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Competition - NRL
Round - Finals Week 1
Teams – Panthers V Bulldogs
Date – 11th of September 2016 
Venue – Allianz Stadium 
Photographer – Cox 
Description –

Seven debutants including Adam Blair (Broncos), Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles), Kurt Baptiste (Raiders) and Russell Packer (Dragons) were named alongside five two-time winners and a three-time recipient in Ryan Hoffman (Warriors) as part of the 2016 NRL-RLPA Academic Team of the Year.

Ryan James (Titans), Josh Jackson (Bulldogs), Daniel Mortimer (Titans), Jeremy Latimore (Panthers) and James Tedesco (Tigers) were acknowledged for the dedication shown to balancing their studies with football commitments for a second time, while boom Panthers rookie Nathan Cleary was also included in the Holden Cup Academic Team of the Year.

Dane Gagai (Knights) and Ray Thompson (Cowboys) were awarded Indigenous Leadership and Excellence Awards, with Warrior Ben Henry and Shark Sam Tagataese picking up the Pasifika Award for Leadership and Excellence. The four winners will travel to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to attend lectures, share stories and celebrate their achievements on an international scale.

Henry, who was forced into early retirement in 2016 at the age of 24 due to multiple recurring injuries, was delighted at winning an award as well as the trip to UCLA.

“I’m very honoured and humbled to receive this award. I’ve had a tough year, but I guess there’s a light at the end of every tunnel and this is it for me,” Henry said.

“It’s going to be an enjoyable experience. I’ve talked to Jerome Ropati and he enjoyed his time over there, so I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Senior NRL Wellbeing and Education Manager Paul Heptonstall expressed his delight at seeing so many players now enrolled in University or Certificate programs and making the selection of players in this Academic team much more competitive.

“The most pleasing aspect of this increased educational engagement is that the very best player’s in the game are showing that it is very possible to combine a professional athletic career with other vocational pursuits,” Mr Heptonstall said.

“It’s a wonderful achievement really and testament to the players continued commitment to balancing their life off the field.

“They are the ideal example for the next generation of professional athletes to follow; that there is much more to life than football.”

NRL-RLPA Program Highlights

Ø  800 of the 1000 NRL and NYC players are currently engaged in further education or workplace training.

Ø  21% of NRL and NYC players enrolled in a university degree at the start of the 2016 season

Ø  40% of NRL and NYC attempted a Certificate to Diploma program with approx. 15% of these doing a formal trade apprenticeship.

Ø  Currently 18 academic institutions deliver the NRL's Graduates of League program. The completion rate of all players attempting university courses has continued to increase with 85% of all subjects attempted being passed.

Ø  There have been $600k in education grants provided by the RLPA to over 400 different player’s education.

Ø  NRL Clubs have provided their players with an additional $2.4 million in educational incentives to engage in vocational pursuits away from football.

Ø  16 of the 36 players to play in this year’s U/20’s Qld or NSW State of Origin teams were studying at University with the balance doing apprenticeships, trades or vocational experience.

NRL-RLPA Academic Team of the Year



Ian Henderson

Completed a Diploma of Financial Planning



Ryan James

Currently completing a Bachelor Of Business

Griffith University


Jeremy Latimore

Completed a Bachelor of Business

University of Wollongong


James Tedesco

Currently completing a Bachelor Health & Exercise Science



Ryan Hoffman

Currently completing a Bachelor of Business

Open Universities


Adam Blair

Currently completing a Bachelor of Social Science

ACU Brisbane


Michael Oldfield

Currently completing a Bachelor of Commerce

Macquarie University


Daniel Mortimer

Completed a Bachelor of Education (Physical and Health Education)

Australian College of Physical Education


Josh Jackson

Currently completing a Bachelor of Exercise & Sports Science

University of Newcastle

Sea Eagles

Jake Trjbojevic

Completed a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Management

University Technology Sydney


Russell Packer

Currently completing a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting & Finance)

University of Wollongong


Daniel Alvaro

Currently completing a Bachelor of Business & Construction Management

University of Technology Sydney


Kurt Baptiste

Currently completing a Bachelor of Engineering

Queensland University of Technology

NYC Academic Team of the Year


Ben Nakubuwai

Currently completing a Bachelor of Exercise Science

Australian Catholic University


Jacob Liddle

Currently studying a Bachelor of Engineering

Macquarie University


Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck

Currently studying a Filmakers Intensive and completed a Cert IV in Graphic Design

Australian Film Television and Radio School


Jayden Brailey

Currently completing a Bachelor of Exercise & Sports Science

Australian Catholic University


Angus Crichton

Currently studying a Bachelor of Arts Media and Communications

University of Sydney


Sam Swift

Currently studying a Bachelor of Journalism

Griffith University


Nathan Cleary

Currently completing a Bachelor of Arts Pathway to Secondary Teaching

University of Western Sydney


Jack Payne

Currently studying a Bachelor of Physical Health and Education

University of Wollongong


Jack Cogger

Currently completing a Bachelor of Social Science

University of Newcastle


Jack Morris

Currently completing a Bachelor of Physical Activity and Health Science

Australian Catholic University


Jack Hickson

Currently completing a Bachelor of Law and Business Administration

Australian National University


Max Elliott

Currently completing a Bachelor of Sports & Exercise Science

Australian Catholic University


Ross Bella

3rd Year Apprentice Electrician

Tafe Queensland

Pasifika Leadership and Excellence Award

Sam Tagataese        Cronulla Sharks

Ben Henry                 New Zealand Warriors

Indigenous Leadership and Excellence Award

Dane Gagai               Newcastle Knights

Ray Thompson         North Queensland Cowboys

Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are 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.