For professional rugby league players, the thought of life beyond the football field can often be a daunting one.
Newcastle Knight and Rugby League Players’ Association president Clint Newton has coined an initiative called Knights Beyond the Field, supported by the RLPA, the Newcastle Knights and the Knights Old Boys, that aims to prepare players for post football life while they are still in the game.
For Newton, a man with more than a decade in the game himself, the main objective is to provide a catalyst for players to begin to prepare for what can be a challenging life transition.
“The program is all about linking the Knights’ current players with former players so they have an opportunity to have ex-players as mentors as their development progresses throughout the game to outside of the game,” Newton said.
“It’s a proven fact if you have your life in order off the field, you’ll better on it.
“By failing to prepare for a game, it’s no different to not preparing for a game."
Since the Club’s inception, the Knights Old Boys have demonstrated a strong commitment to players in the Newcastle community who have donned the red and blue, something that is not lost on Newton and the current playing squad.
“One of the great benefits having someone that has had a long playing career, but has also transitioned successfully, is about having someone they can look to and aspire to be like and know that it can be achievable,” Newton added.
“It gives us a great opportunity to use some of the past players that have played for such a great and proud club to enhance the link between what is means to play for the club and how to be successful post career.”
The first of the addresses to the current playing squad was undoubtedly one of the most influential former Knights, Mark Sargent.
Sargent played 126 games for the Knights between 1989 and 1995 becoming the Club’s first Australian Kangaroos representative as well as playing for NSW and Country Origin sides in that time.
Sargent’s life since hanging up his boots in 1995 has been equally as impressive, the Knights prop entered the world of academia and through a different kind of dedication and hard work complete his PhD in Public Policy.
The 50-year-old Knights Hall of Fame inductee is now a self-employed management consultant who teaches at the University of Newcastle and Hunter TAFE.
“Today was about talking to the guys and making it clear that they do develop a bundle of skills in the terms of preparation and being able to bounce back when things don’t go well,” Sargent said.
“That’s tremendously useful and important when they get to the point of transitioning out of the game.
“You don’t just transition out of a footy career, click your fingers and you’re in the next place. There’s a fair bit of preparation that goes into it.”
Sargent pointed out attributes and skills developed through professional rugby league players’ lives like work ethic, the ability to adapt to change and working in a high-pressure environment to the attentive present playing group that can prove are useful skills down the track.
“I think the most important thing is to realise the strengths and skills you’ve developed and to take the time to stop and think where am I at, who am I know and who do I want to be,” Sargent said.
“It’s about prompting guys to think about what it is that they want to do and where they’re strengths are.
“It’s a long post career life if you get stuck doing stuff that you don’t want to do or you haven’t prepared properly and things don’t go to plan."
The Knights have no shortage of former players who have achieved in life after football and contributed to society in positive and meaningful ways.
“The Club is blessed in a lot of respect in that there are a lot of guys who’ve played here and are successful in a variety of fields post football,” Sargent said.
Now a Knights Old Boy, Sargent explained there’s a certain affinity and affection for the Club that never leaves a player.
“The current players are always valued by former players,” he said.
“When former players can add some value back in, it becomes a two way street.”