When professional Rugby players hang up their boots, there’s lots to consider when choosing the right profession as they embark upon their next career.
The transferable skills from time spent as a professional athlete are plentiful; an ability to genuinely analyse your own and your peers’ performance, to respond to disappointment and celebrate success accordingly, to be part of an effectively-functioning team from a wide range of backgrounds and plenty more.
And with that in mind, recently retired Wallaby flanker, and 2011 Super Rugby winner, Beau Robinson has made a successful move into the business coaching industry, utilising those skills and experiences to help businesses reach their potential in New South Wales’ Central West region.
“I’d been doing a fair bit of research about what I’d like to do for a living outside of Rugby since back in 2010, when I had a year without a professional contract,” Robinson explains to RUPA. “I personally believe that if there are any two questions that any professional Rugby player should be able to answer, it’s “What will I do at the end of my Rugby career?” and “What would I do if my Rugby career finished tomorrow?”
Robinson’s long-term vision has proven a blessing, even if he returned to professional Rugby in 2011 after a year in the wilderness and played right through until the end of 2016.
“I suffered my career-ending knee injury playing in the UK on the first weekend of November in 2016,” he says. “It definitely happened earlier than I expected. I had a few niggling injuries leading up into that one, but I was still only thirty when I retired and you do see blokes go on a lot longer than that. I ‘d never had any knee issues, and never even missed so much as a training session because of a knee injury, so it was a bit of a surprise. It was a fairly innocuous injury when it occurred during a game, and at the time I was actually a bit more concerned with a cork I had on my other leg, but when I went and saw the specialist I realised how serious it was.
“I was contracted until the following May, so I stayed over in the UK and was looking at some Rugby coaching gigs but if I am honest I probably wasn’t pursuing the coaching as hard as I could have done if I really wanted to make it happen. One thing I really loved about living over there was the opportunity to travel with the close proximity to Europe and I would have definitely kept playing there if I could have. In the end, we finished our time doing travelling which was awesome. We bought a cheap people mover and took my two kids to travel around the continent for two-and-a-half months, and my partner is Polish so we went back and had Christmas in Poland before re-locating back to Australia.
“I had always been preparing for life beyond Rugby after I had that earlier year in the wilderness, and I have a Bachelor of Business from Griffith University. Throughout my career, I was always investigating what sort of avenues I would like to go down, and I was able to eliminate a fair few through that process as well.
“My Rugby career was never an easy ride, but that has actually held me in good stead for my future.”
Before Beau had even settled back in Australia, he had reached out to an Action Business Coach via LinkedIn to find out what it entailed, and when it sounded appealing to him he started some further research, investigation and due diligence about making that his next career move, signing up in September 2017.
“I’ve always been passionate about business, particularly agriculture and property, and I really hadn’t considered the idea that you could go out and work in the business world without having to choose any one specific industry, so I signed up and now I can genuinely say I love what I do!
“I love working with people, and I like to think that I can relate to a lot different people who are trying to reach their potential and get the most out of themselves, which I did throughout my Rugby career. I was quite fortunate to have some great coaches throughout my entire career, from the moment that I did leave school up until I finished my career over in the UK, so with that background I truly understand influence and impact that they had on my career.”
“So many of the traits and characteristics that you must possess in order to be successful are, if you understand them, transferable or applicable to any area or field; passion, determination, sacrifice. I work with ambitious and determined business people who have big goals, but also those who are willing to truly work for it. We work on goal-setting, and having those goals be measurable, which is something all Rugby players have done during their footy career but haven’t necessarily taken into their next role. My advice to any past players reading this who can relate to that would be to set some goals in place, because it is so important to understand what’s driving you; otherwise you are blindly walking into the dark.”
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While Robinson is clearly thriving, and enjoying his new role, that’s not to say it hasn’t come without its’ challenges – transition is something that’s difficult for all past players.
“For me, the hardest thing has been working in an office by myself. I probably underestimated the impact of the comradery of being in a team, and you don’t get that when you work alone, so I’ve really enjoyed taking on an additional voluntary role as Director of Rugby at Dubbo Rugby Club. It allows me to still get that element where I am around the boys, throwing around some banter, and taking the piss out of one another, which I think is so crucial in that transition.”
Beau, who has also hosted a Podcast series since returning to Australia and has plans to write a book, also had a highly successful career that led to him representing Australia and plying over 70 games of Super Rugby, including playing a critical role in the Reds’ unexpected title of 2011 – a memory he still looks back on very fondly.
