NRL Player Education & Welfare Program

In a world where juicy stories sell, we don’t always hear about the feel good stories. Here at Ladies Who League we love hearing about the good news stories which is why I had a chat to Nigel Vagana about the role he plays within the NRL.

For those who don’t know, after finishing up his NRL career at Souths, Nigel became a NRL Education and Welfare Manager. Nigel was weighing up whether to take a contract overseas when the NRL found out he was considering retirement and offered him the role. Nigel wanted to stay involved with the game long term and wanted to help people so decided to take the opportunity.

Nigel was part of the first group of players to go into the NRL straight from school. Players used to work and play in the NRL, however the Super League created a culture where you couldn’t do both. Training 6 days a week meant you didn’t have time to hold down a job as well.

Back when Nigel first started as a NRL Education and Welfare Manager there were only 2 people in the team, now there’s 60 – 70 welfare managers across the game. Each club has at least 2 Welfare Managers and there are 10 that are situated in NRL HQ and others in Queensland and New Zealand. The Melbourne Storm are the first club to have 3 Welfare Managers. It’s great to see the NRL take the players Education and Welfare seriously.

The average lifespan of a NRL player is 2 and a half years and that’s only if you actually make it to the NRL. This means players are retiring quite young and if you’re 24 and have never worked a day in your life and have no skills to fall back on, it’s going to be hard to get a job to support your family. These players are only 1 bad injury away from an early retirement.

A NRL Education and Welfare Officer assists players with their life off the field. They help with study, family, life after football, help players when relocating, social responsibility, financial planning and the list goes on. The scope is large and is only growing. There are a total of 220 players from the NRL and NYC competitions who are currently studying at Uni.

One of my favourite programs they are running is the NYC no work, no study, no play program. NYC players are not allowed to train during the day. Players either need to be in school or working full time, otherwise they can’t play. The NRL didn’t want players to leave the game and not have any experience which is why they have created this program. Only 10-15% of NYC players make it into the NRL so they need to have another career to fall back on.

Another program is the Career Wise program where every player contracted to the club meets with their Career Advisor to discuss career options. This is great for the young players who are still at school and want to know what subjects they need to take to get to where they want to be. It’s also great for the older players who know what they want to do but don’t know how to achieve it; or even the players who have no idea what they want to do post-football.

Sports overseas are contacting the NRL and asking them to present on the Education and Welfare program that we are running. This just shows that Nigel and his team are doing a great job.

As you would expect, there are some players who don’t see the reasoning behind the program but there are a lot of players who are jumping at the opportunities that this program offers. Ben Creagh just graduated from Uni, Corey Payne just got his masters, Sam Perret runs his own building company and employs some NYC players. There are some great stories out there, we just don’t hear about them.

In the coming months I hope to bring you some good news stories on individual players who have benefited from the NRL Player Education and Welfare program. I truly think this is a great initiative and want more people to know about it.

I encourage you all to read it, love it and share it because we need more people to know about this great program.


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