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NRL players pursuing careers after football Kalyn Ponga photography NSW Queensland

No matter how good a player is, how many tries or match winning tackles they pull off, the careers of all NRL footballers eventually come to an end.

And when they do, often abruptly, many are left wondering: what now?

That is why some of the biggest names in the code are getting ahead of the game – preparing for a life after professional rugby league.

Some are studying business management and psychology, while others are pursuing their passions in photography and advocacy. 

Most teams have now implemented policies and programs to ensure their up-and-coming players learn a trade or another skill set outside of the game.

Here, Daily Mail Australia takes a look at how stars such as Kalyn Ponga, Angus Crichton and Josh Dugan are quietly working towards their own off-field goals. 

Arguably one of rugby league’s biggest stars, Newcastle prodigy Kalyn Ponga (pictured) recently shared his passion for photography with fans

Kalyn Ponga: Photography 

‘Despite the public image and the rap the sport gets, a lot of our boys are pretty switched on and very bright,’ a spokesman from Newcastle Knights said. 

The 21-year-old Queensland representative player created a new Instagram page dedicated to sharing artistic photographs he has taken

The 21-year-old Queensland representative player created a new Instagram page dedicated to sharing artistic photographs he has taken

Arguably one of the rugby league’s biggest stars, Newcastle’s prodigy Kalyn Ponga recently shared his passion for photography with fans. 

The 21-year-old Queensland representative player created a new Instagram page dedicated to sharing artistic photographs he had taken.

He amassed more than 10,000 followers in just over a week, indicating he may well be on the way to setting up a career after – or alongside – his stellar football career.

The whitewashed landscape pictures often feature the surf and sea or nearby palm trees.  

He told his @kalynpphoto Instagram followers that prints will be available soon. 

Ponga is only in the early days of his professional career, but is already considered one of the best in the game and has most recently had to sidestep questions about a switch to rugby union. 

Ponga is only in the early days of his professional career, but is already considered one of the best in the game

Kalyn Ponga is considered a star player for Newcastle Knights

Ponga is only in the early days of his professional career, but is already considered one of the best in the game and has most recently had to sidestep questions about a switch to rugby union

He told his @kalynpphoto Instagram followers that prints will be available soon

He told his @kalynpphoto Instagram followers that prints will be available soon

Angus Crichton: Media

Sydney Roosters 2019 recruit Angus Crichton also keeps busy off field, and has expressed an interest in a career in the media.

Sydney Roosters 2019 recruit Angus Crichton also keeps busy off the field, and has expressed an interest in a career in the media

Sydney Roosters 2019 recruit Angus Crichton also keeps busy off the field, and has expressed an interest in a career in the media

The 23-year-old studied media and communications at Sydney University for a year and a half before transferring to what he describes as a ‘more practical course’ at the University of Technology Sydney in media arts and production.  

The second rower, who famously opted to amputate his own finger rather than risk repeated injury on the field, also completed a Diploma in Small Business at the Elite Athlete Business School and is now employed there as the creative director.

On his LinkedIn, Crichton says ‘I’m very honoured to be able to play Rugby League professionally and make it my number one priority, but I’m aware that the professional sporting realm is cut throat and doesn’t last forever.’

‘Building the best platform for myself to excel off the field is of the utmost importance to me.’   

The 23-year-old studied media and communications at Sydney University for a year and a half before transferring to what he describes as a 'more practical course' at the University of Technology Sydney in media arts and production

The 23-year-old studied media and communications at Sydney University for a year and a half before transferring to what he describes as a ‘more practical course’ at the University of Technology Sydney in media arts and production

 Josh Dugan: Mental Health Advocacy

Josh Dugan, a player for the Cronulla Sharks, is equally as interested in developing his off-field endeavours. 

The 29-year-old has been vocal about his own battle with mental health issues and now dedicates his time to volunteering with troubled teens and educating himself.

Josh Dugan has been vocal about his own battle with mental health issues

Josh Dugan has been vocal about his own battle with mental health issues

The veteran volunteers as a mental health mentor at Cobham Juvenile Justice and has completed his certificate four in community and social services.

He is currently undertaking a diploma in counselling.  

Dugan previously voiced his concerns that negative publicity often outweighs the good things he and his colleagues do in the community. 

‘It’s not just ‘footy, footy, footy’ for us. We do a lot of stuff in our own time in the community that doesn’t get spoken about as much as it should.

‘Sometimes it feels like one negative outdoes the 10 good things that players do.’

