Career Development Q&A News

Career Development: Russell Packer

The Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) has launched a new content series promoting career development opportunities for players and the importance of planning for life after footy.

The Career Development Q&A will each week feature a player who has engaged in meaningful development opportunities away from the field, providing an insight for other players and the industry about their journey.

The content series also highlights academic achievements from within the playing group, many of which have utilised the support available through the NRL-RLPA Wellbeing and Education program.

Part 8 of the Career Development Q&A features Wests Tigers player, Russell Packer.

Q1 What off field development are you completing or have completed?

I have completed;

  • Bobcat/Skid Steer Ticket;
  • Forklift Ticket;
  • White Card;
  • Certificate IV in Community Services at TAFE NSW;
  • Post Graduate Certificate in Business at the Sydney Business School;
  • Master’s in Business Administration at the Australian Graduate School of Management.

I am currently enrolled in a Master of Legal Studies (Corporate & Commercial) at the University of Auckland.

Q2 Why did you choose this field?

Being a professional athlete for the best part of the last decade has exposed me to many different aspects related to business; mergers, contracts, valuation, commercial agreements etc. It was a natural progression advancing my learnt knowledge in these areas with a degree in business as I near the end of my league career.  It will give the grounding to enter different industries as I transition out of Rugby League.

After completing my MBA, I felt that a skill set in legal matters would increase my capabilities and complement the management degree in any role that I take on in the future.

Q3 Did you always have this career path in mind?

I was always interested in learning about business, but I lacked the discipline to persevere through the eventual dips in motivation that come whilst studying. At 19 I enrolled at the Auckland University of Technology in a business degree but dropped out after one subject. In hindsight, I just wasn’t ready to commit to the process of obtaining a higher education.

Q4 Have you utilised any support available to players through the NRL-RLPA Wellbeing and Education program?

Yes, one of the key differences between my first taste of university and the second, is the support that I received. It is always daunting starting something new and the support on offer through the NRL Education and Well-Being is exceptional. The graduates of league programme helped immensely with tutors when I first started out. Having that support system was essential in allowing me to build my confidence as a student.

I have also accessed RLPA education funding as well as club grants to assist with the costs of study.

Q5 What plans or goals do you have for post-retirement? 

I plan to leverage my life, sporting and educational experiences into something that can impact those around me in a positive way. Once my football career finishes, I plan to relocate my family back to NZ and forge another career with the same passion and commitment I have poured into Rugby League.

Q6 If you could give yourself one piece of career advice back in your rookie year what would it be? 

It would be to broaden your perspective of the world, even though you think it, Rugby League is not the centre of the universe. There are other positive avenues out there that will stimulate you, experience them, find out what excites you and then pursue them with the same commitment, purpose and passion that you will put into Rugby League.

Q7 How important is it for players and the industry to prioritise career development opportunities? 

It goes without saying that as athletes our number one priority is to play each week. Our careers are finite and when I was younger, I poured all my energy trying to establish my football career. It was only through life experience and age that I started to prioritise career development.

I believe that with the awareness and support provided by the RLPA, clubs and NRL around personal development and education more and more players will have their interests sparked by something and with that help and support pursue it.

Q8 How have the skills you have developed through playing NRL helped with your educational development?

The work environment that all professional athletes operate in is high-pressure. It is a performance-based profession where the results good, bad and in-between are visible. The pressure to perform comes internally with both personal and team expectations and externally from fans, members and media. In addition, it requires effective communication, dispute resolution, strategy, research and analysis, team building and critical feedback.

As my educational journey progress, I started to realise how the skills learnt and experiences of being a ‘footy player’ can be applied to other domains, especially education, to help you have success.

We often box ourselves in with the ‘footy player’ tag, myself included, but I was asked to share all my experiences with a university lecturer which she wrote down. Once I read that list back, I realised that our experiences as athletes have made as much more than just ‘footy players’, I would recommend this exercise to any player like myself who thought that footy was their only experience.

Q9 How important is having the support of your coach and football staff when pursuing education options?

It is essential, without the support of the Head Coach it is very hard to commit to the requirements of an education. I have personally been lucky with Paul McGregor, Ivan Cleary and Michael Maguire being supportive of me pursuing my degree. It has required adjustments of scheduling for exams etc so other football staff have helped by coming in on their days off so I could catch up on a running session etc. Without this support system in place it would have been more difficult, so I am grateful for all that support.

Q10 Was there a time you felt like giving up on your studies and if so, what helped you keep going?

Yes. Things in life happen that affect your motivation towards your studies. When I have been faced with situations the support of the Welfare officers has been vital, having a chat really helped me to refocus and allowed me to preserve through dips in motivation.

Q11 What is something you are currently doing away from the field that you are most proud of? (e.g. career related activity, community work, supporting a charity or something people might not know about you)

Prior to COVID, I was introduced to a great charity Kids Giving Back who offer programs for children 6-18 years old’s, some who are at risk. Through cooking lessons with local chefs, meals are made then donated to other charity’s in Sydney and personal development workshops that deal with emotions and behaviour act as a guiding for each person to make a contribution back into the community.

In this role I shared some of my personal experiences and the mistakes I have made through life and how with help, support, and personal commitment anyone can change their circumstances, which was a positive experience.

Stay tuned for next week’s Career Development Q&A and check out the first six articles with members of the RLPA Player Advisory Group below!

PART 1: Chris Lawrence

PART 2: Christian Welch

PART 3: Dale Copley

PART 4: Darius Boyd

PART 5: David Gower

PART 6: Blake Green

PART 7: Sia Soliola