Eleven players from across the NRL and National Youth Competition have either completed or are studying at the Church St campus of the UNE in a range of areas including the arts, sports science, primary school teaching and media studies.
They are among 220 players who enrolled in a degree at the start of the 2014 season.
The NRL’s Graduates of League Program was established at the University of Wollongong with the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2012 and is now running in 18 academic institutions in Australia and New Zealand.
Parramatta Eels Holden Cup players Tui Kamikamica and Tui Oloapu were at the launch to support the program.
They have completed the QuickSmart program in conjunction with the Parramatta Rugby League Club, the NRL and the UNE as part of an initiative for Rugby League players. Both players are on track to achieve their aim of going to university.
University of New England Vice-Chancellor Professor Annabelle Duncan said UNE was pleased to be partnering with the NRL to provide flexible learning opportunities for players.
“The valuable thing about studying by distance or online is that players have the flexibility to study while balancing their training, playing, family and social commitments,” Professor Duncan said.
The head of NRL Welfare and Education, Paul Heptonstall, welcomed the further expansion of the program to UNE’s Church St, Parramatta, campus because it provided more opportunities for players to mix rugby league and study.
“The University of New England is the latest academic institution to join the NRL’s program, following the University of Western Sydney, Australian Catholic University, and the University of Newcastle among many others,” Mr Heptonstall said.
“It can be tough for our players to undertake university studies due to their heavy sporting commitments.
“But this program allows for flexible attendance and coordinates schedules designed to fit the life of a busy elite athlete.
“It allows players in the NRL to thrive in all areas of their lives while recognising that rugby league is their main priority right now.
“So by securing a higher education, our players can look forward to a rewarding future beyond their career in rugby league.”
The objective of the Graduates of League program is to establish strategies and support structures for the transition and retention of all NRL and NYC players completing their higher education programs at UNE.
Photograph: Tui Kamikamica – Parramatta Eels NRL Player, Paul Heptonstall NRl Senior Education and Welfare Manager, UNE Vice-Chancellor Professor Annabelle Duncan