He may be best known to Australian Rugby fans as a fleet-footed winger who had no problems finding the try line during nearly 50 Super Rugby appearances for the Brumbies, but Francis Fainifo has swapped out his footy boots for a completely different type.
‘Franky’, who moved to France in 2011 and played under Michael Cheika at Stade Francais among his five years in Europe, returned to Australia in mid-2015. He returned to the field with the UC Vikings during the 2015 National Rugby Championship (NRC), however with he and his partner welcoming a baby girl he decided it was time to transition into his next career and the next phase of his life. The problem? He had, to put it rather bluntly, ‘all the gear but no idea’.
“I was missing home and coming to terms with the end of my Rugby career and having always felt so at home in Canberra since moving from Sydney to play for the Brumbies, it was a great place to come back to,” Fainifo told RUPA. “It was time to head into the next phase of my life, so I went to see somebody at Hays Recruitment only to learn that they didn’t really have anything to help me initially.
"I have a Commerce Degree, but as I had no experience in that industry at all they explained that I would have to start from scratch in a graduate role.
“With a new daughter, that was going to be a challenge financially, and it was initially fairly hard to grasp. We kept talking and looked at what transferrable skills from my Rugby career I had, and where they might help me, and that led to them offering me the opportunity to work for them as a recruiter.
“I had focused on Human Resources during my degree and I love dealing with people. To be completely honest, that was shaped by ten years of being part of a professional Rugby team and taking advantage of the opportunities provided by that. When I was at the Brumbies especially, I always loved all of the networking events, sponsorship activations and opportunities for players to interact with the public.”
Fainifo took to his new role like a fish to water, and as he excelled he was then given an opportunity to be part of fellow recruiting firm Michael Page’s launch in Canberra, where he was asked to lead their Construction sector; hence the steel-cap boots, some days of the week, and the business suit on other days!
“It really is a perfect fit for me, because transitioning from a career where I was training every day outside and being physical and active to then sitting in an office all day, every day was quite scary,” he laughs. “Now, I do go out on site a lot and put on the steel-cap boots, hard hat and high-vis and it’s been a really smooth transition into the corporate world and the next phase of my life.”
Fainifo’s careers, both past and present, collided earlier this week when he organised a networking event for Michael Page in Canberra which doubled as a celebration of all things Brumbies.
Over 100 local Directors and Executives gathered at the Mantra Hotel for what Fainifo describes as a “twist on a traditional networking event.”
“Matthew Gribble, Page Group’s Regional Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand, empowered myself and Canberra Director Jim Roy to set up this event today. We’ve just started up in Canberra six months ago, so it’s all about getting our brand out there among the community.
“Jim is a huge Rugby fan from Wales originally, and because we wanted this event to be a little bit different from what people had experienced previously we decided to bring people together around common interests; with a little bit of research, we established that the Brumbies are a great vehicle for that in Canberra, so we worked hard to bring in a great panel.”
The panel, who split their time between talking about the upcoming Super Rugby season but also spoke at length around the topic of players transitioning into new industries and roles following their conclusion of their playing careers, was of the highest calibre.
Brumbies Co-Captain Christian Leali’ifano, Forwards Coach Laurie Fisher and former star players (and now prominent business leaders) Clyde Rathbone and Joe Roff had the room simultanouesly captivated and in stitches when they recounted some great stories, while current Brumbies Allan Alaalatoa, Kyle Godwin Locky McCaffrey and past player Pat McCabe also took advantage of the opportunity to attend and make the most of the networking opportunity the breakfast represented.
Fainifo said he was really encouraged to see players opt to attend, and encouraged more players to take advantage of similar platforms.
“From my experience, young professional Rugby players tend to be comfortable within their own environment and around their teammates, and sometimes hesitate to put themselves out there,” he said.
“Going outside of that comfort zone and utilising networking opportunities can be challenging but jumping into the deep end and giving it a go is really rewarding. I really do think that it is important for players to take any of those types of chances while they are still playing, especially when people are so keen to meet them and talk to them.
“Nine times out of ten, these people probably already know who the player is and that can be a real ice-breaker; we need to continue to encourage players to use that access to assist with planning for their life after Rugby.”
A career in recruitment has proved just as good a fit for Franky as the Brumbies jersey always did, and he is really keen to hear from any past or present players who would like to speak to him about working in recruitment, the construction industry, transition or any work or work experience opportunities Michael Page can help to facilitates; if you’d like to contact Franky, please connect with him on LinkedIn.
Francis Fainifo Career Stats:
- Born Auckland (New Zealand), 25th November 1983
- Brumbies (2007 – 2011): 48 games, 8 tries
- Stade Francais (2011 – 2013): 33 games, 13 tries
- Narbonne (2014 – 2015): 12 games
- UC Vikings (NRC, 2015): 7 games, 6 tries