News Retired Rookies

Packer: Hardest thing is lack of experience

It’s been just over a year since Russell Packer called time on his 184-game career. In our reboot of the ‘Retired Rookies‘ series, we’re catching up with players from the 2021 retiring class who have just finished their first year off the field.

What have they been up to? And, what we can learn from their transition journeys? Check out Russell Packer’s story:

WHAT DID YOU DO IN YOUR FIRST YEAR OF RETIREMENT?

“My transition like most around that time was heavily impacted by Covid. We got a voucher and left Australia earlier than expected but it was good to get home during a time of uncertainty. Continued working on business, started a new business. I applied for heaps of jobs but didn’t get any of them so that led me to starting another business instead.”

WHAT DID YOU FIND MOST DIFFICULT ABOUT RETIRING FROM THE NRL?

“That lack of stimulation that I used to get being around 35 guys all competing each day. That was the hardest for me – just less going on. The safety of monthly pay was also an adjustment.”

WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU KNEW ABOUT TRANSITIONING THAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW WHEN YOU WERE PLAYING?

“I think even if people tell you exactly how you’re going to feel there’s an element in all of us that thinks it won’t affect us until we experience it for ourselves. Probably the biggest thing would be to have a job or something that gives structure and goals to my days and weeks.”

WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A YOUNG PLAYER ABOUT TRANSITIONING & RETIREMENT?

“Find a network of people that have experience in the industries you’re interested in and lean into them for guidance and work experience opportunities while you’re still playing. The hardest thing is lack of experience, especially for roles that are middle management or above. Even with degrees I have found my football experiences aren’t as easily transferable.”

WHAT IS AN AREA OF GROWTH FOR THE GAME IN REGARD TO PLAYER TRANSITION?

“I think creation of a pathways program with connected businesses within the NRL would be unreal. The creation of a portal type system where there are real tangible work experience opportunities for players to access on days off with defined scope and times.”

“What I found is that, when you are a ‘famous league player’ on work experience, you normally just get jobs made up for you that are easy and end up talking about football for the rest of the time.”

HOW DID THE RLPA AND THE WELLBEING & EDUCATION PROGRAM HELP YOU TRANSITION?

“It helped a lot with the check-ins and the retirement weekend was great. Even though, when you end, you go off on your own, I still feel connected to the community through these little things.”