John Elias (rugby league)

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John Elias
Personal information
Born (1963-12-10) 10 December 1963 (age 53)
Beirut, Lebanon
Playing information
Position Second-row
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1983 Newtown Jets 1 0 0 0 0
1984 South Sydney 4 0 0 0 0
1985 Souths (Brisbane)
1986 Canterbury-Bankstown 11 0 0 0 0
1986–87 Wests (Sydney) 28 6 0 0 24
1988–89 Easts (Sydney) 16 1 0 0 4
1988–94 Balmain Tigers 67 7 0 0 28
1992–93 Leigh
1994 South Sydney 9 0 0 0 0
Toulouse Olympique
Limoux Grizzlies
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1997–00 Lebanon
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
2002–03 Pia Donkeys
Years Team Gms W D L W%
2000–09 Lebanon

John Elias (Arabic: جون إلياس ; born 10 December 1963) is a Lebanese-born Australian former rugby league footballer and coach. During the 1980s, and 1990s he played for clubs in Sydney, Brisbane, England and France where he also coached. Elias also played and coached for the Lebanon national team.[1]


Born in Beirut, Lebanon on 10 December 1963, as a child Elias, along with his two older brothers and sister, was taken by his mother to Sydney following the death of his father.[2] There he became an Australian citizen.

Playing career[edit]


After starting his first grade career with the Newtown Jets in their final season in 1983, Elias played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 1984.[3] The following season he moved north, and in the 1985 Brisbane Rugby League grand final for the Wayne Bennett-coached Souths Magpies, Elias was named man-of-the-match for his performance in a shock 10-8 win over Wally Lewis' Wynnum-Manly Seagulls.[4] Elias joined the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 1986 but departed the club midway through the season to join the Western Suburbs Magpies.[5] Early in the 1987 Winfield Cup season, Elias was sent off for a high tackle in a match against North Sydney Bears.[6] He joined the Eastern Suburbs Roosters in 1988. Early in the 1988 Winfield Cup season while playing for Easts, Elias' jaw was fractured in a tackle during the first minutes of a match against Balmain.[7] Part-way through the 1989 NSWRL season, he left Eastern Suburbs to join the Balmain Tigers club, where he stayed until 1994.


Elias left Balmain to re-join the Rabbitohs mid-way though the 1994 Winfield Cup season. That season Elias was involved in a match-fixing plot that involved four players from his Souths team and four players from Wests.[8] Elias was jailed for nine months in 1995 after pleading guilty in the NSW District Court to two counts of supplying amphetamines, one count of possessing F1 sub-machinegun parts and one count of possessing prohibited articles, namely military-style flak vests. Elias was the inaugural captain of the Lebanese rugby league team when they made their début in the 1997 World Sevens tournament, going on to reach the quarter-finals.[9] He later travelled to France to play for Avignon and Toulouse.[10] Elias was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1999 at age 38, but postponed chemotherapy to play an international match for Lebanon against France. Later he underwent surgery to remove a tennis-ball sized lymphoma which had burst inside his stomach, forcing him into retirement.

Coaching career[edit]

Instead of being Lebanon's captain for their campaign to join the 2000 World Cup, he served as their coach. Elias was refused entry into the United States for Lebanon's 2000 World Cup qualifier match due to his previous firearms conviction.[11] Elias coached French club Pia Donkeys in 2002 and 2003, taking them from last in the competition to runners-up, before returning to Australia.[12] In 2004 Elias was facing up to 25 years in jail after a jury found him guilty of maliciously shooting his business partner in the leg.[13] He ended up serving four years in prison.[14] In 2008, following Elias' release from prison, it was reported that he and Arthur Beetson, who had advised Elias during the 2000 World Cup, were preparing a bid for a rugby league coaching job in Europe.[15] In June 2009, following the conviction of Greg Bird, Elias wrote an article published by News Limited detailing his time in prison.[16] That year he coached Lebanon in the 2009 European Cup tournament.

After football[edit]

In 2010 Elias published his book, Sin Bin: The Untold Story of a True Footy Bad Boy, which detailed his life of football and crime.[17] In the 2011 pre-season, he was arrested under suspicion of involvement in the 2010 spot fixing case perpetrated by Ryan Tandy, but was found not guilty.[18]

In August 2014 Elias was found guilty of assault and given a five-month suspended jail sentence.[19]


  1. ^ John Elias at
  2. ^ Chadband, Ian (26 October 2000). "Rugby star who played with stomach cancer". London Evening Standard. UK: ES London Limited. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  3. ^ John Elias Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. at
  4. ^ Colman, Mike (31 July 2010). "Benny the master at peddling hope". The Sunday Mail. Australia: Queensland Newspapers. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  5. ^ John Elias Archived 14 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine. at
  6. ^ Tait, Paul (12 March 1986). "Elias off as Wests' dream run ends". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. p. 42. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Clarkson, Alan (15 February 1988). "Easts check video for foul play after John Elias fractures jaw". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. p. 52. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Craddock, Robert (4 March 2011). "NRL betting scandal identity John Elias, one player Wayne Bennett couldn't save". The Courier-Mail. Australia: Queensland Newspapers. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  9. ^ Hannan, Tony (November 1999). "Catching up with... John Elias". League Express. UK. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "John Elias". Australia: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  11. ^ Hadfield, Dave (24 October 2000). "Lebanese rugby league team in storm over funny substances". The Independent. UK: Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Massoud, Josh (2 April 2008). "Elias: from big house to big league". The Daily Telegraph. Australia: News Limited. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  13. ^ AAP (30 January 2004). "Elias guilty of shooting partner". The Age. Australia: Fairfax. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  14. ^ Josh Massoud and James Phelps (20 April 2010). "John Elias turns peacemaker". The Daily Telegraph. Australia: Herald and Weekly Time. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  15. ^ Hulme, Mike (25 April 2008). "Unlikely pair woo Centurions". The Bolton News. UK: Newsquest Media Group. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  16. ^ Elias, John (23 June 2009). "What Greg Bird can expect behind bars - John Elias". Australia: News Limited. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  17. ^ Elias, John; Josh Massoud (2010). Sin Bin: The Untold Story of a True Footy Bad Boy. Australia: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4050-4021-1. Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  18. ^ Stephanie Gardiner (20 June 2013). "NRL match fixing case thrown out". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, NSW. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  19. ^ Butcher, Steve (13 August 2014). "Former NRL 'bad boy' John Elias pleads guilty over Cadbury Schweppes assault". Retrieved 14 August 2014.