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Posted by RLPA

September 07, 2023

Academic Team of the Year for 2023

The Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) and National Rugby League (NRL) are pleased to announce the 2023 Academic Team of the Year, which recognises the off-field educational achievements of NRL and NRLW players throughout the year.

The annual Academic Team of the Year – which incorporates current players from both the senior men’s and women’s competitions – helps to inspire and empower all rugby league players to further their education.

Research shows that engaging in career planning, further education and work experience helps players have longer and more successful playing careers, as well as a smoother transition to their post football career.

“To be selected in the NRL and NRLW Academic Team of the Year the players must showcase dedication and commitment to managing the on-field demands of professional rugby league, with the off-field demands of post career development,” Jamie Buhrer, RLPA Player Operations & Wellbeing Lead said.

“We are incredibly proud of this year’s group, as each are role models for current and future players to pursue education across a wide variety of industries, while excelling on the football field.”

2023 Academic Team of the Year

Ethan Bullemor (Sea Eagles): Bachelor of Advanced Economics (University of Queensland)

Nat Butcher (Roosters): Bachelor of Commerce – Data Analytics (Australian Catholic University)

Shenae Ciesiolka (Broncos): Bachelor of Education – PDHPE (University of Southern Queensland)

Yasmin Clydesdale (Knights): Graduate Certificate in Career Development (ACU), Bachelor of Education (University of Newcastle)

Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans): Certificate IV in Youth Work (DaV’ange Training), Certificate IV in Family Intervention (DaV’ange Training)

Reuben Garrick (Sea Eagles): Carpentry Apprenticeship (TAFE NSW), Bachelor of Property & Real Estate (Deakin University)

Luke Keary (Roosters): Master of Business Administration (UNSW), Bachelor of Business (ACU), Certificate IV in Fitness (Mission Australia), Certificate IV in Small Business (Elite Athlete Business School)

Blake Lawrie (Dragons): Building Surveying Certificate (College of Professional Development)

Mark Nicholls (Dolphins): Graduate Certificate of Program Management (Queensland University of Technology), Diploma of Business (Australian Vocational Training Company), Bachelor Of sport Management & Coaching Science (University of Canberra)

Cory Paix (Broncos): Carpentry Apprenticeship (Housing Industry Australia and Reebuild Constructions)

Kaitlyn Phillips (Titans): Bachelor of Echocardiography & Cardiac Physiology (Central Queensland University), Bachelor of Paramedicine (Charles Sturt University)

Tayla Predebon (Knights): Bachelor of Physiotherapy (University of Newcastle)

Tyran Wishart (Storm): Bachelor of Construction Management & Property (UNSW), Carpentry Apprenticeship (Trades Institute Victoria)

“The NRL and NRLW Academic Team of the Year was created to not only celebrate those players that have been able to juggle the demands of being a professional athlete, while also developing post football career options, but also to inspire the next generation of young players to have lifelong career and personal aspirations well beyond being a sportsperson,” said Paul Heptonstall, NRLW Senior Manager Wellbeing & Education said.

These awards are not always for the smartest players doing the hardest programs but more for those that have maximised their educational opportunities.

“These awards are not always for the smartest players doing the hardest programs but more for those that have maximised their educational opportunities.”

Post-secondary education engagement numbers continue to rise in 2023 with over 1,000 completed qualifications among the NRL and NRLW playing cohort, including 345 further qualifications in process as well as 102 university degrees.

More than 500 Certificate I to IV courses are either ongoing or completed – headlined by a high number of fitness and business courses – while over 100 accreditations, short courses and diplomas have also been achieved.

“Success in these academic and vocational activities requires a supportive NRL club, an inspiring club career coach, a flexible and understanding educational institution and most importantly a very organised and motivated player,” Heptonstall said.

“Our club career coaches do a phenomenal job of encouraging every player to have two career plan A’s and to be continuously taking steps to develop the knowledge, skills, confidence and self-belief to be in the best position possible to tackle their post football career,” added Nicola Skinner, NRL Career, Education & Transition Manager.

In addition to the 2023 NRL & NRLW Academic Team of the Year, the NRL and RLPA will also recognise two Academic Achievement Awards – one male and one female player – during this year’s Telstra Premiership finals series to acknowledge the highest off-field wellbeing and educational achievements.

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