2017 Australian Schoolboys Rugby Championship winning Captain Seamus Smith (ACT) and Queenslander Noah Lolesio are the recipients of the 2018 RUPA Australian Schools Rugby Union (ASRU) Scholarships.
Seamus and Noah, who has moved to Canberra this year to join the Brumbies Academy alongside Smith, will each receive $2000 in education reimbursements to support their ongoing off-field development in 2018.
While both Seamus and Noah have demonstrated enormous potential on the Rugby field, their selection is based on the broader criteria for the Scholarships which includes displaying exemplary behaviour and leadership at school, positive work habits and application to study and involvement in a variety of school or community activities.
Rosemary Towner, General Manager of Player Development at RUPA, congratulated both Noah and Seamus on their significant achievement.
“We’re really pleased to make this announcement, and to play a part in the continued development of two young men who have shown tremendous promise on and off the field,” Towner said.
“It was very apparent throughout the application process that both Noah and Seamus hold ambitions to pursue professional Rugby careers but also, critically, that they appreciate the importance of continuing to study and ensuring that they explore alternative career paths. We’re looking forward to continuing to track their progress.”
Scrumhalf Smith has begun studying at Australian National University (ANU), pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, and said that the Scholarship would take some of the financial pressures off himself and his family.
“When I found out I had been successful, it was an unreal feeling,” he told RUPA. “It’s very important to me that I find the right balance between footy and study; I do want to make it professionally in footy, but I also understand the importance of thinking about other aspects of a career.
“University gives me that crucial backup plan. Money and finance have always been an interest of mine and something I studied at school, and I think that there are a lot of job opportunities in that sector, so when I thought I should go to Uni this year Commerce was the obvious choice.”
For playmaking centre Lolesio, who was the Vice-Captain of the Australian Schoolboys side in 2017, the Scholarship has helped in making his move to the nation’s capital as smooth as possible.
“It truly means the world to be granted this Scholarship,” Lolesio said. “It means that mum and dad don’t have to go through the financial burden of buying all of my books and everything I need to study. I moved from the Gold Coast in late November straight after graduation from High School, and I’ve started a double degree at the University of Canberra studying Psychology & Exercise Science.
“I’m settling in to life in Canberra really well; all I’ve been doing is training at the Academy and doing full-time Uni, but I’m finding the Psychology part especially interesting so far. I think it is very important that I keep my eyes on a Plan B and continue to move my life forward, just in case I don’t end up playing Rugby professionally.”
Smith led the ACT to their first National Schoolboys Championship since 1988 last year, the former Marist College student playing a starring role with his speed to the breakdown and accurate passing particularly impressive as he scored his side’s first try in the Final.
Meanwhile Lolesio, the former Southport School (Gold Coast) student, caught the eye at the National Schoolboys Championships in the 12 jersey for Queensland 1. He showed great decision-making ability regarding when to utilise his playmaking skills and when to run with the ball and scored a vital try in his side’s tight win over NSW in the battle for third place.
The newly re-formed Brumbies Academy will allow Noah and Seamus, who both started for the Australian Schoolboys in both of their matches in 2017, the opportunity to access professional-standard facilities and High-Performance coaching.
“Being brought up in Canberra, I’ve always played for the Brumbies’ junior sides right from Under 12’s onwards,” Smith said. “To win the National Schoolboys Championships last year was a massive highlight, and then on top of that getting selected for Australia was really the cherry on top.
“I had a really great year of footy last year, even backed up by my school team winning the ACT competition, and now with the opportunities I’ve been getting in the Brumbies Academy a professional career is beginning to look a little bit more realistic. It would be an absolute honour to go any further in Rugby.
“This year I’ll play my Club footy at the Tuggeranong Vikings. I’ll look to start off in colts and enjoy my footy and then hopefully if I’m playing well I will get an opportunity to step up to the bench for the First-Grade side and get picked for the NRC Under 19 competition. “
Lolesio has also benefitted from Australia’s Elite Pathways in recent years, albeit in Queensland before moving to Canberra.
“My first exposure to the pathway was in the Under 15’s Junior Gold Cup, with the Gold Coast team,” he explains. “Now, it’s awesome to be in Canberra with the Brumbies Academy.
“Once you add Club training into the mix, I’m training Monday through to Thursday and then there’s an optional session on Saturday. I even trained with the Brumbies’ Super Rugby side full time for a couple of weeks pre-season, which was an unbelievable experience.
“In 2018, I just want to become a better Rugby player and also progress with my studies, I’m pretty open-minded as to what’s coming at me in the next few years, so I want to just enjoy myself and try and make the most of it this year.”
Last year’s recipients of the RUPA/ASRU Scholarships were Dylan Pietsch and Yirrbi Jaffer-Williams. On the field, Pietsch broke through for his first few World Rugby Sevens series tournaments for Australia and Jaffer-Williams was named for the second straight season in the NSW Gen Blue U20s as well as representing Australian Universities at November’s National Rugby Sevens Championships.
Photos are provided courtesy of Karen Watson & Rugby Australia.