Day Two of #RUPACamp is like 'Moving Day' at the US Masters, or the premiership quarter in the AFL Grand Final; it's a long day with lots of content, but some of the most memorable moments happen which will shape our rookies as they embark upon their professional Rugby journeys.
The day started with a presentation from Sportradar's Andy Cunningham about the gambling restrictions that are in place and which all of Australia's professional Rugby players must adhere to. Sportradar is the global leader in understanding and leveraging the power of sports data and digital content for its clients around the world, and they work with betting agencies to monitor the behaviour of professional athletes who are subject to a code which prevents them from betting on certain sports; in the case of our rookies, and the staff in the room, betting on any Rugby, anywhere in the world, is strictly out of the question.
Dr. Warren McDonald and Stephen Schmidhofer from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) were next, discussing all of the integrity and medical policies to which the attendees are now subject to; there were lots of questions about the likes of supplements and concussion protocols, with the over-arching theme being one of players' welfare being of the utmost importance. Many in the room were also surprised to hear that certain illicit drugs can be considered performance-enhancing if found in a gameday sample, as some famous cases illustrate.
After Morning Tea, the group split into young women and young men for specific workshops aimed at helping prepare them for some of the mental demands their career path will place upon them. Sally Fielke, General Manager Corporate Affairs at Sydney Airport and a RUPA Co-Opted Director, joined RUPA's female Player Development Managers Samantha Cox (Western Force), Robin Duff (Brumbies) and Gina Rees (Rugby Sevens) to workshop 'What it means to be a Woman in professional sport' with the four female rookies; Demi Hayes, Shanice Parker, Hannah Southwell and Emma Sykes. They were then joined by two of Australia's elite female athletes in Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy to workshop ideas on how to achieve your own pathway and take control of your own destiny.
Meanwhile, our male rookies were spending two confronting but rewarding hours with Tom Harkin discussing managing yourself off the field in balance with the demands of being a professional athlete. Encouraging and empowering our young male professionals to speak up when things are tough, and to confront their vulnerabilities, is a positive message and all credit to the young men for the way in which they embraced the workshop. What was said and by who remains a vault, but Josh Coward, Richard Hardwick, Harry Jones, Henry Taefu and Alex Toolis were chosen as 'guinea pigs' to have their nails painted to show that they are comfortable challenging traditional stereotypes of a male Rugby player.
After lunch, RUPA CEO Ross Xenos provided an update on the state of the game in Australia before a number of guest speakers from NAB Private, NavWealth, Sherlock Group and BDO talked to the group in mini-workshops about how to manage their finances, insurance, superannuation and more. This was one of the most interactive sessions at #RUPACamp thus far, with the young athletes eager to learn about some of the different ways in which they can try and maximise their opportunities.
The final session for the afternoon was presented by the South Australian Fire Brigade's Rod Campbell and Michael Holbrook, regarding road safety. This is not a warm and fuzzy presentation; Rod travels the country asking young people to take the onus to behave responsibly on the roads, and detailing examples from his experiences dealing with road trauma in order to illustrate the seriousness of the subject matter. Michael's late son Nicholas tragically died seven years ago as a result of unsafe driving, and his courage to tell his raw and emotional story was not lost on the group, with plenty of stunned faces and more than a few tears. It's a great message for our young players, and supersedes thoughts about training the next day or making the matchday squad.
Finally to dinner, and we were fortunate enough to be joined by ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver, who joined Ross Xenos to speak to the group about some of the challenges and exciting opportunities the game is facing currently, as well as the ways in which RUPA and the ARU collaborate proactively to look after the interest of Australia's professional players.
Former players Patrick Phibbs, Cam Shepherd, Jeremy Tilse and Nathan Trist, as well as current Waratahs Damien Fitzpatrick, Angus Ta'avao and Brad Wilkin, joined Ross and Bill in rotating around all of the tables and sharing their stories between courses, as well as being interviewed in front of the group about some of the most challenging times in their careers. The intention was certainly not to bring the mood down, but simply to illustrate the challenges that lie in wait and provide some advice around how the rookies will be able to navigate through them, and it was a cracking way to finish a big day.
On the final day of #RUPACamp, our rookies will hear from South Pacific Private regarding mindfulness before heading to The Ivy for the annual Volvo-RUPA Awards Lunch; again, it's been a great Camp and a wonderful way to help prepare these rookies for the journey ahead and let them know we're here for the ride.