- 189 cmHeight
- 122 kgWeight
Few rugby players begin their playing career aged two. Fewer do so while wearing nappies under their shorts. Even fewer do so alongside a future All Black star, in this case Ardie Savea. Jordan Uelese (WAR-lay-SEE), a powerfully framed New Zealand-born hooker, ticks all three boxes.
The fourth of five boys, Uelese grew up in Wellington and idolised both Sekati, his backrower father, and the late, great Jerry Collins before the family moved to Melbourne in 2008.
Having switched from the back row to the front ranks, Uelese caught the eye when he started every game for Australia at the 2016 World Rugby U20 Championships in England. By season end, and still 19, he signed with the Melbourne Rebels to become just the third Victorian, alongside Rob Leota and Sione Tuipulotu, to join the franchise. Incredibly, Uelese’s 2017 was even more of whirlwind. Uelese played just twenty-eight minutes of Super Rugby in three brief stints off the bench ahead of a second U20 Championship before he was plucked from relatively public obscurity and into the Wallaby squad.
Six weeks later, Uelese was thrown into the proverbial deep end on debut, against South Africa in Perth. Despite taunts of “fresh meat” from the ‘leering hardheads of the Springboks pack’, Uelese came away from the experience with an enhanced reputation. Coach Michael Cheika said: "I thought he did pretty well. He got in there first scrum, did really well. He had a good lineout … hit the mark. He's a talent. With the guys fatiguing a little bit I thought he added a lot of steel in the front row at the scrum." Uelese said of his debut Test: “My No.1 goal in life was to put on that gold jersey and to fulfil that ... I’ve got to go find new goals now.”
Unfortunately, injury intervened to put a hold on a promising beginning. While a shoulder injury interrupted much of the 2018 Super Rugby season, Uelese appeared to be the clear first choice number two for the upcoming international series against Ireland. That was before he ran out for the Rebels in the last round in Auckland. Uelese fell awkwardly in an Akira Ioane tackle and in doing so ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. Reconstruction surgery, a subsequent infection and rehabilitation saw him miss the rest of the year.
In 2019 Uelese returned to representative rugby and was one of three hookers - alongside Folau Fainga’a and Tolu Latu - selected for the Rugby World Cup in Japan where he came off the bench in the quarter final loss to England. Early the following year Uelese suffered a health scare, one that “shook him to the core”. A medical check for a few post-World Cup “niggles” evolved into an abnormality in the knee joint that the doctors feared could be cancerous. After two fretful weeks Uelese thankfully received the all-clear call before a hamstring injury forced him out of Super Rugby’s early rounds.
The combination of intense competition for the number two jersey, Dave Rennie picked seven hookers (Paenga-Amosa, Lonergan, Uelese, Fainga’a, Kaitu’u, McInerney and Latu in the fourteen matches of 2021) and ‘burgeoning’ weight issues saw Uelese win just six Test caps across the 2020-23 seasons. Nonetheless, new Wallabies coach Eddie Jones clearly saw something he liked - "He looks a bit like (South African hooker) Malcolm Marx - big, tall, strong, gets hard over the ball, carries, a bit of work to do on his throwing" after Uelese was named as one of three hookers for his first training camp of 2023.
Represented Australia U20s at the ninth-annual IRB Junior World Championship in England.
Represented Australia U20s at the tenth-annual IRB Junior World Championship tournament in Georgia where he played in all five matches. Uelese won his first Test cap off the bench when starting hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau temporarily left the field in just the 18th minute of the 23-23, 1st Test draw with South Africa at nib Stadium. He picked up a second replacement cap, and his first international try, one week later in the 45-20, 1st Test victory over Argentina in Canberra.
Uelese was named in the Wallaby squad for the opening Test of the home series against Ireland. Tragically he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee playing for the Rebels against Auckland the weekend before the first Irish Test and as a result missed the entire international season.
Uelese won a career high seven caps and selection to his first Rugby World Cup. His lone start for the season came in the one-off home win over Samoa.
He picked up three caps, each as a replacement, in the first three Tests before Folau Fainga’a was recalled to the bench behind Brendan Paenga-Amosa.
For a second season running, Uelese earned three caps off the bench, in the 3rd home Test against France and the first two away matches in New Zealand.