Gavin Luka and Dylan Riley now have the chance to fulfil their dreams of becoming world class professional rugby players, thanks to rugby legend John Eales and benefactor Terry Jackman.
The two south-east Queensland students were chosen from a field of young national and international rugby hopefuls to receive the 2016 John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarships.
The prestigious scholarship covers the full tuition of an undergraduate degree at Bond University on the Gold Coast for each recipient, and comes with a bonus that money just can't buy: one-on-one mentoring sessions with rugby legend John Eales.
Gavin, who is of Samoan heritage, grew up in Ipswich and like many rugby players, started his football career playing schoolboy rugby league for Woodcrest State College and Keebra Park State High School.
In 2013, Gavin’s life and football career took a change in direction when he received a sporting scholarship to attend the prestigious Nudgee College, and it was here that his rugby career kicked off, while he continued to achieve academically.
“Since I first stepped onto the rugby field, I’ve been in love with the game,” Gavin said. “The excitement, camaraderie and pure adrenaline of the sport had me in its grip from the very start.”
In 2015 at just 17 years of age, Gavin made the ARU National Under 18s squad and the St George Queensland Reds Under 18s squad, as well as being part of the training squad for the Queensland Reds Under 20s.
In addition to his sporting and academic achievements, Gavin’s strong sense of social justice saw him involved in a number of community service activities while at Nudgee, plus he was able to combine his passion for rugby and mentoring by coaching the Nudgee Year 5 & 6 rugby teams.
“I thought this could be my chance to have a world-class rugby career and be the first in my family to go to University, without burdening myself and my family with debt,” Gavin said.
“To be mentored by John Eales is a dream come true and to be a recipient of this Bond scholarship has inspired me beyond belief.
“It is a learning experience that only a handful of people in the world will ever have and promises so much for my personal, academic and sporting ambitions.”
Gavin plans to commence a Bachelor of Commerce at Bond in January 2016, with a view to a future career in Actuarial Science.
No stranger to competing at a national level, in 2015 Dylan Riley was a member of the Australian School Boys Rugby Union team and the Australian Youth Sevens team. He is also a member of the Reds Under 20s Elite Development squad, a squad which consists of the best up-and-coming players in Queensland.
Dylan, who was born in Durban, South Africa didn’t start playing rugby until his family moved to the Gold Coast nine years ago.
The Hope Island local has attended TSS since 2010 is an all-round sportsman spanning rugby, cross country, swimming and track and field, as well as being the school’s Open Sprints Champion and a member of the TSS First XI premiership cricket team.
Dylan held a number of both sporting and leadership roles at TSS including vice-captain of the school and house vice-captain.
“I’ve grown up looking up to John Eales and he has been a massive influence in my sporting career, so I was quite overwhelmed to receive this scholarship in his name, and more importantly receive mentoring from the man himself,” Dylan said.
“The Queensland Premier rugby competition is a massive step up from school and representative level rugby and there are a lot of feeder paths offered through this competition, like the National Rugby Championship.
“Likewise, university is a new challenge in terms of my education and future career, and I’m really looking forward to that challenge too.
“Having access to extra tutoring sessions and flexibility with my program will make it a lot easier for me to succeed at study and rugby at the same time.”
Dylan will study a Bachelor of Sports Management when he starts at Bond in January 2016.
Unsurprisingly, Gavin and Dylan share common goals - to make the Reds Under 20s team and the NRC side, before like their mentor, becoming professional rugby players and representing their country on the rugby world stage.
Garry Nucifora, Executive Director of Sport at Bond University, said both students embodied the qualities Bond was looking for in its sport scholars.
“Both Gavin and Dylan are exceptionally talented rugby players, accomplished academics and natural leaders who have excelled both on and off the field,” Mr Nucifora said.
“Our rugby program is home to a number of high-profile players and high-calibre coaches who will ensure our scholarship students develop the skills they need to reach their goal of playing professional rugby.”
"Because Bond is a relatively small institution which offers a personalised education experience to its students, Dylan and Gavin will also receive a world class education that will equip them well for life after rugby.”
Patron of the Scholarship program, Bond University Trustee Member and prominent Queensland businessman, Mr Terry Jackman, said he was proud to support the scholarship.
"I have always been passionate about rugby, education and leadership and both Gavin and Dylan are very worthy recipients.”
The John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship is part of Bond University's commitment to nurture the career aspirations of future sporting leaders. As the official partner of the Australian Rugby Union, Bond is providing access to the Australian Under 20s to utilise the University's state-of-the-art training facilities in preparation for the annual Junior World Cup to be held in June 2016 in Manchester, England.