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School to work graduate ready to make country music impact

The NRL's School to Work program could lay claim to launching Australian music's next biggest superstar with Winmalee student Cassidy Joan graduating into the 24th CMAA Academy of Country Music.

Cassidy is a 2021 graduate of the Panthers' School to Work program and was recently accepted into the 10-day residential program to be held on the Liberty School Campus in January. 

Popular musicians to come out of the Academy and forge a successful career include Jessica Mauboy, Travis Collins and The McClymonts.

"As much as the School to Work program is driven through rugby league, there are so many pathways you can take from it and I'm really excited with where I can go from here," Cassidy told

"We had a lot of online sessions with players mentoring us but it doesn't mean you take what they say from a sporting context, and I think the program is really good in relaying that to a student.

"A player trains every day so for me, it doesn't relate to sport, but I practice with my instruments and sing every day.

"The School to Work program was great in identifying and working out what our own goals are in life and how they can help you achieve them."

How School to Work yarning circles are inspiring Indigenous kids

Cassidy worked with School to Work officer Jaleesa Godson during the NRL program to create a suitable application for the Academy in a bid to accelerate her dreams of becoming a professional country singer.

She was one of 29 aspiring musicians selected. 

"Jaleesa really set it up for me, got me into the Academy program with workshops that I wanted to do," Cassidy said.

"She helped me make those connections through the Academy and set me up with the people I need to be. 

"I would've missed the window for registration too if I wasn't in the School to Work program. She made phone calls and got me in there."

Academy alumni and artistic director, Lyn Bowtell, was excited about Cassidy joining the course.

"Cassidy is a very talented young woman and we are so grateful to the NRL School to Work engagement program for getting behind her and helping her to achieve her musical goals in attending The CMAA Senior Academy in 2022," Bowtell said.

The Academy's cultural advisor, Vanessa Byrnes, said the course had always been a proud supporter of our First Nations people over many years.

"The Academy continues to support and engage with local and nationwide Aboriginal communities, programs and associations to improve outcomes through music for all Aboriginal people," Byrnes said.

"This year we would like welcome Cassidy Joan to the program."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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