How Dragons player Euan Aitken balances sport and study

How Dragons player Euan Aitken balances sport and study

UOW Graduates of League program helps Aitken excel off the sporting field

The NRL and UOW will sign a five-year memorandum of understanding on Tuesday, 27 August, renewing the Graduates of League program.

The program supports NRL players, like Dragons’ centre Euan Aiken, off the field.

Hundreds of thousands of NRL supporters have watched Aitken in his prime on the football field. His fans know how many tries he’s scored, how many tackles he’s made, and how many games he’s played – 34, 304 and 100 as of this year.

Aitken surrounded by Rabbitohs in an NRL clash.

What they might not know about him is that Aitken also likes to hit the books.

Aitken studies Exercise Science at the University of Wollongong (UOW).

It’s his goal to become qualified as a strengthening and conditioning coach, and eventually work for a sports club.

His academic studies are a welcome break from the physicality of the NRL and the ongoing pressure to perform at that elite level.

“I feel like having something else aside from NRL is quite good for you, it takes your mind off things,” Aitken said.

“It’s helpful, it gives me something to focus on and prepares me for life outside of football.”

The UOW Graduates of League program has allowed him to tackle his university assignments with the benefit of support.

The program assigns him a mentor, a high-performing student or recent graduate, who is available for an hour each week.

“Sometimes questions in an assignment or the subject outline can be a little unclear, the program allows me to bounce questions off my mentor, and go through the content in depth,” Aitken said.

“It gives you the chance to understand the subject at the same level as someone who’s done well.”

Aitken in a recent NRL match.

He’s also lucky enough to be surrounded by a network of sporting and exercise science specialists, and he’s not afraid to pick their brains, when their expertise is required.

Nearing the end of a challenging season with the Dragons, Aitkens is focused on building for next season.

“It can be hard losing, we’re all competitive people,” he said.

“Teams that end well tend to start strong, so we’re working towards that.”

The Graduate of League program was established in 2012 by UOW’s Faculty of Business to support NRL players off the field.

The Faculty of Business has decided to once again support NRL players through this program, signing a new agreement with the NRL.

Signatory and UOW Chief Finance Officer Damien Israel said a continuing partnership with the NRL has been of great value to the University and the broader community.

“We understand completing a University degree is no mean feat, particularly for students with significant external commitments like NRL players,” Mr Israel said.

“We are reaffirming our relationship with the NRL to ensure that when players eventually retire from the game, they are empowered to enter the workforce with a world-class education under their belts.”