John Anthony Eales
- 694Wallaby Number
Pound for pound, John Eales was the finest player of his generation. He revolutionised the way a second rower / lock played the game. Eales was incredibly versatile, remarkably athletic, notably modest, universally respected and one of the great role models rugby has ever seen. He was the dominant lineout forward in the world, exhibited unbelievable poise when under pressure and had an extraordinary influence on the Australian team. He started in every Test in which he played and held the Bledisloe Cup aloft more than any other Australian. His was a truly remarkable career.
Born and bred in Brisbane, Eales was educated at Marist Brothers’ College, Ashgrove. He was a phenomenal athlete who participated in rugby, cricket, basketball and athletics, and showed promise in each. His cricket was so good that he spent two seasons in the 1st XI. Eales played one year in the 1st XV and unlike many of his future Wallaby contemporaries did not win selection for Australian Schools.
In his first season with the Brothers’ club he debuted for Queensland, and in a sign of things to come, Eales won the Rothmans Medal as the best and fairest player in Brisbane.
A year later and less than a month after he turned 21, Eales made his Test debut against Wales at Ballymore.
In the Rugby World Cup final that year, Australia clung to a 12-6 advantage inside the final ten minutes. England then capitalised on a Wallaby dropped ball and fly half Rob Andrew, with no one in front of him, raced to within 15 metres of the line only to be driven into the Twickenham turf by a crunching, copybook cover tackle by Eales. The attacking raid was diffused and Australia returned home as World Champions.
For Eales, 1991 was an extraordinary first year of international rugby and for the most part both he and the team enjoyed continued success from that point until his retirement.
He was anointed as captain in 1996, a role he maintained for 55 Tests.
During his career Eales won every international trophy available to an Australian test player - Bledisloe Cup series wins in 1992, ‘94, ‘98, ‘99, 2000 and ‘01, two Rugby World Cups, the Wallabies’ first two Tri Nations titles in 2000 and ‘01 and the Tom Richards Trophy when Australia defeated the 2001 British & Irish Lions.
In 1999 he was awarded the Order of Australia (AM) for services to the community and rugby. The following year he enjoyed one of the most dramatic moments in Bledisloe Cup history. The scene was Wellington and Australia had lost the first Test of the series. With time up on the clock and the Wallabies down 21-23 a Craig Dowd ruck offence saw Australia awarded a penalty. Eales immediately pointed to the posts then looked for Stirling Mortlock to take the potential game and series winning penalty kick. Unfortunately Mortlock had been replaced and it was Eales who stepped up in his absence. Fifteen metres from touch and just out from the 22, Eales calmly steered the ball through the posts and the Cup was retained. The vision of Eales converting that penalty will live among Wallaby supporters’ most treasured rugby memories.
John Eales played 86 Tests for Australia, 55 as captain, and scored 173 points in a decorated 11-year international career. In 2011 he was inducted into the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
Represented the AIS / Australian U21s against New Zealand Colts.
Eales won his first Test cap at lock alongside Brothers’ and Reds’ team mate Rod McCall in the 63-6 defeat of Wales at Ballymore. He played all 10 Tests that year, eight as a lock and two at No.8.
He was capped in the opening seven Tests of the year before disaster struck. Eales was hurt in the end-of-season tour match against Llanelli at Stradey Park. The injury was diagnosed as a posterior subluxation of the shoulder, which it was, however some six months later it was found to be complicated by a complete tear of the rotator cuff. He missed 14 months of rugby. Eales then made a comeback in the Warringah BushFire Relief Sevens tournament but in the final was flipped at the second half kick-off, landed on his head and - for the only time in his long career - knocked out. That resulted in another four weeks on the sidelines.
Eales returned at lock for all six Tests of the 1994 season.
Eales played every minute of the eight Wallaby internationals of the season.
He became the 66th Wallaby to captain his country in the 1st Test, 56-25 victory over Wales in Brisbane. Eales led the side in 10 of the 11 Tests of the season but missed the final international against Wales due to a fractured eye socket.
Eales captained from lock in 10 Tests but missed both the 3rd Test, 24-36 loss to New Zealand in Dunedin and the 22-61 defeat against South Africa in Pretoria due to a grade two medial ligament tear. He finished the season as Australia’s top point scorer (53).
Eales wore the No.5 jersey in all 13 Wallaby Tests and in the 3rd Test, 19-14 win over New Zealand in Sydney became the eighth Australia to score 100 Test points. He equalled Matthew Burke’s then Australian record of nine conversions in the 66-20 Rugby World Cup qualifier win against Fiji at Parramatta.
Eales missed the entire domestic season as well as the Tri Nations tournament after he re-tore his rotator cuff during a gymnasium weight session. He returned to be selected to a third Rugby World Cup and on November 6th raised the William Webb Ellis trophy aloft having led Australia to a 35-12 defeat of France in Cardiff.
Eales was capped in each of the Wallabies’ 10 Tests.
Eales played his last seven Tests and, following a dramatic late try to Wallaby No.8 Toutai Kefu in the 29-26 2nd Test victory against New Zealand in Sydney, had the honour of hoisting the Bledisloe Cup for a third time as his final act in international rugby.