The nickname ‘Nobody’ seems a little dismissive, until it is patiently explained to you that it is as in ‘Nobody’s perfect’.
This is the epithet John Eales has been carrying around for years, through his work as a World Rugby Ambassador, multiple business directorships, Olympic Team Liaison work and newspaper columnist – oh, and also books on leadership in business and sport.
He carries it round on a 2m-tall frame from a pair of huge legs, one of which once landed a touchline conversion to win a Bledisloe Cup.
The award for Australia‘s best player every year is named after him, presumably on the basis that the organisers believe his record across the board will never be improved upon.
As if all the above wasn’t enough, Eales, a native Queenslander, was also an all-rounder at cricket at his school, Marist College, before going on to play for the University of Queensland.
He graduated in 1991 with a double major in psychology and only then, as these were the amateur days, did he focus on rugby.
Goodness knows how good he might have been had he decided to do it earlier…
He played 112 times for Queensland overall, including 42 appearances for the Queensland Reds in Super Rugby. He also played club rugby for Brothers in Brisbane.
Among several records he either holds or held, is that of the highest-scoring forward in Super Rugby history, with 402 points, which include 66 conversions and 80 penalties, an extraordinary feat for a lock.
The two World Cups at either end of his career are probably the main markers, but there is so much in between his debut against Wales in Brisbane in 1991 and his final game in 2001, a last-gasp win against New Zealand in Sydney. There’s the World Cup Final in 1991, where a magnificent try-saving tackle on Rob Andrew was a major difference in the 12-6 win. There’s also the period where Australia dominated World Rugby, between 1998 and Eales’ retirement in 2001, when Australia held the Bledisloe Cup for four straight years and won the Tri-Nations in consecutive years after the 1999 World Cup Final, followed in 2001 by his repelling Graham Henry’s Lions. Indeed the Eales-Macqueen captain-coach partnership is recognised as one of the all-time greatest.
All the way through though, Eales picked up plaudits from all for his level-headed leadership, technical ability and athleticism, even in times of adversity; his first game as captain was a 43-6 defeat to New Zealand in 1996. But he could count mental toughness as one of his key skills and if that might have been his lowest point against New Zealand, possibly the highest would be the touchline conversion against New Zealand four years later to clinch both Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations. He retired as the game’s most-capped lock ever, and while that has been surpassed, the memories of one of the all-time greats never will.
Eales is married to Lara and they have five children: Sean, Elijah, John Jr., Sophia and Lily.
Given the huge number of roles and business assets Eales has developed, this would be impossible to calculate, but he’s unlikely ever to want for anything ever again.
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