For the first time since its introduction in 2014, Bond University’s prestigious John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship has been awarded to three up-and-coming rugby stars for 2019.
“The calibre of talent displayed in this year’s round of applications made it an almost impossible decision for the scholarship panel,” said Bond University’s Executive Director of Sport, Garry Nucifora.
“In the end, we decided that, in honour of Bond’s 30th anniversary celebrations next year, we should extend this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to three young players.”
And so, as they sat their final Year 12 exams, Spencer Jeans from The Southport School (TSS) on the Gold Coast, Matthew Minogue from The King’s School in Sydney, and Jack Winchester from Coffs Harbour’s Bishop Druitt College got the news they had been waiting for: That they would each receive a full scholarship to study the degree of their choice at Bond University, plus a living bursary and one-on-one mentoring from Wallabies legend, John Eales AM.
Playing for the Bond University Rugby Club, they will network with elite athletes, coaches and top-level teams throughout their studies and be groomed for a professional sporting career.
“The overarching aim of the scholarship is to prepare the boys for success on and off the rugby field,” said Scholarship benefactor and prominent Queensland businessman, Terry Jackman.
“I have always been passionate about rugby, education and leadership so I’m proud to support a scholarship that offers unparalleled opportunities in sport, and an internationally recognised degree enhanced by Bond’s global networks, industry connections and work experience opportunities.”
For TSS graduate Spencer Jeans, the first challenge will be getting used to his mentor relationship with former Wallabies Captain, John Eales.
“It’s really cool to have someone like him in my corner,” said Spencer who will enrol in a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science.
“I got a congratulations email from him telling me to work hard and that he’d always be there to offer support and advice.
“I put his number in my phone straight away and it is so weird to see his name in my contacts.”
Spencer is no stranger to success having played on TSS’s premiership winning teams in 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2018, he was selected for the Queensland Schoolboys 1 team and the Australian Schoolboys Squad that will tour to the UK this month.
Coffs Harbour’s Jack Winchester also had a taste of Australian Schoolboy Rugby success, playing hooker for the team that trounced Tonga in the tri-nations series in October.
He has progressed through the NSW Junior squads, being selected for the NSW Country team in his age group for the past four years.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing rugby at a high level, but I’ve also really enjoyed my school work,” said Jack, who plans to study either Law or International Relations at Bond.
“When I first heard about the John Eales Scholarship, I felt I had found something that would benefit both pathways.”
That concept of balance was also a key factor for Matthew Minogue who was Vice Captain of The King School’s 1st XV and selected for the Waratah’s GEN BLUE Under 18s Development Squad.
“I would love to expand on my track record of representative rugby by playing for the Reds and then Country,” he said.
“But it’s also important to have that flexibility that, if Plan A doesn’t work out, Plan B is waiting or even Plan C.”
Matthew will study a Bachelor of Property at Bond, following his interest in environmentally friendly development.
For the boys’ new mentor, John Eales, the focus lies on helping Spencer, Jack and Matthew achieve all of their wildest dreams.
“The Rugby Excellence Scholarship has been a life-changing opportunity for every recipient since it was first introduced by Bond in 2014,” said the man who is regarded as the most successful captain in the history of Australian rugby.
2015 recipient Alex Mafi was signed to a three-year contract by the Queensland Reds; Gavin Luka (2016) was chosen to represent Australia in the 2017 Junior World Championships and just last week signed to the Queensland Reds; while Dylan Riley (2016) played for the Junior Wallabies and Angus Blyth (2017) has played for the Junior Wallabies, the Reds and Bond University Queensland Country in the NRC.
“At the same time as they’re playing elite-level rugby, these boys are working towards their university degrees in fields ranging from Sports Management and Exercise/Sports Science through to Architecture, Commerce and Law,” Eales said.
“In both the sporting and academic arenas, we are setting these young men up with the leadership skills, motivation and work ethic to succeed in whatever life presents them with.”