The one little question that sparked a big new career in sport

by frank-stuart
15FEB

Responding to his wife, Shane Elford said, “What do you mean ‘what am I doing with my career?’ I’m playing footy!”

Like many professional sports people in the midst of their career, Shane was focused on succeeding in rugby league. And succeed he did, playing centre for the Wests Tigers when they won the 2005 NRL premiership and taking his skills overseas to the United Kingdom. But his wife’s question got him thinking about his long-term career.

Now the Education and Welfare Manager at Penrith Panthers, Shane admits it was ‘scary’ trying to enrol at university at the age of 25. Paul Heptonstall, who is the Senior Welfare & Education Manager at National Rugby League but who previously worked at Wests Tigers, and Shane’s wife encouraged him to consider ACPE.

“I’m really grateful to them. Getting started at university was a big thing for me and completing university is definitely one of my career highlights. I’m the first person in my family to have a degree,” Shane said.

Shane enrolled in a Bachelor of Health and Physical Education at ACPE.

“The College was very athlete friendly and flexible. I was still playing and juggling classes, assignments and assessments and training schedules. Study was never high on my priority list at school – all I wanted to do was play sport. I never thought I could do it.”

“ACPE’s head of student services used to sit down with me and highlight every subject I’d completed,” Shane said.

“She helped me stay on track and made me realise what I was achieving. Now I’ve got a great base to keep on learning and a PE qualification in my back pocket.”

Shane Elford

These days, Shane and his team sit down with every Penrith Panther player to help map out their education and career paths.

“Our philosophy is to make players better people for being part of rugby league. There is so much stigma out there, but there are lots of positive stories too. It’s my job to give players the tools and education to be the best they can be.”

“When you’re a player, it’s all about you and the team. You don’t see behind the scenes,” Shane said.

“When you cross over to the business side, you see how hard people work to help you succeed.”

Shane feels very fortunate to still be involved in rugby league and helping young players outside of footy.

“It’s important they know that if playing doesn’t work out, there’s always a plan B.”

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