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The Newcastle Knights is not only leading the way within the NRL, but in Australian sporting community through a unique initiative that will see it’s NYC players train and learn at one central facility at Hunter TAFE’s Tighes Hill campus.

The state-of-the-art facility, boasting playing fields, study hubs and an extensive gym was officially launched at Newcastle TAFE on Thursday.

Knights CEO, Matt Gidley is proud the Club is at the forefront of player welfare, education and development.

“I think with Hunter TAFE, there’s such a broad range of opportunities.

“From the training facility at the Newcastle Campus, to all the educational component is there as well.”

“It’s just a wonderful fit for our Club.”

Phil Cox, CEO of Hunter TAFE explained the institution’s focus on flexibility is crucial to enhancing players’ lifestyle and career prospects.

“TAFE these days doesn’t just deliver courses.”

“We try to personalise and customise those courses as much as possible, not only for the individual that’s studying, but for the organisations that want skilled employees in the future,” he said.

Mr Cox explained TAFE’s key is in providing relevance and flexibility to its students.

“This opportunity here was looking at what was interesting for the students and the skills they want to study, and then developing programs around that to give them flexibility.

A study schedule has been developed that fits in with the players football regime and lifestyle.

Seventeen-year-old NYC Knight, Sione Matu’utia is making strides in his football career, after being selected to train with the NRL squad in the 2014 off-season.

He is forging just as much progress in the classroom after taking up a Small Business course at TAFE.  

Sione is one of around 40 young Knights currently studying throughout TAFE’s 9 campuses in the Hunter.

“It’s a good initiative by the Knights to take it on with TAFE,” Mata’utia said.

“With the under 20s, there’s a no work, no study no play rule, so to join up with the TAFE, it’s pretty convenient.”

The importance of players developing their ‘Plan B option’ is something the Club and NRL hope to emphasise.

The NRL’s welfare and education manager, Paul Heptonstall said there’s a reality that must be seen by aspiring NRL stars.

“The game’s made a strong decision that they want to put a lot of emphasis on developing players off the field.

“A lot of the work that goes in with Clubs is actually with players that may never play an NRL game as a professional athlete.

“There’s a reality piece to it.

“But also the players who are successful in playing in the NRL, it’s not a long career, and the players will tell you that.

“The majority of their life is going to be away from the football field, so it’s really important that we prepare them.”

General President of the Rugby League Players Association, Clint Newton said the Club's initiative fits well with the association’s focus on player welfare, education and the transition to post-career life.

“One of the biggest things we want to continue to work on is youth education," Newton said at the launch on Thursday.

“I think the RLPA and the NRL are working tremendously hard to try and make sure that we bring these kids in, they can play sport, but at the same time we want to push them back out into society with an education and something that they can contribute.

“Let’s be honest, a lot of the NRL players’ lifespan is about 42 games for a career.

“The chances are, you’re going to come and go pretty quickly,” he added.

“So it’s about saying, okay, you play rugby league for a certain amount of time, when you go out into society, you can represent the code continually, based on the fact on what you can contribute.”