagreements with Norths’ high-profile English coach Roy Francis, he joined Manly in 1971. The Sea Eagles gave him the end to his career he wanted - consecutive premierships in 1972-73. Irvine lost a private battle against leukemia in 1990, age 50, and was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2004.

- ALAN WHITICKER

Career Statistics

All statistics shown in this section are based only on data available in the RLP database, and are not necessarily a complete and/or 100% accurate representation of a player's career. This information should be used as a guide only. If you see a question mark (?), it denotes that the figure is not available.

To view a list of corresponding matches, click on the List button.

Competitions

Competition   App T G   FG Pts W L D Win %  
NRL 73 212 70   1 778 33 38 2 45.21% List
City Cup 3 4 -   - 12 3 0 0 100.00% List
Interstate Matches 25 29 4   - 95 18 5 2 72.00% List
Test Series 31 33 11   - 79 21 8 2 67.74% List
Tour Matches Australia 37 40 11   - 142 27 8 2 72.97% List
City vs Country Firsts 8 7 -   - 21 6 2 0 75.00% List
Tour Matches New South Wales Firsts 6 4 -   - 12 2 4 0 33.33% List
World Cup 2 - -   - - 2 0 0 100.00% List
The Ashes 9 12 3   - 84 5 4 0 55.56% List
NRL Finals 9 1 3   - 9 4 5 0 44.44% List


International

Test Matches - By Team

Team Years App T G   GK % FG Pts W L D Win %  
Australia 1959-67, 1970 36 40 11   - 142 26 8 2 72.22% List
Overall 1959-1970 36 40 11   0 142 26 8 2 72.22% List

International Matches - By Team

Team Years App T G   GK % FG Pts W L D Win %  
Australia 1959-1960 1 2 -   - 6 1 0 0 100.00% List
Overall 1960 1 2 0   0 6 1 0 0 100.00% List

World Cup Matches - By Team

Team Years App T G   GK % FG Pts W L D Win %  
Australia 1959-1960 2 - -   - - 2 0 0 100.00% List
Overall 1960 2 0 0   0 - 2 0 0 100.00% List


Representative

Australia - By Team

Team Years App T G   GK % FG Pts W L D Win %  
NSW Firsts 1959-67 31 33 4   - 107 20 9 2 64.52% List
NSW City Firsts 1960-67 8 7 -   - 21 6 2 0 75.00% List
Overall 1959-1967 39 40 4   0 128 26 11 2 66.67% List


Club Career

Australian League Matches - By Year

Team Years App T G   GK % FG Pts W L D Win %  
North Sydney NSWRFL 1958 3 - -   - - 2 1 0 66.67% List
North Sydney NSWRFL 1959 18 19 -   - 57 9 9 0 50.00% List
North Sydney NSWRFL 1960 15 16 -   - 48 6 9 0 40.00% List
North Sydney NSWRFL 1961 13 17 1   - 53 8 5 0 61.54% List
North Sydney NSWRFL 1962 13 15 12   - 69 3 9 1 23.08% List
North Sydney NSWRFL 1963 ? 16 -   - 48  
North Sydney NSWRFL 1964 ? 15 3   - 51  
North Sydney NSWRFL 1965 ? 13 3   - 45  
North Sydney NSWRFL 1966 ? 13 1   - 41  
North Sydney NSWRFL 1967 ? 14 26   1 96  
North Sydney NSWRFL 1968 ? - -   - -  
North Sydney NSWRFL 1969 ? 17 13   - 77  
North Sydney NSWRFL 1970 ? 16 -   - 48  
Manly NSWRFL 1971 ? 15 -   - 45  
Manly NSWRFL 1972 ? 13 11   - 61  
Manly NSWRFL 1973 ? 13 -   - 39  
Overall 1958-1973 ? 212 70   1 778 ? ? ? ?  

Australian League Matches - By Team

Team Years App T G   GK % FG Pts W L D Win %  
North Sydney 1958-62 62 67 13   - 227 28 33 1 45.16% List
Manly 1971-73 ? - -   - - ? ? ? ?  
Overall 1958-1973 ? 212 70   1 778 ? ? ? ?  

