A successful support program for professional footballers at university is boosting their results on and off the field.
Rugby league players studying at university have improved their academic success with the support of the National Rugby League’s Graduates of League program developed in association with Australian Catholic University (ACU) and other partner universities.
ACU has the highest number of players at any one institution participating in Graduates of League, with more than 40 players studying at the Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra Campuses.
In the four years since it began, Graduates of League and ACU have provided mentoring, peer tuition and financial support to help young players such as Parramatta Eels prop Alex Twal to complete their degrees.
"I can't wait to identify strategies that will help me cope with both of them together which will be very useful. Being contracted until the end of 2016 gives me a bit of time to focus on University a bit too I suppose," Alex told NRL.com.
The average pass rate for the players in the program in 2014 was 87%, which is higher than the national average of 83% for all students at Australian universities. Before 2011 up to 40% of players who started a degree did not complete it.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven said providing players with the education, skills, and practical experience to build careers both on and off the field was a key priority for ACU.
“Looking after the welfare of these young players is essential and academic support and pastoral care is available for all our students,” Professor Craven said.
“Our partnership with the NRL assists ACU in supporting NRL-contracted students with the challenges of studying while maintaining a highly demanding professional sporting career.”
In 2015, Graduates of League supports more than 210 players across 18 university campuses in Australia and New Zealand. This amounts to about a quarter of all players.
ACU student players talk to The Sydney Morning Herald about how Graduates of League program have helped manage their study and playing commitments.