I don’t even think many people in Brisbane thought we were capable of winning the title, and I don’t know how many of the Reds boys truly believed it at the start of the season either,” he says when I mention that the achievement shocked a lot of people outside of Queensland.
“We just had a great deal of synergy in our group. There was a core group of guys who had played a lot of Rugby together, at the Reds but also when they were younger as schoolboys and within the Queensland setup, so we had the foundation.
“While just having the right cattle doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to achieve what we did, sometimes the stars align and you’re able to do something pretty special and that’s what we did.
“It was awesome to be a part of; the state of Rugby in Brisbane hadn’t been in a particularly good place, so to turn it around at a time when the Broncos and Lions were both struggling a bit there was a lot of excitement throughout the city generated by what we achieved.
“That squad was ridiculously young and I wouldn’t be surprised if when we get to a ten-year reunion most of the guys are still playing Rugby. They talk about needing experience to go and win titles but there was barely any there, and there is a great bond that comes from winning that title.”
(Of the 38 players in the 2011 Reds squad, only Robinson, Ben Coridas, Van Humphries, Peter Hyne, Dallan Murphy, Caleb Ralph, Radike Samo, Dom Shipperley, Guy Shepherdson, Lei Tomiki and Adam Wallace-Harrison are no longer playing professionally).
Robinson was able to re-unite with Samo, as well as other former teammates, when he joined the Classic Wallabies on a tour to Fiji last month to play a game against the Fijian Legends, but also to spread the Rugby gospel in a nation who don’t often get visits from professional players. Writing on LinkedIn recently, Robinson said it was an unbelievable experience.
“The purpose of the Classic Wallabies is to bring past Wallaby players together for support, as a lot of past Rugby players lose touch with those they played with and help support each other as they go through their transition into life after Rugby,” he wrote.
“(The week in Fiji) gave me an opportunity to get to know some blokes I hadn’t had much to do with and talk to them about their journeys and how they were dealing with the transition. Some of these guys had started a few years before me and some having started their transition more recently than me. The purpose of the trip though was not solely for our benefit though.
“There’s a special connection that Rugby has with those that live in the Pacific Islands.
“For them it is family first, then religion, followed oh so closely by Rugby! It’s more than simply a love, it’s a way of life. Whilst over there we had the pleasure of attending and running coaching clinics in primary schools, high schools, special schools and I was fortunate enough to attend a hospital to brighten up the day of the patients, their families and the staff. The excitement when big Radike Samo is walking through the wards is phenomenal and the requests for photos never ends.
The impact our presence has on these communities is hard to fathom and I simply don’t think I can compare it to anything in Australia. Fiji is very much a developing country, with plenty of the housing over there resembling not much more than a shanty. (Fijian children) are some of the most well-mannered kids I have come across, so appreciative. I don’t know why that’s the case, I’ve visited a few countries and been fortunate enough to go to some of the areas where they are doing it tough and they always seem to have the best manners and are so appreciative that you’ve taken time out of your day or schedule to dedicate to them. Maybe it’s the less you have the less you expect and the more you appreciate.
“The highlight for me was rocking up to a football ground in a village (with Samo and Samu Kerevi), uninvited or without anything being organised or notice given and we started throwing the ball around. First the little kids turn up, and luckily, we were expecting this and had brought some Classic Wallabies t-shirts to give away to them. 2 kids thought they had run out of shirts and started balling crying, all the shirts had been given out.
“Then the older kids came out and the footy started to get serious! They play 1-touch footy over there which means as soon as your team gets touched with the ball it’s a turnover to the other team, hence why they are so good at the offloads and quick passing. An hour after we initially kicked off, the men from the village came out to play with us, probably after returning home from work and it was 30 versus 30 – hectic would be an understatement!
We decided to leave the balls there, thinking that they will appreciate them a lot more than we need them; it’s so great to see and be a part of the effect that sport has on people, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of this great game!”
Beau Robinson Fact File
Born: Alice Springs, Northern Territory, 15th August 1986
Wallabies Debut: 17th July 2011, vs. Samoa (ANZ Stadium)
NSW Waratahs (2007 – 2009): 21 caps, 1 try
Queensland Reds (2011 – 2015): 55 caps, 1 try
Other teams represented: Central Coast Rays (Australian Rugby Championship), Bay of Plenty (Mitre 10 Cup), Queensland Country & NSW Country Eagles (National Rugby Championship), Harlequins (English Premiership), Doncaster Knights (English Championship), Canterbury Bulldogs (NRL Jersey Flegg)