Ryan James in Blues contention again
Gold Coast Titans prop Ryan James is in contention for a Blues honour, although this time he has to beat out Olympic medal winners, an Australian Diamonds netballer and a discus silver medallist from the World Athletics Championships earlier this year.
On Tuesday night James and wife Ana will attend the Griffith University's annual Blues Awards on the Gold Coast where the sporting prowess of current students from the past year will be celebrated.
After his outstanding season with the Titans and selection in the Prime Minister's XIII in October James was nominated for the award along with Rio Olympic medal winners Emma McKeon, Madi Wilson, Cameron McEvoy, Jessica Ashwood and David Edwards along with Gretel Tippett from the all-conquering Diamonds.
Admittedly sheepish to be sharing the stage with such sporting elite – "I just catch a footy and run it forward" – Tuesday night's ceremony will be the first of two in the next six weeks that will represent the end to James's seven-year university journey.
When he joined the ranks of the National Youth Competition James took his first steps down a path that will finish with a Bachelor of Business in Sports Management when he completes his final assignment and sits his last two exams in the next fortnight.
Graduation is set down for December 17 and the 25-year-old said it will represent a major achievement for both he and his family.
"It's been a long time but doing it part-time was always going to take a little bit longer," said James, who is tipped to captain the Titans in their 10th year next year.
"I don't think there are many generations in my family that have gone and completed uni. My aunty has but I don't think any of the cousins have so it will be a big achievement for us.
"It's been seven years to get a piece of paper but all the knowledge you pick up along the way and everything I've learnt at the Titans regarding business has definitely helped.
"I'll be stoked once I get through this next assignment and these next two exams, it will be a weight off the shoulders. I enjoy study so I'll probably look at going back and doing a Diploma in Education or something along those lines."
For the first time in his career James played in every game for the Titans this season, including the club's return to finals football for the first time in six years.
It was also the first season in which he was a father but he believes the responsibility of young son Carter and his commitment to study contributed to his outstanding form that saw him claim the Paul Broughton Medal as the club's best for 2016 and finish fifth in Dally M voting.
"It helped to take my mind of footy this year," James told NRL.com.
"You tend to overthink it but then you go to uni and you have to go there and make sure everything's done so definitely good to go out there and study and probably one of the reasons I went a bit better this year.
"This year has been a little bit harder playing all the first grade games but there is a lady at Griffith by the name of Jamie Hedge who had my schedule all set out. She had all my classes and exams in the schedule and if it didn't work she'd be straight on the computer organising extensions for me.
"She's been awesome to me this year and really helped me through the whole year because it has been a bit harder this year with Carter."
The commitment to work and study for players in the NYC competition has been one of the undoubted success stories of the under-20s competition and James said that once he started, he was determined to see it through.
"I always wanted to complete it. I didn't want to get that far and then not complete it," he said.
"I did complete a lot when I was in the 20s and then my second year in first grade I did my knee and did a fair chunk of it then so I was just doing one or two subjects whenever I could.
"I smashed out four subjects this year and it will be a big relief once I get through these last two exams and then hopefully graduate a few weeks after that."