The iSelect Gold Coast Titans today launched a breakthrough partnership with Griffith University and the National Rugby League aimed at making it easier for players to combine the demands of pursuing a successful NRL career and achieving a university degree.

It’s called the Graduates of League (GOL) program and involves the NRL providing funding to encourage players to pursue university study, with the assistance of Griffith University in providing appropriate mentoring and support.

GOL was established at the University of Wollongong in 2012 to increase university entry, retention and completion rates of elite athletes and professional sports people.

The Titans have since far surpassed any other club’s involvement with 24 players currently undergoing university degrees, with three more set to begin studies at Griffith University in the next semester.

University student/NRL players include Ryan James (Bachelor of Business at Griffith), Matt Srama (Bachelor of Business at Griffith), William Zillman (real estate and property services major at Southern Cross), Luke Douglas (Associate Degree in Surveying at University of Southern Queensland) and Kevin Gordon (Bachelor of Arts (philosophy) at Open Universities, Australia).

However 19 Titans are studying at Griffith University, with the number soon to be increased.

Titans prop James is at the forefront of this development. He is in the third year of his Bachelor of Business degree and is about to take on a mentoring role with younger Titans’ university students.

Tutoring is conducted at Titans HQ each Monday (Bachelor of Secondary Education) and Friday (Bachelor of Exercise Science) for Gold Coast Titans for studying players. There is a possibility that three of our current players in their third year of studies could tutor our first year university students.

The major aims of the Graduates of League program are to assist our players currently undertaking university studies with tuition and peer support, provide continuous academic mentoring and support for each player throughout his studies and develop an ongoing communication link between students, club education officers and academics within and outside the club.

“Griffith University is proud to participate in the Graduates of League program, as we continue to work with professional and elite athletes to complete their studies,” said Academic Provost at Griffith University, Professor Adam Shoemaker.

“The NRL is to be commended for not only supporting players who aspire to a university education but also for identifying that their unique combination of studying and playing their sport requires special consideration.

“The Graduates of League program endeavours to provide that extra tuition or guidance that might be needed by young players juggling study loads with intensive training programs, lots of interstate travel and even injury rehabilitation.

“The close association with the GOL and the Griffith Sports College headed up by general manager and former Olympian Duncan Free will give our participant students an even greater chance of success.

“The Gold Coast Titans deserve special recognition with 24 members of their squad undertaking university studies right now and perhaps even more from Semester 2 this year. That speaks volumes for the value that the club places on education, which can also be seen through their other programs embracing primary schools and traineeships.”

iSelect Titans CEO Graham Annesley welcomed the Graduates of League initiative as a logical extension of the relationship developed with Griffith University over the past decade.

“The Titans have a shared vision of the holistic development of its athletes and have worked in partnership with Griffith in establishing tertiary pathways for players,” he said.

“The success of this dynamic can be gauged by the fact that the Titans have the highest number of players enrolled in university studies across the NRL

“The NRL’s support of such programs is part of the game’s commitment to the off-field development of players as a part of both their professional development and their transition to a career after sport.

“We look forward to working closely with Griffith Sports College in taking the partnership to another level.”

James endorsed the value of the program for players.

“Griffith University have always accommodated the competing demands of my NRL training and playing commitments with the requirements of lectures and exams.

“The Gumurri Unit (Griffith University’s Indigenous Unit), in particular, have provided an additional level of support to ensure I have kept my studies on track.

“The fact that all players will have access to additional support through the Graduates of League program will enable more players the opportunity to succeed at university.”

James plays an active role in promoting tertiary pathways to players in his role as an NRL education ambassador and working with the Titans 4 Tomorrow Indigenous programs.

“I am passionate about increasing the number of Indigenous students attending university and am also pleased to see in the growing numbers of players in the National Youth Competition who have taken up the opportunities provided to them by the NRL,” he said.