There is no question the Intrust Super Cup and Hastings Deering Colts competitions are full of talented footballers - many of whom made their NRL debuts this year. There is also plenty of players who have achieved off the field academically.
Queensland Rugby League works hard to help place players into university or TAFE courses, apprenticeships and employment, to help secure futures for them post football.
QRL wellbeing and education manager Murray Hurst said there were at least 69 players studying and within the two competitions, there were two lawyers, one solicitor, two physiotherapists, two structural engineers, 12 teachers and 21 teacher aides, five accountants, 22 tradesmen and 31 apprentices, one aircraft technician and three bank tellers.
"As these players play at a semi-professional level and are committed to their futures post-rugby league, I have enormous respect for them," Hurst said.
"There have been some quite stunning achievements from players and I think honouring them is important."
QRL will celebrate some outstanding performers in the inaugural Academic Team of the Year at the QRL Awards Night on September 27; tickets to the event are on sale now.
The 2019 Academic Team of the Year
1. Krys Freeman - Townsville Blackhawks
Freeman has just completed a masters degree in education. He also has a Bachelor of Sports and Exercise Science, which he completed in 2015. Hurst said he was "the epitome of overall commitment and always strives to better himself".
2. Dan Beasley - Townsville Blackhawks
Beasley completed a Sport and Exercise Science Degree. Hurst said "after reverting to part-time in order to commit to the Blackhawks, Dan’s resilience paid off by achieving his degree in 2019".
3. Ed Burns - Wynnum Manly Seagulls
Burns is currently studying for his medical degree and also tutors medical students two days each week. Hurst said Burns was "a noted role model at the club, given the example he sets continually with off-field assistance to staff, his training ethic and mistake-free on-field football".
4. Richie Pandia - Ipswich Jets
Pandia, a very proud PNG international, is studying a dual degree in business management and sports and human resources management. Hurst said "Richie surely is an exception with on-field consistency for the Jets and time management for studies and training. His country would be very proud".
5. Blake Cullen - Western Mustangs
Cullen sets an excellent example as captain of the Western Mustangs' Hastings Deering Colts side; he is in his third year of Bachelor of Education (Secondary Teaching), majoring in Health and Physical Education and minoring in Mathematics. "Maturity is synonymous with young Blake Cullen," Hurst said. "This Millmerran man displays dedication to all tasks he undertakes. He works 25 hours in addition to full-time at USQ in Toowoomba."
6. John O’Brien - Mackay Cutters
O'Brien completed his Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science in June after starting in 2015 with the STEPS program. Hurst said O'Brien originally worked on staff as an intern at the Cutters while studying and would continue to create opportunities for himself.
7. Connor Broadhurst - Norths Devils
Broadhurst is now a full-time teacher, having achieved a Bachelor of Education. "The man from Baralaba proved his resilience as a country person by achieving off-field through education and on-field by way of dedication to represent his state from the Devils," Hurst said.
8. Sam Foster - Easts Tigers
Foster showed enormous commitment and diligence to complete his law degree in 2019. "Sam established achievable short-term and long-term goals from secondary school in Townsville and although already donning his lawyer robe, he is by no means complete," Hurst said.
9. Tom Hancock - Northern Pride
Hancock's law degree and standing as skipper of Northern Pride's Intrust Super Cup team in 2019 commands respect from peers and staff at the club. Hurst said Hancock was bound to become a successful lawyer with his attention to detail and great listening and achieving skills.
10. Tom Rafter - Sunshine Coast Falcons
Rafter is currently working in his desired field after achieving his health and physical education degree. "Tom is a good person to be around and is a very quiet achiever both on and off-field, who the Falcons hold in high regard," Hurst said. "He is known for his strong values."
11. Harrison Hughes - Tweed Seagulls
Hughes has displayed great commitment to study by completing his degree in structural engineering. "Whilst emanating intelligence and common sense, Harrison commands attention as a person any family and any club would be proud of," Hurst said.