The veteran volunteers as a mental health mentor at Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre and has completed his certificate four in community and social services

The veteran volunteers as a mental health mentor at Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre and has completed his certificate four in community and social services

 Damien Cook: Entrepreneur 

South Sydney Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook was so taken by La Cure Health and Wellness Centre in Caringbah that he decided to invest in the business.

Cook was attending the facility, which boasts a cryotherapy machine, float tank, compression boots and intravenous therapy, to assist with his recovery before and after games.

Damien Cook invested in a business he uses for recovery after training

Damien Cook invested in a business he uses for recovery after training

He told The Daily Telegraph former head of high performance at the Souths Paul Devlin introduced him to the unique style of recovery three years ago. 

‘I wouldn’t put my name next to something if I didn’t believe in it.’  

‘There’s a lot of benefits, not just for athletes, but the elderly with arthritis and sore joints,’ Cook said. 

‘With the magnesium salts, you float in the tank with the benefits of the salts getting back into the muscles, but the big one for me is being able to shut-off for an hour away from technology’

The entrepreneur said one hour in the tank is equivalent to four hours sleep.  

South Sydney Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook was so taken by La Cure Health and Wellness Centre in Caringbah that he decided to invest in the business

South Sydney Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook was so taken by La Cure Health and Wellness Centre in Caringbah that he decided to invest in the business

Braidon Burns: Advocate/Aspiring Police Officer

Fellow South Sydney up-and-comer Braidon Burns recently revealed his plans to go into the police force after his career as a player comes to an end.

The 22-year-old shared the story of his tragic upbringing in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, detailing how he was forced to separate himself from his parents addictions and lives of crime.

Burns works with indigenous children as an ambassador for the Wellington Aboriginal Community Health Service (WACHS) across communities in Moree, Dubbo and Western Sydney. 

He said while he loves what he does now, helping in person and creating online content for the group, he wants to work with the community well into the future after his football career finishes.

‘To get a head start now is a big thing for me… I don’t want  to do this stuff just during footy but when I finish as well.’

NRL star Braidon Burns (pictured) has opened up about his troubled upbringing which included finding his mother in a car, needle in her arm and near death, after a drug overdose

NRL star Braidon Burns (pictured) has opened up about his troubled upbringing which included finding his mother in a car, needle in her arm and near death, after a drug overdose

He recently revealed his plans to go into the police force after his career as a player comes to an end

He recently revealed his plans to go into the police force after his career as a player comes to an end 

Latrell Mitchell: Advocate

Sydney Roosters and Kangaroos centre Latrell Mitchell is also known to support local indigenous communities, particularly in his home town of Taree.

He often returns home unannounced, attending local games and cheering from the sidelines and getting involved in local advocacy work.

Mitchell said he is determined to do what he can to keep the game alive in rural communities, and last year gifted 50 tickets to an NRL game to children who otherwise wouldn’t get to experience it.    

Sydney Roosters and Kangaroos centre Latrell Mitchell is also known to support local indigenous communities, particularly in his home town of Taree

Sydney Roosters and Kangaroos centre Latrell Mitchell is also known to support local indigenous communities, particularly in his home town of Taree

He often returns home unannounced, attending local games and cheering from the sidelines and getting involved in local advocacy work

He often returns home unannounced, attending local games and cheering from the sidelines and getting involved in local advocacy work

Wayde Egan: Criminal Psychology

Penrith Panthers star Wayde Egan is undertaking a course in criminal psychology

Penrith Panthers star Wayde Egan is undertaking a course in criminal psychology

Penrith Panthers star Wayde Egan is undertaking a course in criminal psychology. 

‘I’m a crime show nut, always trying to solve mysteries,’ Egan told NRL.com.

‘I’ve always had an interest in law. You learn about the criminal systems and profiling. I picked up this course and I’ll try and pick up a wellbeing course down the track to go with it.’ 

Tim Glasby from Newcastle Knights is a qualified financial planner while the Panthers Mitch Kenny is studying a bachelor of education. 

Penrith Panthers Wellbeing and Education Coordinator Kevin Kingston told Daily Mail Australia their club has implemented a ‘no work/study, no play’ policy to equip players with the best possible skills. 

‘Every player regularly meets with Panthers wellbeing staff to monitor their work or study, and to continue to nurture their purpose away from the game.

‘All players have now come through the pathway system at an NRL club where the ‘no work/study, no play’ policy is in place. 

‘This ensures the next generation of players understands the opportunity they have to complete work or study as well as achieve goals on field.’ 

Earlier this year, the club helped  Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Josh Mansour, Wayde Egan and Frank Winterstein achieve a Cert IV in New Small Business, while multiple other players are now completing a Cert III in Carpentry.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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