Sharks half Connor Tracey has been recognised for his efforts in the education space off the field in 2020 by being named in the NRL's Academic Team of the Year.
In combining his training and playing commitments with study and education, Tracey completed a Bachelor of Accounting and Financial Services and is currently completing a Post Grad Cert in Chartered Financial Analyst at CFA Institute.
“I definitely want to work in the finance industry. At the moment my goal is to work in Investment Banking, which is why I am studying the CFA," Tracey said. "It is vital to ensure young players have access to degrees and courses that allow them to transition successfully post-NRL. Our career after footy will be much longer than our playing career.”
Players are encouraged by the NRL to undertake education courses with Amanda King and former Sharks NRL player Jeff Robson employed full time at the club in the education and wellbeing area.
The NRL and the RLPA announced the 2020 Academic Team of the Year in celebrating the academic achievements of the game's stars.
Joining Tracey in the NRL and RLPA's Academic Team of the Year is the Gold Coast Titans' Anthony Don, the first player in the fulltime professional era to complete a Master's Degree while still playing.
Don was awarded the "2020 Academic Male of the Year", while New Zealand Warriors' Kirra Dibb took out "Female of the Year" honours.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo congratulated all the players named in the Team of the Year, along with all players who have furthered their education in such a challenging environment.
"This year's Academic Team of the Year will be remembered as one of the most disciplined and determined,'' he said.
"Our squads have been in a biosecurity bubble all year but the commitment of these players to continue to further their studies during the pandemic is a remarkable achievement.
"As a game we are very proud to have around 100 players who have completed or are completing tertiary degrees and a further 100 who are completing traditional trades. Rugby league is about teamwork, communication, discipline and focus. When you combine those skills with the study a significant portion of our playing group is doing, our players are well prepared to enter the workforce after their career.
"We'll continue to invest heavily in the education and wellbeing area to ensure our players are prepared for life after rugby league."
RLPA Chief Executive Clint Newton said education should always be a priority for the game.
"We congratulate the academic achievements of these individuals, who are rightfully being celebrated for their continued engagement in career development, despite the many challenges season 2020 has placed before them," Mr Newton said.
"We need to continue supporting and championing players, investing in their future by prioritising education and professional development."
NRL Wellbeing & Education Manager, Paul Heptonstall said of 550 contracted players, 93 current NRL players have completed or are completing a University Degree, while seven players are doing a Masters degree, through 32 different universities.
A further 106 players are completing traditional trades while a total of 610 VET qualifications have been achieved by all the Players.
"We have 84 percent of players currently engaged in career development," Mr Heptonstall said.
"We have long believed, and it is backed up by research, that players who further their education are more likely to succeed on the field.
"It is also pleasing to see some of our most successful Clubs off the field as some of the most engaged Clubs with their off-field development and education."
2020 NRL Academic Team of the Year
Rhys Kennedy (Completed Bachelor of Exercise Science and Cert III in fitness, University of Wollongong)
Connor Tracey (Completed a Bachelor of Accounting and Financial Services, currently completing a Post Grad Cert in - Chartered Financial Analyst, CFA Institute)
Anthony Don (Completed a Masters of Business Administration 2020 & Completed a Bachelor of Education 2011, University of New England)
Christian Welch (Completed a Bachelor of Commerce and currently completing a Masters of Business, University of New South Wales)
Jayden Brailey (Currently completing a Bachelor of Exercise sports Science, Australian Catholic University)
Jake Granville (Currently completing a Carpentry Apprenticeship and Diploma of Business Management & Hospitality)
Reed Mahoney (Completed Cert IV in Business, Education Support & III & IV Fitness and Diploma in Business, currently completing a Bachelor Sport Business, Australian College of Physical Education)
Adam Clune (Completed a Bachelor of Laws-Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) with distinction, University of Wollongong)
Euan Aitken (Completed a Cert IV in Fitness, currently completing a Bachelor of Exercise Science and Completed a Cert IV in New Small Business, University of Wollongong)
Nat Butcher (Completed Diploma in Business & Cert IV in Small Business Management, currently completing a Bachelor of Business Administration, Australian Catholic University)
Matt Ikuvalu (Completed Certificate III in fitness and Cert IV in Community & Recreation, currently completing a Bachelor of Teaching (Honours), University of Newcastle)
Alex Twal (Completed a Bachelor of Commerce (2020) & Cert III in Fitness, Australian Catholic University)
Kirra Dibb (Currently completing a Bachelor of Applied Science - Exercise Physiology, University of Sydney)