69% of Australian professional Rugby players in 2018 are currently undertaking some form of formal study alongside their on-field endeavours, with a mixture of both University courses and vocational study.
As a member of the Elite Athlete Friendly University (EAFU) network, RUPA has submitted a list of 81 (46%) current players to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) who are enrolled in universities across twenty different institutions, with one in five of them coming from a Pasifika or Indigenous background.
There are eight players enrolled at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), seven apiece at Griffith University (QLD) and the University of Canberra, and six players enrolled at Swinburne University (VIC), University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). Whilst not a member of the EAFU, the University of Sydney has six players enrolled for 2018.
The most popular area of study pursued by players is in Business and Commerce, followed by Physical Health and Sports Science among 16 different courses. 31 players are in their first year of a course, while two players are committing to full time study whilst playing professionally. Most players are undertaking part-time study loads which naturally lengthens the time commitment to reach graduation, showing great the dedication and commitment to get through a full degree as hundreds of players before then have done.
Brumbies and Wallabies star Allan Alaalatoa is one such players at University, pursuing a Bachelor of Criminology & Criminal Justice through Open Universities Australia and Griffith University.
“Luckily for me, my parents always pushed me academically as they knew it was a lot harder for me than playing Rugby was,” Alaalatoa told RUPA. “I have always been told that Rugby doesn’t last forever, and as I’ve been playing I have seen that first hand with some of my Brumbies and Wallabies teammates.
“Each time that I enrol in a new subject, I do so with the understanding that it is going to directly benefit me down the track. Having a degree will give me something tangible to lean on after footy.
“I also find that studying is really important in helping me to get away from Rugby when I need to. Playing Rugby for a living can get so intense, and to have other meaningful things in life that keep me balanced and help me stay fresh is so beneficial.”
The 45 players who are studying by means other than university are also engaged in wide variety of topics. This study includes Fitness, Aviation, Real Estate, Language, Marine Operations, Acting and Barista courses, through many different face-to-face, distance and online providers.
Charlotte Caslick, who is studying a Diploma in Early Childhood through Open Colleges Australia, is loving the opportunity to work towards a formal qualification whilst also having the flexibility to adjust her study plans around her schedule.
“It is extremely important, considering professional Rugby careers only last so long, to have something you’re working towards for the future,” Caslick told RUPA.
“I dedicate as much time as I can to study, but sometimes it does need to get put onto the backburner depending on training and playing schedules so to be able to do it at my own pace and have the freedom to adjust that, it’s really important.
“I think it is really important to have a bit of a life balance, and to be able to come home and have something that takes you away from thinking about footy. I love working with children, and hopefully one day when I have finished playing I can incorporate my qualification and Rugby alongside one another.”
All professional players are eligible to apply for annual Training & Education (T & E) reimbursement grants whilst full-time contracted Australia, and for up to three full years after they retire from Rugby.
T & E Grants can be claimed against costs associated with study, including tuition fees, prescribed textbooks and required specialist equipment. Players are eligible to receive up to $5,000 per year, provided they pass the subjects or courses they are attempting, while there is a career cap of $25,000 for those players on contract for five years and over. In 2017, 118 players received slightly more than $360,000 in reimbursements between them under this model.
“The T & E Grants are huge for us, and once you start studying and taking advantage of them you realise just how much RUPA helps you as a person,” Alaalatoa explains.
“It makes it as easy as possible for us to study, and I’m trying to take full advantage of it and all of the other opportunities RUPA offer through the Player Development Program, as well as encouraging the younger players to do the same.”
Players engaged in formal study by team:
Australian Rugby Sevens: 28