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By Pete Fairbairn, 22.01.15

He signed his first professional rugby contract with the NSW Waratahs, making his Super Rugby debut in 2011 after playing rugby in school and at Sydney University, and is currently a key figure at the Melbourne Rebels.

Tom Kingston is renowned for his confidence with ball in hand and unmistakable darting speed. But it’s not just on the rugby field that his ability shines.

He recently finished top of the class in the postgraduate Law of Torts course at RMIT University after successfully completing three subjects in semester two last year. Because of this he was also recently invited to participate in the International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot.

Tom received a High Distinction in his first two postgraduate subjects in semester one last year, one of which required three intensive weekends on campus (Friday -Sunday) that he managed to juggle with Super Rugby commitments.

Starting out in Commerce and Engineering, Tom finished his undergraduate study with a Bachelor of Commerce from Sydney University. He continued in 2014 after being accepted into the Juris Doctor (Postgraduate) Law Program at RMIT.

Having spent his entire professional rugby experience to date balancing study and rugby, the former Australian Under 20s, NSW and Australian Schoolboys representative has been nominated for RUPA’s Academic Excellence Award each year since its inception in 2011. Tom won the award in 2013 and continues to prove a worthy candidate.

He’s not the only Melbourne Rebels player to show an interest and a knack in legal studies with Tom Sexton also completing a Bachelor of Law Degree at the University of Dublin in 2013, achieving Second Class Honours (Grade 1). Bryce Hegarty, Sam Jeffries and Jed Gillespie are also all enrolled in Bachelor of Law degrees at the Queensland University of Technology, Central Queensland University and Sydney’s Macquarie University respectively.

RUPA spoke to Tom following his recent academic success to find out the key to ongoing achievements on and off the field.

What did you want to do when you were growing up?

Dad works in commerce and Mum works in law but I initially didn’t want to do any of those two. However as you grow up your interests change and I ended up doing a combination of both.

From a rugby point of view, I really enjoyed it at school and then got into a good environment at Sydney Uni and really loved it. From there the Tahs gave me an opportunity and since then I’ve ended up down here in Melbourne, which is great.

When and why did you decide you wanted to study commerce and law?

I was persuaded by someone at Sydney Uni to do commerce. I was initially going to study straight engineering as I really enjoy problem solving, but ended up doing commerce. I enjoyed the business side of things and that coincided with starting up in professional rugby with NSW where I got a bit more of an appreciation and exposure to the business environment. That really ignited my desire to learn more about business and commerce.

I have quite a few friends who were doing law and, similar things as to what appealed to me about engineering, appealed to me about the law, being able to solve a problem essentially. In law you get given a problem and you have to reason out a solution to it. The way of thinking that law provides was the reason why I decided to pursue it.

What has been the reason behind continuing your study?

I was initially doing commerce and law in Sydney. Then when I moved down here the right option, after talking with both Cam Yorke (RUPA Player Development Manager with the Melbourne Rebels) and Lachie McBain (RUPA Player Development Manager with the NSW Waratahs), just seemed to be to finish the commerce and re-start the law from as postgraduate.

I quite enjoy having something away from the game itself so you don’t necessarily ride the highs and the lows as much, and rather have something else on my plate to focus on. This has seemed to work for me right from Year 11 and 12 at school, all the way through to professional rugby. I think for me it just provides a good counterpoint. I quite enjoy the study, it’s by no means something I feel I have to force myself to do a lot of the time. It’s something non-footy related that I can get away and do.

What is the key to achieving both on and off the field and how do you manage to balance it?

It’s difficult to say, there’s so many clichéd responses. I think I’m fortunate in that I’m quite an organised person so I’m able to keep on top of it all. I’ve always been quite efficient with how I work.

With the rugby side of things, you have your day programmed for you. This obviously has an impact on how hard you study during any one day, but it’s about how you fit it in and just motivating yourself to do it, and prioritising it.

When I think about it, it probably all comes down to prioritising study. For some people it isn’t a high priority and that’s fine, it’s their decision. But for me, because I find it interesting a lot of the time and enjoy learning new things, I do make it a priority and fit it into my day.

What advice would you give to rookies and/or other players about having something off the field to focus on?

Keep something going. For the guys that are already studying university degrees, just keep doing one subject and continue talking to the RUPA PDM’s because there’s so many options, and you can do it online. In my experience, what I’ve found is that the guys who get into the professional (rugby) programmes and love everything that that brings, training and the social side of things etc., when you stop the study you don’t end up getting back to it, so it’s best to keep something going.

For the guys who aren’t that interested in continuing study after school, you’re at a perfect time in terms of what you’ve got going on (in professional rugby). Our job is not 9 – 5, it’s completely performance-based. The time that we do spend in our office is based upon getting the optimal performance, so you do have some time you can fill in with something else.

Your interests may still change, but the rugby community is very educated, so a lot of the business people and the sponsors that you speak to can help add another string to your bow, it’s certainly something to think about. RUPA’s great as well, with information about business diplomas, helping out with community degrees, liaising with universities, PT courses, public speaking courses, so there’s so many things you can do. It’s just about making a little bit of an effort.

You can get into this little bubble with how great professional sport is and, don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but the reality is it’s not going to be great forever.

Does having something to fall back on after rugby provide some comfort or ease in your mind?

I don’t think study necessarily provides a guaranteed safety net. It doesn’t mean I’m going to try less in rugby as there’s so much I also want to achieve in the game, but on the same page it does get you thinking that after rugby “I’m going to be alright.”

I’m still fairly young so my friends are all at the age where they are starting new jobs that, in commerce, I am qualified to do and, in law, am on the way to being qualified to do. That gives me an interest as well, about what’s that workplace like and how will that be for me in however many years.

So, what do you want to achieve in rugby?

Most people you would speak to would say Wallabies is their goal. In some ways the further up the chain you get the further it seems away a little bit. I’m really working towards the Wallabies but at the same time, the teams that get the most players picked for the Wallabies are usually the most successful teams. So you need to make sure firstly you have a successful franchise and that’s what we’re trying to do here (in Melbourne). If we end up being the successful franchise that we want to be, a lot of those selection issues will take care of themselves.

22.01.15
Pete Fairbairn
Communications Manager
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