All Australian Club Matches - By Team

Team Years App T G   GK % FG Pts W L D Win %  
North Sydney 1958-62, 1964-65 65 115 19   - 383 28 36 1 43.08% List
Manly 1971-73 4 27 11   - 103 3 1 0 75.00% List
Overall 1958-1973 69 216 70   1 790 31 37 1 44.93% List

Your Say

Col the Bear says: Ken Irvine is also a member of the North Sydney Team of the Century (wing). (05/02/2011)

Philip O'Brien says: In my opinion, Ken Irvine was the greatest winger of his era and one of the greatest of all time. He had pace, safe hands, anticipation and the ability to swerve at high speed around tackles . Contemporary rugby league players might be superior athletes but there?s not the extreme speed on the wings that there was in Irvine's day. The irony is that Irvine (173 cm tall and weighing 73.5 kg) would be too small for the modern game. (01/06/2011)

Anonymous says: SIMPLY THE BEST (03/09/2011)

Anonymous says: They walked in 1947, took 'em longer to get Kenny. (27/02/2012)

roy horrigan says: greatest winger of all time by a mile.nobody of the
modern era comes near the pace and dexterity of
ken irvine.was at kembla grange the day he raced
gili the racehorse.the only time i saw anything race away from him.i think athol mulley rode gili that day.tragically taken far too soon.he left some great football memories.a one in a century player. (01/04/2012)

Michael Young says: One of the best to play the game in any position. His career would have been more stellar if he had transferred from North Sydney earlier. He would have been a sensation in todays game with the 10m rule giving him more room. He also kicked the odd goal. As part of the Kangaroos he was equall to those inside him. eg Changa & Puff the magic Dragon (Gasnier) (17/06/2012)

barryp says: my first run in pro race was given 8.5 yards start

he went past like i was nailed to ground ,

my old trainer ned green used to say that ken

took an extra step before he hit the ground backhand complement (06/07/2012)

Wayne hinder says: Never have seen the crowd stand to their feet every time ken touched the ball (24/09/2012)

Jim West says: I played for Marist Brothers Parramatta against Ken in the ACC RL competition in 1956 and 1957, and he was a very personable and likeable guy. Parra won in '56 (14-9), but we just couldn't contain him and he kicked our butt (30-5) in the GF in '57. (01/10/2012)

Rabbit Ian says: Ken Irvine the very best ever, imagine how many tries he would have had if the corner post was the same rule they have today, seen him lose many tries due to being tackled into the corner post, he surely had the ball down whilst he was still in the air.
The very first time that I seen a live game of league Mongo scored three quick tries against the berries.
Legend RIP Champion (10/06/2016)

Barry Spence says: Kenny, in my opinion was the greatest winger of all time, a great mate and a good bloke. Rest in Peace my dear friend. (21/04/2017)

Costa says: Should have been an immortal. His record speaks for itself. Brilliant finisher with a try scoring record that is still unbeaten with 212 tries. Went on 3 Kangaroo tours. The greatest winger of all time. RIP (26/10/2017)

Barry Kennelly says: I was fortunate enough to see Ken play many games for the Bears, NSW and Australia, every time Ken got the ball the crowd rose to their feet. He had blistering speed and it was sheer pleasure to see him play rep football outside Reg Gaznier . It was three points for a try in those days, I wonder what what his points tally would have been if a try was four points. A true legend. (08/04/2019)

Jeff mcnally says: I was playing junior s in 1969 for Fremantle , I was 9 then and somehow won best and fairest that year for my age division in W.A. So I got to be ball boy at Victoria Park when North Sydney played W.A . Took the bucket out to Ken a number of times ! Panicking trying to find enough Sand for placekicker. That was cool ! (18/06/2020)

John phillips says: By far the greatest winger the game has seen. His speed and swerve were just amazing to watch. I was on the hill of the SCG when he kicked the goal that won the test against England, but he also scored the try and he was the only player that could have scored just by sheer speed. (26/08/2020)

Frank says: One of the greatest moments of my very short professional running career was to run against ken in the final of the south Sydney gift I think 1964 he was off scratch I off six and three quarter yards. The six of us finished in a blanket finish within two yards.I was last the guy off ten yards won.i watched ken at the start a number of times he word be out of the blocks a yard or so before the rest got going. (05/04/2021)

Philip OBrien says: Much more than the NRL try-scoring record holder. One of the most exciting players of his generation: glamorous, a favourite with crowds and always with time to sign autographs for fans. He might not have been the strongest defender and Mike Cleary might have been a shade faster but Irvine had the full competitive package for a winger of his time: acceleration, speed, positional sense and a great swerve. The mystery is why his form disappeared on the 1967/68 Kangaroo Tour (heavy grounds? declining speed? loss of confidence?). He was dropped for the Ashes series but returned for the First Test in France where he badly broke his left leg. He missed the 1968 season and, at an age when many players of his era were near retirement, rebuilt his strength and fitness, returning for five more seasons of Sydney rugby league. He never played another Test match for Australia. Despite suggestions that this was retribution for his part in the 1970 North Sydney walk-off, by now wingers were becoming bulkier (eg Mark Harris, Bill Mullins, Stephen Knight) and the era of speed for its own sake had passed. Yet, in these final years, Irvine was still competitive enough to hold his own against younger, bigger wingers and remained among the top try-scorers each season. (24/04/2021)

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