Chris Lawrence in action for the Wests Tigers in 2014.

NRL launches fitness career pathway program

The NRL has developed a pathway for current rugby league players to study and become qualified in Certificate III and IV in fitness.

The 12-week course will run in partnership with One Wellbeing and the Australian College of Sport and Fitness, and is the first step to a career in the fitness industry for players when their football days are over.

One of the founding members of One Wellbeing is current Wests Tigers star Chris Lawrence, who is proud to be involved in the important initiative. 

"It's a course we've been running for about five years now throughout a number of NRL clubs," Lawrence told NRL.com at the launch of the pathways program on Wednesday night. 

"It's different this year in that we're actually using the learning centre here at the NRL for the first time and having a number of different clubs come here in the one session rather than going out individually to clubs. 

"As well as that we're able to have funding available for a number of indigenous athletes that are going to come and do the course as well."

Lawrence has been involved with One Wellbeing from the get-go, and together with business partner Leon Keir has developed the company into a multi-platform business. 

"I started the company with Leon about eight years ago. We started off doing a lot of school programs, then worked our way through into adult fitness and corporate wellbeing and then into athlete education. They're the three areas we work within," Lawrence said.  

"For me, while the corporate wellbeing was a natural progression through what I was doing with my training and everything we were doing with the business, the athlete education stuff is something that is really important to me."

A perfect fit

Lawrence knows all too well how quickly a career in rugby league can end, further enhancing the need for current players to prepare themselves for life after the game. 

"Unfortunately at my time at the Tigers I had to witness two career ending injuries in Simon Dwyer and Taniela Tuiaki," the Wests Tigers back-rower said.

"Obviously as an athlete myself, I saw the need to be able to make sure life after footy was something I could sort out at the beginning of my career, rather than at the end. It's that sort of mentality that I want to instil in a lot of the other players.

"The health and fitness industry is a perfect fit for footy players. They grow up learning about health and fitness, and obviously train every day. It's something that comes natural to them, that's why it's an easy progression into the industry.

"I think the NRL is doing a great job now with the under-20s with the 'no work, no study no play' policy which is fantastic because the fact of the matter is the majority of the 20s players currently in the system won't play NRL. 

"They might be within the NRL system for a year or two, but not all of them are going to play NRL. So within a couple of years, they're going to have to go into a new industry and start from scratch, so if they can begin their training now then it'll be a step forward for when they finish their career."

Life after rugby league

Current Sydney Roosters young gun Charlie Taylor was one of the players at Wednesday night's launch, and said he was excited to start the pathways program.

The 20-year-old said there would be no issues with trying to juggle his commitments for Intrust Super Premiership side Wyong Roos while completing the 12-week fitness course, and thanked the NRL for helping him start to plan life after rugby league.  

"I was going to do a course outside of the Roosters and the NRL, and then I spoke to Narelle Hess (a career development specialist with the NRL) and she had a look around and told me it'd be better if I went through the NRL. I'd save money and they would be better courses as well," Taylor said. 

"She's been talking to me about what I want to do other than football. I'm always into my fitness, always looking to help others out. It's a great way to stay in shape and help others around you."