The 694th player to pull on the iconic all Gold jersey, Eales accumulated 86 Test caps over a decade and captained the Wallabies on 55 occasions racking up an enviable record, including a Rugby World Cup win in 1999, four Bledisloe Cup wins from 1998 to 2001, two Tri Nation wins in 2000 and 2001 and a series win against the British Lions in 2001.
Born and bred in Brisbane, Eales attended Marist Brothers’ Ashgrove, the same school as another former Test skipper and Wallaby Hall of Fame member Des Connor.
While at school Eales played a range of sports including cricket, basketball and athletics, and showed promise in all. As a cricketer he was considered on a par with former Australian opening batsman Mathew Hayden, who was also at the school, and as a result spent two years in the First XI and one year in the First XV.
Showing more promise in cricket than in Rugby during his formative years it wasn’t until he reached the age of 20 that Eales began to take the world by storm.
Debuting against the University of Queensland, where he was a student dabbling in Human Movement Studies, in 1990, he was immediately regarded as somewhat of a special talent and was awarded the Rothmans Medal in his first year as the best and fairest player in Brisbane. In that same year he made the Queensland team and amazed coach John Connolly with his poise and assurance.
In 1991, as a 21-year-old, Eales was selected for his first international hit-out as part of a he Queensland team that took on the touring Wales side. It was a winning introduction to international Rugby for Eales as Queensland ran out victors 35 to 24.
On the basis of his performance Eales was picked in the Wallabies team to play the Welshmen and was paired in the second row with Rod McCall.
Peter FitzSimons, in the biography John Eales, wrote of his reaction to being selected:
“... the instant Templeton read out the last name, John was awash in handshakes and congratulations. Simon Whitehart, who had come along as John’s guest, chuckled quietly as he watched John closely. Just about everyone else he knew would have given themselves the luxury of a couple of air-punches or a few cartwheels around the room for joy. Not John. That would have been showing off.
“... John confided... later that at the moment of the announcement... be darned if it didn’t feel a bit like an out-of-body experience.
“That is, in some kind of surreal way, John strongly felt like he was watching someone else being so warmly congratulated, not him. Him, John Eales, the Australian Test second-rower, in only his second year of senior rugby? It couldn’t be right, could it?”
Wales were convincingly beaten by the Wallabies 63-6.
Eales then helped the Wallabies to a dominant 40-15 victory over England before joining Rod McCall to take on the All Blacks in a 21-12 win at the Sydney Football Stadium.
In the second Test, played at Eden Park, New Zealand won out in a cliff-hanger by 6-3, Michael Lynagh had a rare off day with the boot, missing six of seven.
Eales then joined the Wallabies in the British Isles for the 1991 Rugby World Cup, where played an integral part of the Wallabies first World Cup triumph.
In 1995, following several years of success on the paddock for the Wallabies, a new chapter evolved for Eales. Greg Smith was the new coach, and John Eales the new Australian captain.
In his first year as captain Eales led the Wallabies in 12 matches, 10 of them Tests, with the report card in the Tests reading seven wins and three losses, the losses being to New Zealand twice and South Africa once.
In 1997 Eales led his charges in 10 Tests, with six wins, one draw and three losses. The losses again to New Zealand twice and Argentina once, while the draw was against England.
In 1998 Eales in his third year as captain led the Wallabies to a clean sweep 3-nil series win over the All Blacks.
In 1999 it was another World Cup year, and while Eales was injured in the lead up, missing several Tests, he returned for the tournament and led Australia to its second global triumph.
Following the 1999 Rugby World Cup, Eales captained Australia in 10 Tests in 2000, only two of which were lost, to New Zealand and England, by very close scores.
The loss to New Zealand, 39-35, was a Bledisloe Cup match played in front of almost 110,000 fans in Sydney and was later hailed as the greatest Test ever played.
To retain the Bledisloe Cup, the Wallabies had to beat the All Blacks in Wellington, and Eales sealed a 24-23 victory with a penalty goal at the death.
The Wallabies also went on to beat South Africa in Durban to win the Tri Nations for the first time.
Eales ended his career by leading Australia in a further seven Tests in 2001.
They produced a 2-1 series win over the British and Irish Lions and another Tr Nations title.
In total Eales played 112 matches for his State, 97 matches for his country - 86 of them Tests. He captained the Wallabies in 55 Tests.
Eales is the 22nd inductee to the Wallaby Hall of Fame and joins Herbert ‘Paddy’ Moran as the second inductee for 2011.
Full Name: John Anthony Eales
Date of Birth: 27/06/1970
Place of Birth: Brisbane
School Attended: Marist Brothers, Ashgrove, Brisbane
Wallaby Number: 694
Test Caps: 86 (55 as Captain)
Non-Test Cap: 11
Test Points: 173 (2 tries, 31 cons, 34 pg)
Position Played: Lock
State: QLD 112 (1990-2001)
Tours: 1991 NZ, 1991 WC, 1992 SA, 1992 UK, 1995 WC, 1996 Europe, 1997 ARG/UK, 1998 Europe, 1999 WC, 2000 Europe