Australian Rugby Union is today mourning the loss of former Wallaby, Brian Ford, who passed away yesterday aged 72.
In 1957 Ford was handed the distinction of being the youngest ever player to make his Wallabies Test debut at the tender age 18 years and 3 months, a record that still stands to this day.
Born in Sydney in 1939, Ford came from good Wallaby stock. His father, Monty Ford, was the brother of Waratahs, Eric and Jack Ford, who both gained international honours in 1927-28 with the Waratahs against the All Blacks.
After growing up in Sydney, Ford moved to Brisbane at the end of World War II and after leaving school played his Rugby with Southern Districts (‘Souths’) C Grade side.
In 1956 after showing tremendous ability, he won promotion to South’s first grade side on the wing.
Ford’s efforts and talent didn’t go unnoticed by State selectors who, in 1957, rewarded his hard-hitting defence and speedy dashes down the left wing with a spot in the Queensland side that played two matches against the touring All Blacks.
Following their tour matches against Queensland the All Blacks had two Tests against the Wallabies. During the first of the Tests the Wallabies incumbent winger Ken Donald broke his arm.
Donald’s injury opened the door for Ford to make his debut and on the 1st of June 1957 the young Queensland winger ran out on the field for his first Test cap and became the youngest Wallaby in the history of the game.
Unfortunately it would be Ford’s only Test cap, with selectors overlooking him for a number tours before injury and work finally saw Ford hang up his boots in 1960.
Despite never being recalled to the Wallabies line up following his fairy-tale Test debut Ford did manage games for the Australian Barbarians during the All Blacks tour in 1957 and for Queensland in 1960 when they took on the British and Irish Lions in a tour match.
The game against the Lions would be Ford’s last representative cap after he sustained a back injury during the encounter, an injury that would lead him in the amateur era to concentrate fulltime on his work pursuits.
Since Ford’s debut in 1957 at the age of 18 years 3 months only one Wallaby has come close to taking the mantle of youngest debutant. James O’Connor made his Test debut in 2008 aged 18 years and 4 months.