At the very core of RUPA’s Player Development Program is a desire for current players to maximise opportunities to study and gain new qualifications through CBA-mandated time off in their schedules, and access to Training and Education (T & E) Grants.
Whilst for many players this represents regular study in the form of University, TAFE, Level 3 courses and more, it also allows players to build their ‘personal toolkit’ in many other fashions.
It was with this in mind that Alex Newsome, second year Super Rugby star at the Waratahs and one of many of the team’s players who originate from the country, approached ‘Tahs Player Development Manager Lachie McBain about gaining his heavy rigid (truck) drivers licence.
“I was speaking to my old man about the T & E grants that RUPA offers, and he was putting a bit of heat on me to ask Lachie about the possibility of getting my truck licence done so that I could help out a bit when I came home on my holidays,” Newsome told RUPA. “I went and spoke to Lachie about setting something up, and once he got it all sorted a few other boys jumped on board and we ended up with a decent-sized group.”
In total, thirteen people took up the option to complete the course; Newsome, McBain himself, his teammates Bernard Foley, Ned Hanigan, Sekope Kepu, Mack Mason, Will Miller, Nick Phipps, Rob Simmons, Tom Staniforth, Cody Walker, Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens Captain Lewis Holland and former player Pat McCutcheon (who already had the licence, but wanted to step up to the Heavy Combination Licence level).
“There was a good bush contingent on the course, but there were also a few frauds there such as Nard (Foley) and Fanga (Phipps),” Newsome said.
“Lewy Holland came along as well, because he has a property of his own up near Stanthorpe, while Keps is going to try and get his bus licence so he can cart his big mob of kids around!
“We had to learn a trucker’s knot and the instructor asked if anybody had any idea already, and Lewy managed to complete it in about three seconds flat; it took ‘Nardy quite a few lessons to get there, so there were some varying degrees of experience that’s for sure.
To take a step back, the course involves both theoretical and practical components, and required McBain to find the right competency-based trainers and get all of the players ready to begin their training.
“The first step was to go to the Roads & Maritime Services office and pass the online test which allowed you to get your logbook, which is effectively your learners plates,” McBain explains.
“We then progressed to the group class we had in early July, where we learnt all about the occupational health and safety components of the licence. This included making sure your load is correctly secured, and that you’re complying with and aware of the processes that each company has in place around procedures and policies.
“Those theoretical components were then followed up with the practical session where the intention was to make sure we knew how to conduct a proper safety check. That involves checking the fluids and emptying the air brakes, as well as ensuring you know to do the tie-downs with the various necessary methods. We learnt the truckers knot and the half-hitch, and how to use the ratchet straps as well as the dog and chain.
“From here it’s now largely an individual process where you have to get behind the wheel and learn how to drive a truck and log your hours. Once you had logged your hours and been deemed competent by the assessor you are eligible for your licence. This licence essentially allows you to drive any vehicle that is fixed wheel up to twelve tonnes. It’s been a great thing to be involved in, and I’m really pleased for everybody who has committed their time and energy to gaining a new skill.”
With Waratahs players now on annual leave, you might expect to see some popping up on tropical islands as you scan their Instagram feeds. Newsome, however, won’t be one of them!
“There’s not much lying on the couch for me; whenever I get home, I love to give Dad a hand as I’ve been born and raised in that environment and I find it a great outlet away from Rugby,” he explains.
“My family lives on a cattle property in Glen Innes, and we have two blocks on either side of town so we have a truck that we use to run around and do jobs and shift cattle between the two places. It’s just one of those things that whenever I go home Dad puts me straight to work.”
“Overall, I think it is vitally important to stay busy away from Rugby. It’s a great way to prepare for your next career, but I think it’s also great to take advantage of the gaps in your schedule to do different things while you’re going through your career to have a good balance separate to footy.”
Click here to find out more about the RUPA Player Development Program.