NSWRL is putting a strong emphasis on schoolwork during their Junior Representative State of Origin Camps. During this time, the players are allocated specific time to complete schoolwork they must bring into their Origin lead up camp.
The NSWRL stipulates to its representative players that it's imperative they maintain alternate interests, education and goals outside of rugby league. This helps build their individual identities away from the game, which it is critical in helping them find their feet if their rugby league plans don't go exactly to schedule.
"NSWRL is placing a much greater importance on encouraging players to have a balanced approach to life and not simply focusing exclusively on rugby league," NSWRL Education & Welfare Greg Nichols explains.
"Nothing supports this more than having specific teachers enter our NSW representative camps to assist players in completing their schoolwork. Making a career from playing rugby league is incredibility tough to achieve and even players who have managed to do this will need alternative plans for when they hang up their boots."
Michael Fischer, an English teacher, was astonished at the concept and completely supported the notion of studying while in camp. "The kids were polite and very receptive to the help they received. The initiative stresses the importance of education and the fact you can't play rugby league your whole life. You need other credentials to succeed and schoolwork is very important in setting the foundations to build from," he said.
Former Canterbury Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm player Jamie Feeney, who now develops the representative camps can testify to the importance of education for players. "Studying to become a School Teacher was one of the best things I did during my NRL playing career," he said.
"It allowed me to transition directly into my childhood dream of becoming a teacher, almost immediately after I retired from the sport. Education gives players options and provides them with alternative passions which makes them more than one dimension."
The average amount of games that a player will play in the NRL is around 43. Due to the high turn over of players within the game because of injuries, prospective players need to stay in touch with their 'real world' career options.
The parents of these kids love the fact that it is not just a week long program that focuses on footy, but it's a holistic approach to improve their education and lifestyle choices.
The junior camps are broken up into five disciplines that aim to improve the all-round life skills that a footballer requires. They include three football specific disciplines; technical, tactical and physical skills, and two welfare and education disciplines; mental and lifestyle.
This breakdown illustrates the importance that NSWRL is placing on educating their players on a balanced lifestyle and preparing for their future.