Matt Burke

Matt Burke
Matt Burke
Full name Matthew Burke
Date of birth 26 March 1973 (1973-03-26) (age 38)
Place of birth Sydney, New South Wales
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight 14 st 11 lb (94 kg)
School St. Joseph's College
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Fullback
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team
1990-1996 Australia Eastwood
correct as of 2 November 2007.
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
2004-2008 England Newcastle Falcons 58 (373)
correct as of 9 December 2006.
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1990-2004 Australia New South Wales 71 (1172)
correct as of 9 September 2006.
Super Rugby
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1996-2004 Australia Waratahs 52 (959)
correct as of 9 September 2006.
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
Australia Australia
Australia Schoolboys
correct as of 1 September 2006.
Sevens national teams
Years Club / team Comps
1993 Australia Australia 1
correct as of 2 November 2007.

Matthew Burke (born 26 March 1973 in Sydney) is a retired Australian rugby union player. He grew up in Carlingford, New South Wales, and was schooled at St Gerard Majella Catholic Primary School, Carlingford[1] and St. Joseph's College, Hunters Hill. He played at fullback and is the all time second-highest scorer for Australia in international rugby.


Early rugby career

Starting out by playing the season before commencing at St. Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, Burke's career in schools representative rugby began in 1990 when he toured the United States and Ireland with the Australian Schoolboys. His international playing future was cemented through his association with the Eastwood Rugby Club and the experience gained there. He then progressed to the Australian Under 21s team in 1992 and 1993 at the same time as playing at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1992 and the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1993. Burke made his Test debut in 1993 when he played in the Third Test against the South African Springboks. Matt has now set up his own rugby coaching experiences under the Matt Burke Sports business. He runs both specialised skill sessions as well as school holiday clinics held at the Shore School.

Feats and playing style

In addition to being a leading fullback and playing with the Wallabies for over a decade, Burke's third year as New South Wales Waratahs captain saw him become the first player in the history of Waratah rugby to play over 100 games.

Burke has met with particular success against New Zealand's All Blacks which included scoring one of Australia's greatest Bledisloe Cup tries, in 1996. From a standing start in Brisbane, Burke broke through numerous New Zealand tackles, throwing a dummy to off-balance several other All Blacks, before running 80 metres for a memorable individual try. In 1998 he scored all 24 of the Wallabies points against New Zealand at the MCG, a world record against the All Blacks.

As the Wallaby fullback in 1999, he scored 23 points against the All Blacks at Stadium Australia, 24 points against South Africa in the Rugby World Cup semi final and 25 points against France in the grand final.

Burke's form suffered in games where his goal-kicking ability deserted him and he was afflicted by a serious shoulder injury in 1998. Despite making it back in the squad for the 1999 Rugby World Cup, it has been speculated that the injury affected his playing style.

Burke was retained as vice-captain and goal-kicker for the 2002 season. During that time he kicked a penalty after fulltime to win the Bledisloe Cup in windy conditions at Stadium Australia.


After the 1999 World Cup, Burke had been plagued by many injuries which severely limited his return to form. Queenslander Chris Latham was soon competing with him for the fullback position. While his goal kicking and fairly regular try-scoring had saved Australia in many games his injuries would soon take their toll.

He then made a transformation into wing and then outside centre to accommodate Latham's place on the team. Many commentators noted that he was however, restricted from playing more freely while not in his favoured fullback position. In 2003, he was given the position back but did not perform well enough to retain it.

Midway through the 2003 Rugby World Cup he was axed from the starting lineup - drawing mixed reactions; he would be relegated to the bench for the rest of his Wallabies career. In 2004, he found himself dropped from the NSW Waratahs. While he was injured early in that season - he still managed to score 62 points from his first six games; placing him ahead of Andrew Mehrtens in the all time points lead of the Super 12 (now Super Rugby) competition.

Coach Ewen McKenzie's decision to drop Burke drew ire from many in the union fraternity, who accused McKenzie of disloyalty and being shortsighted. This was further questioned when NSW attempted to poach footballer Andrew Johns from rival code league, despite Johns' and Burke's similar ages.

Burke played his last international test on 21 August 2004 against South Africa for the final few minutes.

In 2006, in his latest international appearance, he was named as starting fullback for the World XV Rugby team to play the South African Springboks for their first 2006 game.


Burke is still Australia's most capped fullback, having played 54 of his 81 Tests in that position. After breaking 1000 career points for NSW in 2003, he has scored 878 Test points for Australia.

Burke has been voted starting fullback in the Wallaby Team of the Decade.

Owing to his lasting impact in the Waratahs' jersey, the NSW Waratahs' Player of the Year now wins the Matt Burke Trophy.

Career in the United Kingdom

After losing his NSW contract, Burke was offered contracts by eight different clubs - including the Queensland Reds and teams in New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, France and England.

He played in the United Kingdom for the Newcastle Falcons in the Premiership.

has also won the 'Player of the Year' at the Falcons and was also named as captain of the side.

In February 2007, he obtained a British passport (while retaining Australian citizenship), qualifying through his England-born mother. His main reason for doing so was Guinness Premiership regulations prohibiting teams from having more than one non-EU citizen on the field at any time. This enabled the Falcons to play him at the same time as New Zealand prop Joe McDonnell.[2]


In May 2008 Burke announced his immediate retirement from playing after failing to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee suffered the previous October.[3]


  • Holds 22 Australian Rugby records and 7 International records
  • Sixth highest international points scorer of all time at his retirement (now ninth)
  • Eastwood Rugby Club (1990–2004)
  • World XV Rugby Team (2006)
  • NSW Waratahs (1990–2004)
  • Rugby Sevens Australia (1993)
  • Australian Wallabies (1993–2004)
  • Rugby World Cup Australia (1995, 1999 (winners), 2003 (runners-up))
  • PM's XV (1999, 2000–2002)
  • Barbarians (1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005)
  • Newcastle Falcons (2004–2007)
  • Wallaby of the Year (1996)
  • Sydney Morning Herald Player of the Year (1996–1998)
  • Twentieth most capped international of all time at the time of his retirement
  • Second-highest Super 12 scorer of all time (behind Andrew Mehrtens)
  • Second-highest scorer of all time in the Rugby Union Tri Nations (behind Mehrtens)

Notes and references

  1. ^ Burke, Matthew (2005). Matthew Burke: A Rugby Life. Pan Macmillan Australia. p. 5. ISBN 1405036710. 
  2. ^ "Burke becomes a Brit!". 8 February 2007.,18259,3823_1902976,00.html. 
  3. ^ Burke's career is ended by injury BBC Sport

External links

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