Former Gold Coast hooker Matt Srama has urged the current crop of NRL stars to make the most of the educational opportunities available to them as he prepares to begin life after football on Monday morning.
Srama announced his retirement from rugby league in a Facebook video intended for Titans members and fans, thanking them for their support over a six-year career that for the latter half was beset by injuries.
The video has been viewed more than 27,000 times and attracted more than 450 comments of support with no pitch for his next venture at its conclusion, just a thank you to the fans and a chance to win some Titans merchandise as Srama's parting gift.
There were opportunities to continue in professional rugby league but only on the proviso that the ACL injury he suffered in March would not cause him any further problems, a guarantee that in his heart he just couldn't provide.
But rather than dwelling on the end Srama is excitedly looking forward to what lays ahead, crediting the NRL's welfare and education arms for the real estate licence he achieved during his lay-off and the job with McGrath Real Estate Palm Beach that he begins on Monday.
Transitioning from the professional rugby league environment into a new career post football remains one of the greatest challenges of gladiators who dare not consider their mortality but Srama encouraged all current and future NRL players to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them.
"It's quite ironic that when I did my knee it gave me two months post-op with some free time so instead of sitting at home I decided to use the time to study and enrol at the Real Estate Institute of Queensland," Srama told NRL.com just hours after making the announcement.
"I had the leg up in class with the ice packs and studied hard for two months while I was off training and managed to get my full licence in real estate so I was really happy with that.
"All of that is a credit to the NRL and the Titans as well with the welfare system where they help you with any degrees or qualifications you need.
"That doesn't get mentioned a lot with players and I'd really push for any players that do get injured to utilise that for sure.
"I've always had a passion for it but by no means did I get a licence for it to start a job at the end of the year. It was more to just have that up my sleeve.
"I bought my first home very young and then I invested in property as well and have done really well with property so it's always been a really big passion of mine and to actually go into an industry where you get to not only work with property but with people is something I'm really excited about."
Admitting that the knee injury restricts him from carrying out some everyday activities and that his years of shoulder issues will keep him from taking up golf anytime soon, Srama said his long-term health was the major reason for calling it quits a day after his 26th birthday.
"I looked at what was best for myself as a human being. I've had a lot of injuries – shoulders and hips – so it was more solidifying that maybe this is a message that this is your time and have a good think about what could happen here. It just solidified when I got confirmation from a surgeon as well that it would be good to hang them up," said Srama, who along with Kane Elgey was awarded 'The Preston' award for his contribution to the club at the Titans annual awards night in September last year.
"Obviously you see the surgeon throughout the year and I was determined to come back from it and it was one of those things where you realise it's probably not the smartest thing to play on considering the wretched run with injuries and weighing up things like future careers and wanting to kick them off as well.
"Footy is such a small part of life and I'd love to try and make it in the business world now. It's unfortunate that my career in footy ended early but maybe my career in business has started early."
As for any moments that he will particularly treasure from his 65 games as a Titan in the NRL, Srama says a first grade debut on the hallowed Suncorp Stadium turf was the ultimate realisation of a boyhood dream.
"I'm from Brisbane, I'm born and bred in Brisbane and I remember getting the call saying I was playing this week in the double-header at Suncorp Stadium on a Friday night, live on Channel Nine," he said.
"As a kid growing up in Brisbane and catching the train to watch footy there and a few years later actually running out on the grass that you used to watch, it's a surreal moment.
"I still pinch myself about it, living out my childhood dream."
This article first appeared on NRL.com