Amazing statistic behind NRL's School to Work program
The NRL can boast that 12 per cent of players are Aboriginal, while the figure rises to 17 per cent at grassroots level, but there is an even more impressive statistic which highlights the game's positive influence in the Indigenous community.
Less than 12 months after the NRL received international recognition as the Sports' Governing Body of the Year at the Beyond Sports Awards in London for its' School to Work program, the graduation rate among Indigenous students in the program is now more than 99 per cent.
With only about half of all Indigenous students in NSW completing their HSC, it is a significant achievement and one which has encouraged the Australian Government to invest a further $6.3 million in the program until 2021.
Companies such as Accor, Coca-Cola and Qantas also support the NRL School to Work program, which began in 2012 with Canterbury, Parramatta, Penrith and Wests Tigers and has now expanded to involve 10 clubs.
More than 750 Indigenous students have taken part in the program so far and almost all this year's intake have graduated to further education or sustainable jobs.
Among them is Josh Guest, a life-long Raiders fan who is studying International Relations and Japanese at Australian National University in Canberra.
He has done work experience with the Raiders and hopes to eventually begin a career in an overseas embassy or elsewhere in diplomacy.
"Having a project officer who can liase with the university if I have any problems has been great," Josh said.
"Because I am studying two degrees, it has really helped me out with time management."
Josh, who was told about the program by a teacher at Melba Copland College, did not learn about his Aboriginality until high school.
"My great grandmother, Dorothy Bynon, was part of the stolen generation," he said. "She was taken from her home in Nerandra, out near Wagga, and taken to Sydney.
"It is a very sad history but I am very proud of that history and I want to make her proud."
His grandfather, Stephen Guest, has been helping Josh learn about his Indigenous heritage and the pair have been to Nerandera to see where his great grandmother lived.
"My grandmother had seven daughters and three were white and the other four were dark skinned," Stephen said.
"When mum had me she was frightened that was going to happen to her, because when she was a young girl she was taken away, so everything was hush, hush.
"I have letters at home from my mum to her mother and my mum knowing that her mum was Aboriginal but mum never told us and it was only when one of my aunties passed away that my cousin told us the story."
NRL General Manager of Indigenous Strategy, Mark Deweerd, said the School to Work program was creating Indigenous leaders of the future.
"The graduates are our leaders of tomorrow and our rugby league community will continue to assist and back these Indigenous students and many more that come through the program, as they forge their own pathways in the world," Deweerd said.
"There are a lot programs that the NRL delivers with the support of partners and in this case, the Australian Government, that make a genuine difference to the lives of many.
"The School to Work program is no exception and one that as a game, we are all very proud to be a part of."