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The great Auckland and All Black winger Bryan Williams was one. I really loved watching 'BeeGee' play. But I grew up out in West Auckland and there was a massive Rugby League following out that way then. So I loved seeing those brilliant Kiwi outside backs Dane O'Hara and Fred Ah Khoi play too.
In rugby it was Andy Irvine the great Scottish and Lions full back. A brilliant attacker he was my Scottish hero! In golf it was Jack Nicklaus – just wish I could have played golf like him!
A 48 test veteran Jerry Collins tragically died in a car crash in Southern France aged only 34.
Queensland and Australia
86 internationals for Australia 1991-2001
One of Australian rugby’s most recognizable and powerful rugby personalities, the modest, lanky Queenslander John Eales had a career at the top which spanned more than a decade and included playing in three World Cups. That in itself is a superb achievement but when the winning of the World Cup twice, as well as being captain once, are added in, his world status is further elevated.
John Eales was a 21 year old in just his second season of senior football when he played his first test on his home ground of Ballymore in Brisbane, against Wales in July of 1991. The Wallabies won 63-6 and followed that with a 40-15 win six days later in the second test in Sydney. A fortnight later and young Eales had outjumped the fast-rising New Zealand lock forward Ian Jones as Australia stormed to a 21-12.
The speed of his rise continued. By November that year he had played a World Cup final and after only being an international player for just a week over three months he had shared in the 12-6 win over England at Twickenham.
In many respects his career never looked back from that heady start. His play, as a tall leaping lock forward was always strong and authoritative, his goal-kicking from the lock forward position was often a real bonus to his Queensland and Australian teams. One time, early in his career, in a Brisbane club game, he let fly with a dropped goal attempt from half way. The ball flew high and true between the posts. The modest Eales dismissed the kick as if it were nothing. When he took over the captaincy of his country he was almost as laconic in accepting the honour. Not that Eales wasn’t proud, he was quietly delighted. He took to leadership as if to the manner born. It brought out in himself an ability to also bring quiet influence, confidence and respect from his teammates. A number of seasoned Australian writers rate him among their very best captains of all time. Those same writers say he is the best forward that country has ever produced.
Certainly as a player Eales was a true utility, playing in more than one position in the forward pack, (lock and number eight forward) yet he was also a multi-skilled performer around the field. He had such talent that somewhere on one of his journeys one of his mates called him ‘Nobody’ but it was not a reference to his quiet and shy manner. The name was a shortened version of ‘nobody’s perfect.’ The name was a backhanded compliment to his rare gifts.
John Eales played everywhere in the rugby world and, as already listed, had probably more success than any other player. By the time he reached the 1999 Rugby World Cup he was one of the most familiar faces of the world game. But retirement was looming. He had only reached the final’s series after a long and careful buildup recovering from a shoulder injury. But he played the World Cup with more than his usual authority and vigour; at one point it the final against Wales in Cardiff he demanded of the referee; Andre Watson of South Africa, that he should look closely at the tactics of the French players; ‘if you do not look at their foul play I will take my team off the field.’ Coming from Eales it was absolute that something was going on.
When the Wallabies won by the resounding margin of 35-12 John Eales took the Cup from Queens Elizabeth II and held it high. Though he played on for one more season that was the summit of his superb career.
His total of 86 test matches was then a Wallaby record for a forward; only the winger David Campese had played more. (Only Tim Horan and Jason Little were also in two World Cup winning teams; but does Eales being captain in one final just lift him a little higher?)
Who was the New Zealand test cricketer who played one rugby test for England?