2016 RUPA schoolboys scholarship winners announced

By Pete Fairbairn, 14.11.16

Exciting outside back Yirrbi Jaffer-Williams and powerful Number Eight Dylan Pietsch are the recipients of the 2016 RUPA Australian Schools Rugby Union (ASRU) scholarships.

While both young men have shown enormous potential as young athletes, their selection as recipients of the scholarship is based on the broader criteria for the scholarships which includes displaying exemplary behaviour and leadership at school, positive work habits and application to study and involvement in a variety of school or community activities.

Jaffer-Williams and Pietsch will each receive $2,000 to be allocated towards further education in 2017, with both young men coincidentally planning on continuing their education in Sydney after completing their HSC in the last week.

Chief Executive Officer Ross Xenos said that RUPA was thrilled to be able to support both Jaffer-Williams and Pietsch had outstanding potential, both on and off the field.

“The calibre of applications for these two scholarships meant that deciding on the eventual recipients was incredibly challenging for the selection panel,” Xenos said.

“Yirrbi and Dylan are outstanding candidates, and RUPA is delighted to be able to play a small role in helping them pursue their ambitions away from Rugby. We look forward to following their development, both in the classroom and also on the field, in 2017 and beyond. We wish them all the very best as they seek to become better people and better players.”

Yirrbi Jaffer-Williams plans to study either communications or criminology in 2017, and if successful in gaining admission he would join his mother as the only members of their family to have gone to university. He said that going to university was a lifelong dream he’d share with his mother, Kelly Jaffer, and that he was thrilled to be selected for one of the scholarships.

"While I was hopeful when I submitted my application I knew it was going to be very hard to get and I knew that it was going to be very competitive, so I’m so pleased to have been chosen,” he told RUPA. “If my university application is successful, I will be able to use the scholarship money to pay for a laptop which will be very helpful.”

“I’ve always wanted to go to University; Mum has instilled into us since a young age that there is more to life than just footy, and you’ve always got to keep an eye on the future and where you’re heading. Education is a very powerful tool, she always told us, so I’ve really tried to apply that to my life and getting this scholarship will provide further opportunities for me, and help me go down the right path.”

Jaffer-Williams has been part of an Indigenous Youth Leadership Program at St Joseph’s for the past five years and played a lead role in his school’s commemorations during National Reconciliation Week this year, and his indigenous heritage is very important to him.

“My culture has always been a massive part of my life,” he said. “With my family, we go to Cape York and we go out bush hunting, and we dance a lot; that’s a big part of me and my culture. The celebration (corrobboree) is very important to me.

“During the Easter holidays, my younger brother and I go home to celebrate our culture in Nundle, and we spend time teaching our dance to primary school kids; we like to share our culture a lot with non-indigenous people too, as it is something we are very proud of.”

An explosive winger, Jaffer-Williams starred for New South Wales I in July’s National Schoolboys Rugby Championships, scoring crucial tries in their wins over Queensland II, Combined States and a double in their nail biter against ACT. He then went on to start for Australia against New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji, scoring yet another try against the latter, and made quite the impression on the tour of New Zealand and Samoa.

Dylan Pietsch plans to study Arts & Business next year, majoring in Marketing; the Wagga Wagga product has been a prefect at The King’s School for the past two years as well as a House Vice-Captain.

“I was overwhelmed and very happy to hear I had been successful in my (scholarship) application,” Pietsch told RUPA. “My family certainly aren’t the richest, so this scholarship is going to help so much in regards to helping cover the costs of required textbooks and more.

“I was so pleased to complete my HSC last week; I am the first person ever in my family to have completed Year 12, and I will be the first one to go to university as well. Heading to university has been on my radar for a long time; it’s always been my aspiration to get a degree, and although I have goals of being a professional Rugby player it’s important for me not to put all of my eggs in the one basket.

“I have spoken a lot with my Dad around ensuring my focus isn’t purely on Rugby, and he has really drilled into me how important it is that I put the right amount of time into my studies, and I’m really looking forward to University.”

A powerful Number Eight, Pietsch was Vice-Captain for New South Wales 1 at the National Championships. He was selected in the Australian Schoolboys Barbarians team which defeated Tonga Schoolboys at Newington College in September, scoring under the posts as part of a convincing 38-26 victory. Last year, at the age of just 16, Pietsch was selected in the training squad for the Australian Rugby Sevens team’s Youth Commonwealth Games campaign, and since completing his HSC he has been taking part in some training sessions with the Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens team.

Yirrbi & Dylan were selected from over a dozen scholarship applications, with both having met the Australian Schools Rugby Union Executive Officer Andrew Elliot spent time with both young men during their representative duties in 2016, and said he had no doubt that each is capable of going on to achieve at a high level.

“On behalf of ASRU, I want to congratulate both Yirrbi and Dylan on being selected as the 2016 RUPA/ASRU scholarship winners,” Elliot said.

“The scholarships will allow these two young men continue to strive towards reaching their potential, both from an educational and personal development perspective, and will play a big role in helping each of them pursue excellence."

The Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) are the Major Partner of the Australian Schools Rugby Union (ASRU), having extended our partnership until the end of 2017. The partnership, which originally commenced in 2013, sees RUPA granted the opportunity to speak to nearly 300 state schoolboy representatives at the annual National Schoolboys and also includes the provision of these two scholarships and the annual RUPA Medal for Best on Ground in the National Championships final, this year won by Trinity Grammar’s Liam Rasch.

Pete Fairbairn
Communications Manager
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