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NRL announce 2023 NRL & NRLW Academic Team of the Year

The National Rugby League (NRL) is 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. 

"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," 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.

Paul Heptonstall NRLW Senior Manager Wellbeing & Education

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

"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 NRL & NRLW Academic Team of the Year

Ethan Bullemor
Sea Eagles
Bachelor of Advanced Economics (University of Queensland)
Nat Butcher
Bachelor of Commerce - Data Analytics (Australian Catholic University)
Shenae Ciesiolka 
Bachelor of Education - PDHPE (University of Southern Queensland)
Yasmin Clydesdale 
Graduate Certificate in Career Development (Australian Catholic University)
Bachelor of Education (University of Newcastle)
Moeaki Fotuaika 
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 
Master of Business Administration (University of New South Wales) 
Bachelor of Business (Australian Catholic University) 
Certificate IV in Fitness (Mission Australia) 
Certificate IV in Small Business (Elite Athlete Business School)
Blake Lawrie 
Building Surveying Certificate (College of Professional Development)
Mark Nicholls
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 
Carpentry Apprenticeship (Housing Industry Australia and Reebuild Constructions) 
Kaitlyn Phillips 
Bachelor of Echocardiography & Cardiac Physiology (Central Queensland University)
Bachelor of Paramedicine (Charles Sturt University)
Tayla Predebon
Bachelor of Physiotherapy (University of Newcastle) 
Tyran Wishart
Bachelor of Construction Management & Property (University of New South Wales)
Carpentry Apprenticeship (Trades Institute Victoria)

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.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Dolphins respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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