Knights gear up for some work after play

THE Knights and Hunter TAFE hope a new apprenticeship program will turn back the clock to allow rugby league players to combine their careers with a ‘‘day job’’.

Beau Scott (electrician), Matt Hilder (plumber) and Korbin Sims (carpenter) are completing their trade courses at Newcastle, Maitland and Belmont to prepare for life after rugby league.

‘‘We took a new approach and made the program more flexible to tailor it to the needs of students and employers,’’ Hunter TAFE business development manager Belinda Smith said.

‘‘The teachers have been really good in supporting them, to provide one-on-one tutorials if they need that … and working with them around what they’re doing with their employers, what they’re doing at training, and what they need in terms of the skills they’ve already got.’’

Knights careers coach Dean Noonan said the club was indebted to employers such as Paul Antunovich of A&P Plumbing, Stuart Dumbrell of GB Electrical and Daniel Burton of DRB Building for allowing the players to fit work commitments around their training schedule.

‘‘Without that flexibility of the employers and Hunter TAFE, we wouldn’t be able to sustain this program,’’ Noonan said.

‘‘Beau, Matt and Korbin are our guinea pigs, but we have a strong focus on developing this from the ground up. That’s what we’re looking to do, and getting more players involved in it.’’

Noonan said six Knights National Youth Cup (under-20s) players were doing apprenticeships along the traditional path of working and studying during the day and training at night.

‘‘We’re looking for our younger players to come through and look at our NRL players and say, ‘If they can do this, maybe I can do that too’, and not just focus on footy,’’ Noonan said.

Sims said he had always been interested in carpentry.

‘‘Footy takes up most of my time, but when I can I try to get in and do some work for my boss.

‘‘He’s good at helping me out, and the TAFE have been really generous with us coming in and getting done what we have to do, and that’s going to help us in the long run,’’ Sims said.

Hilder said he did two years of his plumbing apprenticeship before he became a full-time footballer more than 10 years ago.

‘‘A lot’s changed since then, but the head teacher up at Maitland has given me a program to work through and, if all goes to plan, I should be finished by the end of next year,’’ Hilder said.

‘‘This will give me something to go on with once footy is over, and it’s given me a good little balance between footy and work.’’

FUTURE-PROOF: Newcastle Knights players Korbin Sims, Beau Scott and Matt Hilder at Hunter TAFE, Tighes Hill, yesterday. Picture: Marina Neil