League's youngsters prepared for life after footy
The NRL's push for players to prepare for life after football has reached new heights with impressive numbers emerging from Wednesday night's Under-20s State of Origin curtain-raiser at ANZ Stadium.
Of the 36 Junior Origin players who were named, 44 per cent are currently undertaking a degree while 80 per cent are engaged in further education.
Parramatta Eels duo Alex Twal and Tyrell Fuimaono are currently doing a Bachelor of Business and Commerce degree, Bulldogs halfback Lachlan Lewis is studying engineering, while other courses being undertaken include education, marketing and social science.
By far the most popular choice appears to be a career in sports, with a number of players immersing themselves in the world of fitness and sports science.
Pathway programs such as Certificate III and IV fitness courses have been established by the NRL to ensure players are ready to enter the workforce once their football careers end.
Wests Tigers backrower Chris Lawrence has seen the benefits of studying or becoming involved in a trade, and spoke to NRL.com earlier in the year about the importance of players preparing themselves for a life after rugby league.
"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," he said.
"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."
Penrith Panthers rookie Dylan Edwards would have most likely featured in the Under-20s Origin had he not made his NRL debut against the Sharks in Round 18.
Speaking to NRL.com ahead of the Junior Kangaroos Test match against the Junior Kiwis in May, the Panthers fullback explained how clubs across the Holden Cup had made it easier for their players to juggle training with their studies.
"I go to UWS at Kingswood during the day and the club makes us train in the afternoon so the two don't clash," he said.
"We've got good welfare staff at the Panthers so my studies are going well. They help you a lot if you're struggling at all so it's not too hard. They try to keep the workload tidy to make it manageable."