The St George Illawarra Dragons swapped the footy boots for the study books as they helped launch the Graduates of League (GOL) Season 2014 at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Tuesday.
The Dragons return to university for the first semester of studying and will “field” 17 players from the NRL and NYC ranks across a variety of degrees at the University of Wollongong.
The Dragons players were on hand at the GOL Season Launch to meet their fellow peers as well as their course lecturers during the function which was hosted by both Dragons captain and co-founder of GOL Ben Creagh as well as Program Manager of GOL at the NRL and Dragons Dr Sam Jebiele.
“It is a great sight to see so many players involved in tertiary education and approach this area with such enthusiasm,” said Jebiele.
“The GOL program itself has been around for just over three years and in that time we have seen participation within the playing ranks almost triple.
“It is a program founded upon a strong theoretical platform and utilises the power of peer tuition in achieving some outstanding academic outcomes.”
The Graduates of League (GOL) Program is a joint initiative and pilot program of the Athletes Education Foundation, University of Wollongong (UOW), National Rugby League (NRL) and three NRL clubs including the St George Illawarra Dragons.
It was established to increase university entry, retention and completion rates of elite athletes and professional sports people.
The program also conducts research into the higher education transition and learning needs of this group.
A total of 220 players from across the NRL and NYC competitions are this year enrolled in university
In addition a record 16 academic institutions are now on board in the NRL’s Graduates of League program, which started in 2012 with just one, the University of Wollongong.
Players have enrolled in a range of masters, degree and certificate courses including law, biomedical science, criminology, engineering, commerce, economics, theology, policing, architecture, philosophy, physiotherapy, physics, business and exercise science, nursing and environmental science.
NRL Senior Welfare and Education Manager Paul Heptonstall said the Graduates of League program is “unique in Australian sport” and aims to help players successfully complete their studies by providing support through mentoring and academic tuition at the participating academic institutions.
“The NRL invests over $3 million each year into the game’s Education and Welfare program to ensure players leave the game better men for having been a part of Rugby League,” said Mr Heptonstall.
“The Graduates of League program is an important element of that investment which has experienced overwhelming success in a short space of time with a significant increase in academic performance.
“At the end of last season we had five academic institutions signed on to the program; and now, with the 2014 season about to kick-off, we have 16 across Australia and in New Zealand, which can only further enhance the academic outcomes and experiences of our players as they prepare for careers post-football.”
Dragons Graduates Of League Students:
Ben Creagh, Bachelor of Commerce (Completed)
Brett Morris, Bachelor of Commerce
Charly Runciman, Bachelor of Engineering (Civil Engineering)
Jack Stockwell, Bachelor of Commerce (Supply Chain Management)
Jason Nightingale, Bachelor of Commerce
Mitch Rein, Bachelor of Commerce
Nathan Green, Bachelor of Commerce
Sam Williams, Bachelor of Business
Dan Hunt, Bachelor of Physical and Health Education
Jack de Belin, Bachelor of Physical and Health Education
Kyle Stanley, Bachelor of Business
Gerard Beale, Bachelor of Business
Adam Clune, Bachelor of Laws
Andrew Chard, Bachelor of Commerce
Kade Foreman, Bachelor of Medical and Radiation Physics
Drew Hutchinson, Bachelor of Physical and Health Education
Euan Aitken, Bachelor of Science (Nutrition)
Harry Stewart, Bachelor of Science (Exercise Science)