When most people think of the National Rugby League, the word ‘education’ isn’t the first one that springs to mind.
However, this is an image the NRL and its clubs are keen to change as they recognise the importance of preparing players for a future beyond their professional sporting career.
One player who understands this better than most is St George-Illawarra Dragons’ utility back Tristan Sailor, who has just started his Bachelor of Architecture at UNSW after already completing a commerce degree.
“The NRL as a whole has really been pushing the education and wellbeing for players in recent years,” he said.
“The Dragons’ Education and Wellbeing Officers really capitalise on this and give us a lot of support and help with finding education pathways that will interest us.
“I had always planned on going to university but with the education grants and flexibility available to us, it really encouraged me to undertake this second degree.”
The son of former Dragons and Queensland legend Wendell Sailor, Tristan has been making his own mark on the sport, with a series of excellent performances through the junior grades that saw him break into the Dragons’ first grade squad.
The intense training is difficult to combine with study, but Sailor has worked hard to ensure he strikes that balance.
“I was extremely lucky to be able to do (my Commerce degree) full time along with my sporting commitments,” he said.
“It took a lot of flexibility from both ends but due to this I was able to balance it really well.”
The UNSW Elite Athlete Program allows athletes across a range of sports to balance the demands of training with their studies.
Elite Athlete Program Manager Helen Bryson is delighted to welcome Sailor to the program.
“Tristan has demonstrated through his previous degree that he has excellent work ethic and a strong desire to learn,” she said.
“With a number of professional athletes from the AFL, NRL, WBBL and Super Netball now studying here, it is exciting to see UNSW become the university of choice for so many across these codes due to the strength of our program and our teaching.”
Beginning his course in T3, Sailor is very keen to get started.
“I am really excited to have the opportunity to learn from experts in the architectural field,” he said.
“It will give me the ability to gain valuable knowledge and skills that I will be able to translate in my future career after rugby league.
“[Architecture] has always been an interest of mine and I was close to undertaking the course straight after school but decided to do a different degree.
“It has come full circle now – I love the design part of it, and the ability to be creative while also affecting people’s lives through the built environment.”