Rugby League

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NRL players prove they're not all brawn

Think of a footballer and the image portrayed is an athletic bloke big on muscles but light on upstairs.

And generally there’s a tattoo involved. Or three.

Don’t be so sure the 21st century NRL player fits neatly within those stereotypes.

Religious studies, pharmacy and financial planning are some of the skills undertaken by players selected in the NRL/Rugby League Players Association Academic Team of the Year, unveiled today.

A large majority of the 17-man squad are studying business or commerce courses, but there a few more out of the box.

Take David Simmons for example.


The Penrith Panthers winger is getting ready for when it’s time to hang up the boots with a Bachelor of Theology at Sydney’s Moore College.

According to the institution’s website, the program is designed to ‘‘help you grow in the knowledge of God as you engage in the biblical and theological training necessary for effective ministry’’.

‘‘Our focus in all things is Jesus Christ as he is made known to us in the Bible,’’ the website reads.

‘‘It is this focus which gives a distinctive shape to the training we offer.

‘‘Each of our undergraduate programs involves detailed study of the text of the Old and New Testament as well as the way Christians today and through the centuries have sought to understand the teaching of the Bible and put it into practice.’’

Then there’s Dale Copley from the Brisbane Broncos, who is combining his training on the field with a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Queensland.

Mixing potions and catching bombs seem like an odd couple, but Copley makes it work.

In fact, the Broncos are leading the way in the education stakes.

A whopping 17 players from their 25-strong Toyota Cup (under-20s) squad are studying at university - far ahead of the competition’s average of 23 per cent and the NRL mean (15 per cent).

Canberra Raiders second-rower Bronson Harrison has his finger in plenty of pies.

He is a director/owner of three companies, a wholesale bakery, a bricklaying business and Leader Security, and also has Certificates III and IV in Fitness and a Certificate II in Security.

Perhaps surprisingly, forwards leave the backs in their wake in the education stakes, filling 10 of the spots in the team.

Fourteen of the NRL’s 16 clubs are represented, which highlights the enormous strides in the NRL has made in preparing its players for life after football.

Some of the key statistics are:

* 84 per cent of NRL players have completed or are currently engaged in further education or workplace training;

* 58 per cent are enrolled or have completed a Vocational Educational Training course;

* 60 per cent of NRL and Toyota Cup players attending university are the first in their families to do so.

So while drunken nightclub brawls and court cases make the headlines, spare a moment for the footballers putting their head in a book instead of through a glass window.

The 2012 NRL-RPLA Academic Team of the Year is:

1. Luke Burt (Parramatta Eels): Studying Bachelor of Health and Movement at ACPE and is an NRL Education Ambassador.

2. David Simmons (Penrith Panthers):  Studying Bachelor of Theology at Moore College.

3. Ashley Graham (North Qld Cowboys): Studying Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science at James Cook University. Ashley was also selected in the team last year.

4. Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers): Studying Bachelor of Commerce at Curtin University. Chris is also a Director of ‘Live Play Work’, a company he formed that conducts sports and physical education programs in Sydney. He also runs school and community lifestyle programs and is a director of Groundwork Health, an online training and nutritional company.

5. Dale Copley (Brisbane Broncos): Studying Bachelor of Pharmacy at University of Queensland.

6. Ashley Harrison (Gold Coast Titans): Studying Diploma of Financial Planning and Small Business.

7. John Morris (Cronulla Sharks): Completed Bachelor of Education/PDHPE at Newcastle University and is currently studying a Masters of Coaching at Sydney University. He is also an NRL Education Ambassador and has completed a Certificate IV in Personal Training and an Advanced Diploma of Management.

8. Scott Geddes (South Sydney Rabbitohs): Completed a Certificate IV in Small Business and Certificates III and IV in personal fitness. Scott is a personal training company business owner and an NRL Education Ambassador.

9. Matt Ballin (Manly Sea Eagles): Studying Bachelor of Education (Health and Movement) at ACPE, holds a Certificate IV in personal training and has started his own fitness company MBF (Matt Ballin Fitness). Matt is also an NRL Education Ambassador and was selected in the team last year.

10. Matt Scott (North Qld Cowboys): Studying Bachelor of Business via Open Universities Australia and is an NRL Education Ambassador.

11. Ben Creagh (St George Illawarra Dragons): Studying Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Wollongong. Ben is also an NRL Education Ambassador and has helped implement the ‘Graduates of League’ program. Ben was also selected in the team last year.

12. Corey Payne (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs): Studying Masters of Commerce (Finance and Entrepreneurship) at the University of Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Commercial Law), also from the University of Sydney.

13. Micheal Luck (Warriors): Studying Masters of Business at Auckland University of Technology and is an NRL Education Ambassador.

14. Ryan James (Gold Coast Titans): Studying Bachelor of Business at Griffith University.

15. Anthony Quinn (Melbourne Storm): Studying Certificate IV in Building and Construction and is in his fourth year of an electrical apprenticeship.

16. Joel Reddy (Wests Tigers): Studying Bachelor of Health and Exercise Science at the University of NSW.

17. Bronson Harrison (Canberra Raiders): Completed Certificates III and IV in Fitness and a Certificate II in Security.  He is a director/owner of three companies (wholesale bakery/bricklaying/Leader Security) and is an NRL Education Ambassador.