Publication Details

Ravulo, J. (2015). NRL Graduates of League @ Western Sydney University: Evaluation Report. Western Sydney University.


Australian culture has long celebrated its sporting heroes as role models and inspirational figures, embodying the hard-work ethic of its people. Given the prowess of some of our top athletes, it is little wonder that many younger players aspire to these same levels of professionalism and athleticism in their own careers. It is also well recognised that one false move can drastically alter an athlete's life, seen perhaps most potently in the experience of Alex McKinnon, where one tragic tackle rendered him paralysed (Connell, July 4, 2015). Although this is an extreme example, such realities have prompted younger and older athletes alike to contemplate what life after sports consists of, with many considering the place of higher education as a required "prudence for the future" (Cosh and Tully, 2014, p.184). Undertaking further education whilst being an elite athlete has become something of an expectation for elite athletes over the past few years (Hickey and Kelly, 2008). Combining the worlds of education and elite athleticism is emotionally, socially, mentally and, of course, physically demanding. It is therefore incumbent upon higher education providers alongside coaches, parents and friends of athletes to encourage integration and provide backing in both fields. For the purposes of this report, National Rugby League (NRL) student-athletes that have taken part in the Graduates of League Program through the Western Sydney University will be discussed. This program seeks to support players from clubs across the National Rugby League in their higher education pursuits in Australian universities and colleges. The program consists of a range of support services for these athletes, including peer mentoring, and social support enhancement between NRL clubs, coaches and players. Data from student-athletes and their peer tutors have been analysed, revealing the effectiveness of the program and areas of perceived need for this unique student population.