Next month, rugby league player Luke La Rosa will swap his footy boots for joggers and take on by far the biggest run of his life to raise awareness and funds for Bravehearts, a leading child protection agency.
The Atherton Roosters A Grader will rise early to tackle the 21km ASICS Gold Coast Half Marathon on July 7 in a bid to assist the organisation dedicated to protecting Australian children from abuse.
The fearless big man said anyone who knows him well would be aware he's not a big fan of running, but was undertaking the task to help stop child abuse.
"Most days at work, I observe the ongoing impacts of abuse on children or their families, so I believe doing this marathon is a great way of giving back," La Rosa said.
Within his role as Program Coordinator at Community Services Tablelands, La Rosa supervises and supports staff to deliver services to children and families across multiple programs, all focused on improving outcomes for children and families.
"Bravehearts mission is something that inspires me as it advocates for children, conducts essential social research to assist prevention of child abuse," La Rosa said.
"The organisation also proactively provides children with the necessary skills and education to identify safe people and keep themselves safe, while also responding through counselling to help children overcome traumatic experiences."
He said the marathon was an opportunity to give back to an organisation by helping out vulnerable members of our communities and it seemed like the right thing to do.
La Rosa decided to take part in the half marathon as it’s during the season and he knew he wouldn’t be able to maintain footy training commitments with the demands and eventual recovery required to complete 42 kilometres.
"Life’s busy at work, but it’s easy to get up every day and do something you're passionate about."
La Rosa has only one more subject to complete before he achieves a Masters of Human Services degree and will graduate in November.
He said while it’s often hard to juggle working fulltime, university, training and travel for games, he still enjoys it all and would be lost without it.
"My preparation hasn’t been too extravagant, but I've been doing more treadmill running over five kilometres, and recently I also completed a 17 kilometre run."
His conditioning training at footy hasn’t slowed down too much so that’s also keeping him fit.
"Rugby league has always been a huge part of my life, and I see it as a pathway for youngsters to develop friends and life skills they otherwise wouldn’t have."
La Rosa, who grew up with four brothers, has been playing footy since he could walk, and joined the Herbert River Tigers when they had a team in early primary school.
He played all his juniors with the Tigers before moving to Cairns where he joined Cairns Brothers and Northern Pride in 2016 before tearing his ACL.
Since then, he was in the Queensland Italian team in 2017 and also represented Cairns in the Foley Shield in 2018 and 2019, and North Queensland Marlins this year.
In late 2017, La Rosa relocated to Atherton for work and then joined the Atherton Roosters club.
"I can play anywhere in the core or an edge, but my preferred position is probably lock.
"The thing I love most about rugby league is the team-focused culture, and working hard every week with mates to try and get a win."
When not playing footy, working or studying, La Rosa said he's a pretty social character and enjoys spending time with friends and family, swimming, having a barbecue or a hit of tennis and golf.
He spoke highly of Atherton Roosters coach Graham Clark Senior and said he is a good bloke who teaches the boys a few things about footy, but more importantly about just being good people.
"Clarky reminds us to be respectful and how important community is to everyone so I think the club has a strong role model for such a young side."
La Rosa has started a fundraising page and helps to make a difference. So far he's raised just over $1000 and is hoping the community will help him reach his target of $3000.
The link is: Help Protect Aussie Children
Donations are fully tax-deductible, so any amount people can afford to donate is very much appreciated.
Main image: Atherton Roosters player Luke La Rosa will be tackling a good cause when he runs the Gold Coast Half Marathon next month to raise funds for Bravehearts Photo: Maria Girgenti