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The Australian Rugby League Commission’s commitment to ground-breaking player education and career development programs received a boost on Thursday with the Federal Government’s announcement of $18million in new projects to help retain and mentor apprentices.

NRL Player Education and Welfare Officer Andrew Ryan, who was in Canberra for the announcement by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Chris Evans, said the Australian Apprenticeships Mentoring Package would further enhance Rugby League’s initiatives to prepare players for post-football careers.

Ryan said almost 18 per cent of players in the Toyota Cup national youth competition have chosen an apprenticeship as their pathway, while many NRL players are set to return to complete their apprenticeships courtesy of another initiative launched last month called Beyond the Tryline, which gives players the flexibility to continue their apprenticeships part-time.

“As a former player who has experienced the benefits – and challenges - of working as an apprentice (landscaper) and studying throughout my football career, it is very exciting to see these new programs in place to help players plan for a genuine career post footy,” said Ryan.

“The Toyota Cup program and its ‘No Work, No Study, No Play’ policy, whereby all of our Under 20s players must be studying or employed for a minimum of 24 hours per week is a great initiative.

“However the downside has been that once these players made it to full-time football as NRL players many of them struggled to complete their apprenticeships.

“There are exceptions of course, and we have a number of players who have completed their trades and/or degrees or both. In fact this year, we have 170 NRL and Toyota Cup players studying at universities or colleges.

“Now with the Australian Government’s Apprenticeships Mentoring Package and the joint NRL/ NSW Government’s State Training Services’ Beyond the Tryline initiative, the likelihood of take-up, retention and completion rates of apprenticeships is certain to increase.”

Ryan, who was appointed as an Apprenticeships Ambassador for the Australian Government after retiring from the NRL in 2011, said he played his best football when he was actively engaged in work away from the game.

“The benefits of having an interest outside of football aside, the current statistics show that an average length of a Rugby League player’s career spans 43 games over three to four years only,” Ryan said.

“Therefore it is becoming increasingly important that a player has a clear plan and access to develop a pathway after his football career has reached its full potential … or even if it unfortunately ends prematurely through illness or injury.”

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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