Rugby legend and mentor John Eales was immortalized with his own statue unveiled at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium recently.
The two-time World Cup winner is the first rugby union player to be bestowed the honour.
“I’m a bit embarrassed, it is very humbling. I don’t think anyone in this situation feels worthy,” said Eales.
“This isn’t an individual honour as much as a team honour and an honour for rugby as a sport. It’s recognition for all that Queensland rugby has done, all that rugby players of Queensland have done.”
The most successful Wallabies captain in history was bashful when talking about his own career, and was quick to shine a light on the sport’s future.
Bond University’s John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship students were front and centre at the presentation and hope to forge their own path in the code.
“It is great for the scholarship students to see the sport is really recognised in Queensland and Australia,” Eales said.
“They have worked really hard academically to get where they are, and from a rugby perspective they have a real opportunity to grow.
“It is a live pathway, and you need that opportunity for the young guys coming through. It provides that strong point of difference on the Gold Coast for Rugby Union.”
Queensland Reds lock Angus Blyth is still on the scholarship, despite joining the full-time Reds squad and is juggling sport and study commitments.
He’s a testament that the pathway system is working.
“It is pretty special having the John Eales Scholarship and having that pathway for young players coming in to university,” Blyth said.
“Just seeing how many people are here and the appreciation everyone has for Eales is pretty special.
“He’s a role model and mentor for me. I see him every few months and being able to ask him about anything, he’s obviously very knowledgeable.
“It’s awesome to be able to call him up and ask for advice. Having him as the same position, he knows a lot about the game.
“I’m still studying at Bond and it is a bit tricky now to juggle playing with the Reds and the academic side, but it is an awesome scholarship and has helped me out so much.
“It’s a dream come true to have the scholarship and the pathway and now to be at the Reds fulltime. It’s awesome.”