More than 250 of Rugby League’s future stars will take part in extensive induction programs over the next two weeks, but their time will be spent entirely in the lecture rooms of universities – not the football fields - at the Gold Coast, Wollongong and Sydney.
The annual Rookie Camp program, which kicks off at the Gold Coast’s Bond University today, will see players from all 16 Clubs entering the NRL Under 20s Cup in 2013 put through training in media, cultural awareness, drugs and alcohol, social media, money matters, community work, social responsibility and personal presentation.
The Bond University event, which is the first of three three-day Rookie Camps to be held over three consecutive weekends, will involve more than 90 players from the Titans, Broncos, Cowboys, Warriors and Storm – some of them having just completed their HSC, while others are university students and apprentices.
NRL Senior Welfare and Education, Mr Paul Heptonstall, said the Rookie Camp program underlines the NRL’s ongoing commitment to player education and career training with a goal of increasing the current engagement rate of 74 per cent of NRL players in education or career training to 84 per cent by 2017.
The unique combination of the induction camps, on-going education initiatives and a ground-breaking NRL Under 20s Cup competition that includes mandated non-training days and a “no work/study - no play rule”, sets the NRL program apart.
“Programs like the Rookie Camps we are holding over the next two weeks are an important part of our overall strategy and philosophy,” Mr Heptonstall said.
“Players learn from the start of their Rugby League careers how important it is to plan for life after football, because unfortunately the average length of a career is three to four years.
“It is becoming a younger man’s game and our challenge is to accelerate these players’ awareness of not only their social responsibilities, but the fantastic opportunities that can be achieved through their involvement in the NRL.
“Each session at the Rookie Camps is co-facilitated by a current or former NRL player who gives their first-hand experience on the path each of these players could take in a variety of scenarios and across a wide range of areas.”
Mr Heptonstall said that with more than 170 NRL and National Youth Competition players enrolled in or completing a university degree in 2012, the NRL was very grateful to the three university campuses playing host to the Rookie Camps over the next fortnight.
The second camp will be held next week at the University of Wollongong from November 30 to December 2 with players from the Sharks, Dragons, Panthers, Wests Tigers, Raiders and Bulldogs.
The third and final round of the induction camps will be held at the Sydney University Village from December 7-9, with players from the Roosters, Sea Eagles, Knights, Eels and Rabbitohs.