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Vodafone Warriors utility Ben Henry joined by some of the other players named in the 2103 NRL-RLPA Academic Team of the Year in Sydney today. Photo: Action Photographics.

Vodafone Warriors utility Ben Henry was today named in the 2013 NRL-RLPA Academic Team of the Year.

The 21-year-old Kelston Boys High School product was ruled out for the season with an ACL knee injury after just seven appearances in the 2013 campaign.

Off the field he has been studying for a Certificate in Business Management (Level 4) through Aronui Technical Training Centre.

During his NYC playing days Henry graduated with a Certificate in Applied Technology (Electrical Engineering) at Unitec in Auckland. He also completed a public speaking course this year.

He joined other players for the naming of the team in Sydney today at the launch of a strategic partnership with the University of Western Sydney which will provide more NRL stars with opportunities to develop post-football careers as part of the most comprehensive professional athlete education programme in Australian sport.

As well as Henry, Tim Mannah (Eels), Roy Asotasi (Rabbitohs), Ryan Hoffman (Storm), Josh Jackson (Bulldogs) and Ashley Harrison (Titans) are among the players selected in the team. For the first time it features players from every NRL club and a skills set including graphic design, plumbing, sports science, carpentry and financial planning.

Rugby league leads the way in providing further education pathways for professional athletes, said NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle during a ceremony at the University of Western Sydneys Parramatta campus.

Sixty per cent of NRL and Holden Cup players currently attending university are the first in their families to do so and that is a great insight into the opportunities rugby league is creating for its players.

To have the University of Western Sydney join the games academic partners through the Graduates of League programme will provide even more players the chance to realise their academic dreams, like the players here today.

Congratulations to the players selected in the Academic Team of the Year and to the games network of welfare and education officers who are committed to providing unrivalled education and workplace training opportunities for our players from the moment they enter the elite levels of the game.

The University of Western Sydney is the fifth university to become part of the NRLs Graduates of League programme, joining the University of Wollongong, James Cook University, Griffith University and ACPE.

As part of the relationship between the NRL and UWS, the game will host its Sydney pre-season Rookie Camps at the universitys Hawkesbury campus.

The NRL is setting the benchmark for sporting codes in Australia in terms of their commitment to the ongoing education and development of their players beyond the sporting field, said UWS Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Corporate Strategy and Services, Rhonda Hawkins.

The University of Western Sydney is pleased to partner with the NRL in their Graduates of League program and we look forward to continuing to work with the NRL.

The Graduates of League programme aims to increase university entry, retention and completion rates of elite athletes.

Providing a powerful support network to ensure players reach their academic goals while still playing and training full-time, the programme offers one-on-one tuition for at least one hour per week, which is funded by the NRL, the players NRL Club and the RLPA.

St George Illawarra Dragons captain and two-time Academic Team of the Year member Ben Creagh inspired the programme with the support of the NRL, RLPA and University of Wollongong through Dr Sam Jebeile.

In a guide to the commitment of the games players to undertake further study and workplace training:

66 per cent of NRL players and 72 per cent of Holden Cup players have completed or are currently engaged in further education and career planning. The results reflect the influence of players progressing through to the NRL from the Holden Cup competition, where they started their studies;

The NRL is committed to growing that combined figure from 69 per cent to 84 per cent by 2017;

60 per cent of NRL and Holden Cup players currently attending university are the first in their families to do so;

In 2008 there were 45 Under 20s players and 29 NRL players enrolled at university (74 in total. Now in 2013 there are 120 Holden Cup players and 74 NRL players enrolled at university (194 in total);

24 per cent of Indigenous players in the Holden Cup are attending university;

There are now 44 full-time welfare and education officers employed throughout the NRL, state governing bodies and NRL clubs, 18 of whom are employed specifically in career coaching roles.

Created in 2011, the NRL-RLPA Academic Team of the Year highlights the games player welfare and education vision under the codes strategic plan, providing players with the resources and professional advice to assist them to be vocationally active, balanced in life, self-aware and self-confident and thereby able to leave the game better people for having been part of Rugby League.

The criteria for selection includes consistent NRL playing performances, commitment and progress in an educational programme that is preparing players for a post-footy career and a positive influence on the other players within their club.

The players are chosen by the NRL-RLPA Welfare and Education Committee in consultation with NRL club welfare and education officers.

NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney, Corporate Strategy and Services, Rhonda Hawkins, ARL Commissioner Catherine Harris and RLPA CEO David Garnsey were among the guests in attendance at UWS today.

The 2013 NRL-RLPA Academic Team of the Year is:

Ben Henry (Vodafone Warriors), Certificate IV in Business Management

Tim Mannah (Parramatta Eels), Bachelor of Sports Business

Ray Thompson (North Queensland Cowboys), Plumbing apprenticeship (completed)

Ashley Harrison (Gold Coast Titans), Financial Planner (completed)

Robbie Rochow (Newcastle Knights), Bachelor of Civil Engineering

David Williams (Manly Sea Eagles), Diploma of Graphic Design

David Stagg (Brisbane Broncos), Advanced Diploma of Civil Construction

Roy Asotasi (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Certificate IV in Small Business (Completed)

Shaun Fensom (Canberra Raiders), Carpentry apprenticeship

Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne Storm), Bachelor of Business

Josh Jackson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science

Dan Hunt (St George Illawarra Dragons), Bachelor of Education (PDHPE)

Nathan Fien (St George Illawarra Dragons), Diploma of Management

Cameron Ciraldo (Penrith Panthers), Diploma of Business

Ben Ross (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Bachelor of Health Science

Daniel Mortimer (Sydney Roosters), Bachelor of Education

Joel Reddy (Wests Tigers), Bachelor of Sports Science (Completed)
Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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