Sharks stars on track for post-career success

Ever the professionals, Cronulla Sharks players Ricky Leutele and Jayson Bukuya are renowned as tradesman-like performers.

Now the pair is turning that reputation into reality away from the rugby league field.

Leutele and Bukuya are in their third and final year of a Certificate III in Carpentry, which they balance alongside demanding training duties.

The Sharks duo study at Gymea TAFE two half-days a week, where they complete coursework and get hands-on in the building workshop.

Carpentry is an exhausting trade – even more so when your body is often sore from tackling 100-kilogram-plus giants on the weekend – but Leutele and Bukuya enjoy learning on the tools.

"Monday is theory and Wednesdays are more practical. It emulates a full day of TAFE," said Leutele. "It's all right because the teachers are pretty cool."

Though he's only 28 with plenty of rugby league in front of him, having recently signed a lucrative two-year deal with the Toronto Wolfpack, Leutele jumped at the chance to gain a tertiary education while still playing.

"I just knew that footy doesn't last long and I always had a passion for building when I was in high school," said the Samoan centre.

"I thought I'd try it out while I was playing footy a couple years back, but it didn't go through.

"Then we got [Football Operations Manager] Shane Smith here and he sort of made it happen for us. We haven't looked back since."

After beginning the carpentry course in 2016, the end is now in sight for Leutele and Bukuya.

"This will be our last year of TAFE and we've just got to make up the hours on a worksite. It's going pretty good," said Leutele, who plans to utilise the qualification following his football career.

"It just depends on how my body is feeling, [whether] I do it full-time or hire sub-contractors and be the owner of a business," he explained.

Leutele and Bukuya are just two of many rugby league athletes who engage in study or work outside of the game. Leutele credits the Sharks and the NRL for providing support and opportunities to help expand players' horizons.

"We spoke about it just then [at the Sharks]. Footy is not a long career span," said the 2016 premiership winner.

"They're pushing the younger boys to really think about what they want to do after footy, and what their passion will be after footy."

And as for who has the better building skills out of himself and Bukuya?

"Jayson is actually pretty good at the prac stuff, but I think I've got him in the theory," laughed Leutele.

"I've helped him around his house a little bit. 'Boogs' bought a house in Menai and he sort of renovated it himself, and it's looking pretty mint.

"He's doing well, old Boogie!"