Women in League: Jen Cross
There are little wins every day at the Titans for Player Education Manager Jen Cross but it is not until players have left the club that she knows for certain that she has served them well.
A member of the Titans' welfare and education team before the club even had players back in 2006, Cross has witnessed and helped to implement massive reform over the past decade in preparing players for life after football.
Cross's influence in the welfare space with regard to rugby league players stretches right back to the nine years she spent with the Australian Training Company that was initially established as the ARL's group training company to implement player welfare programs.
The introduction of the under-20s competition in 2008 came with the concept of 'No work, no study, no play', and even established first graders who didn't come through that system are now cognisant of the need to combine education with their rugby league careers.
Each day Cross provides guidance to players with regards to education and told NRL.com that the greatest satisfaction comes from seeing them make a success of their careers after they leave the NRL.
"We keep tabs on players after they leave us and check in to see how they're progressing," Cross explains.
"If you run into a player down the street and he's excited to tell you what he's doing after footy, that's probably the most rewarding part of the job.
"The awareness is greater in the last five years, that awareness that the guys are going to face this, their partner's going to face this, these are the things they need to be aware of.
"They might think that they've got their career sorted but they might miss hanging around the guys. They might miss the loss of identity, there are all sorts of things that they may go through and just making them aware that there is support available for them. And that it's still there for a couple of years after they complete which I think is really important.
"The game has done a great job in addressing that in recent years but there is probably still a little more work to do in that space."
The first female Education and Welfare Manager in the game, Cross turned down an opportunity to work at the Sydney Olympics and joined inaugural NRL Welfare and Education Manager Matthew Francis in formulating original welfare and education programs and frameworks.
Before the implementation of the under-20s competition Cross says she battled to engage players in educational opportunities at Griffith University but that those who have come through the NYC since have come to understand the need to make study part of their NRL careers.
Titans forward Ryan James will complete his degree in Sports Management at Griffith this year and Matt Srama used a season-ending injury to focus on completing his real estate licence in the space of three weeks and is already working in real estate outside his commitments with the Titans.
"The under-20s has had a big impact on that because our players have come through that system where they have to be working or studying and then they're continuing that on once they hit the NRL level," she explains.
Liaising with external organisations who offer traineeships and apprenticeships with regards to time players can commit outside of training is a key part of Cross's role and she hopes some consideration can be given to including dedicated time for education in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Affectionately referred to as 'Mum' within the club, Cross goes above and beyond to ensure Titans players maintain a focus outside of football that will keep them in good stead after they have left her care.