If there’s one person who understands the benefits – and challenges – of life as a professional rugby league player, it’s Jamie Feeney.

The eight-year NRL veteran, who played for the Bulldogs from 1999 to 2004, joined the Storm for 2005 and 2006 and represented NSW Country in 2002, knows a thing or two about playing the Greatest Game of All at a high level… and what needs to be done off the field at the same time too.

And, as the NSWRL’s Performance Programs Manager, he’s charged with teaching the Blues’ generation next everything he’s learnt – and then some.

“I develop and manage those [Pathways] programs and everything that’s involved with that, from ordering tape to hydration and protein, anything like that, all the way through to booking the flights and planning the training and all the sessions,” Feeney tells NSWRL.com.au.

“We’ll go to ‘Loz’ (VB Blues coach Laurie Daley) and he’ll tell us how he wants to play and what principles he wants put in and our job is to show these coaches what we want. The 16s, 18s, 20s and women’s state teams have coaches and assistants but they’re not full-time – I organise the programs with Freddy (Brad Fittler), and with Yvonne [Purtell] and Carly [Reid] who help us from an administrative point of view, and we deliver those programs.

“Freddy and I are there the whole time, ensuring those programs and principles are implemented, and preparing the next generation for Loz. We give them the insight into the principles, attitudes and structures to a degree.”

Feeney and his team help safeguard the future of rugby league in this state – and their five-pillar school of development, covering technical, tactical, physical, lifestyle choices and mental health aspects, ensures the next era of Blues will be better prepared for the challenges they face on and off the field than ever before.

“If they fall short of their dreams, of playing rugby league professionally, we want them to fall safely into something else that can lay a great platform for their lives,” Feeney says.

“The intensity and the importance of playing these games and Origin is obviously pretty high but the same principles are in club land, where I learnt because I never played at this level. The same principles are there but there’s more intensity and pressure and more riding on these types of clashes.

“If we can teach them to make better choices on and off the field – and if we can get a few of the guys through [to Origin] through each of these 16s, 18s and 20s camps – we’ve done our roles.”

Formerly a PE teacher and in charge at the Central Coast Storm, Feeney knows more than a thing or two about making the right decisions both in rugby league and in life.

“I was never a bad kid but I was a bit mischievous growing and my Year 10 PE teacher turned me around,” he says.

“I got a scholarship to uni – an academic and cultural scholarship… from St Joseph’s in Aberdeen. I went to uni before rugby league, did a year before going to the Bulldogs and the rest is history…

“I love the camps, getting in with the boys, getting on the field and giving the guys messages.

“Last week I got asked to leave the field by the referee in the Women’s Interstate Challenge game because I was on the field too long – I’ll see if I can better that tomorrow night.

“I love my job.”

This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au