PJ and Alex to chase rugby dreams thanks to John Eales

November 19, 2014

Alekisio 'Alex' Mafi and Petrus Jacobus 'PJ' Van den Berg have big dreams to play professional rugby, and are now one step closer thanks to rugby legend John Eales.

The Queensland students have each been awarded a John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship to study at Bond University on the Gold Coast in 2015, an inaugural scholarship granted to only two students Australia-wide.

The prestigious scholarship covers the full tuition of an undergraduate degree for the recipients, and comes with a bonus money-can't-buy: one-on-one mentoring sessions with John Eales.

"John Eales is my role model, he's a living national treasure so it's incredible that I'll be able to gain insight and advice from such a legend of the game," Alex said.

Since playing his first game  of rugby union for the Sunnybank Dragons at eight years of age, Alex was hooked - appropriate, considering his preferred rugby position is hooker.

On the back of his success in the Queensland Schoolboys team in 2012 and 2013, Alex was selected for the Australian Schoolboys teams in both 2013 and 2014, and travelled overseas with the team on the Australian Schoolboys UK Tour in 2013.

"The Australian Schoolboys UK Tour was the definite highlight of my rugby career so far," he said.

"Getting to travel through Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland playing rugby with a bunch of my best mates was by far the best experience of my life."

Alex, a recent graduate of Nudgee College, hopes to replicate his success on the field in his studies when he starts his degree at Bond University next year.

"Obviously I aspire to play rugby at a professional level, but I also have a keen interest in law, which is why I have chosen to study a Bachelor of Law at Bond in 2015.

TSS alumni 'PJ' also has rugby in his blood, having grown up playing rugby with his father and brothers in South Africa before his family immigrated to Australia in 2001.

"I started playing rugby with my brothers when I was five years old, so being introduced to it from such a young age has obviously had a big influence on my life," he said.

"I originally played the position of back, but have recently moved to play flanker like my Springbok idol, Schalk Berger."

PJ has proved he is more than just a skilled rugby player by demonstrating a propensity for strong leadership off the field, having been appointed Captain of Rugby at TSS, a prestigious position at a school renowned for its rugby prowess, as well as Vice-School Captain and Vice-Captain of the TSS Rugby team in 2014.

The ambitious student has enrolled to study a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Bond University in 2015, and aspires to become a surgeon after graduation.

"I would ideally love to be an orthopaedic surgeon, but I'm open to other fields so I'll take it as it comes through the course of my degree," he said.

"When I first visited the Bond campus I was blown away, the university is truly second to none."

Garry Nucifora, Executive Director of Sport at Bond University, said both students had continually demonstrated a commitment to excellence, both on and off the field.

"Alex and PJ embody all of the qualities that Bond looks for in its prospective students," Garry said.

"Both students have shown leadership, resilience and a resounding commitment to rugby and academic success.

"Because Bond is a small enough institution to offer a personalised education program to its students, Alex and PJ will have the necessary support to successfully manage the commitments of elite sport while also striving toward their respective academic goals of law and medicine."

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 provides access for the Qantas Wallabies, Qantas Men's and Women's Sevens and Australian Under-20s sides to utilise the University's state-of-the-art training facilities.

Bond has also recently announced a partnership with Queensland Rugby Union's Queensland Country team, and at a local level is forging strong links to the rugby community with the introduction of the Bond University Rugby Club.

ENDS