Well the day finally arrived a few months back, that many times I thought would never come around. Many a time the light at the end of the tunnel seemed so dim I wondered if it was actually still on.
I was finally able to view my digital ‘Testamur’. If you are wondering what the bloody hell is a testamur, you are not alone. It was only a few months ago that I found out this is the fancy name is given to the ‘bit of paper that has your degree on it’ that I had always referred to it as.
To say it was a long time coming would be an understatement. 12 years at university, with 10 being is pursuit of my Bachelor of Business Degree. An achievement that many times throughout this journey I wondered if I’d even be bothered to persevere with it.
If you had have told me in my last year of school, or the first 6 months after it that I would get a degree I would have looked at you as though you were at least a 6 pack short of carton, and probably laughed right in your face. Go to uni? Stuff that! By the time I had finished school and completed my HSC I was done with the books and study. I flunked year 12. Didn’t even get a UAI (University Admission Index). I had put so much effort and study into my School Certificate in year 10, which I did pretty well with, that by the time I went to boarding school for my last 2 years I had lost all interest in keeping my head in books. I had gone there with good intentions though.
I was going to be a landscape gardener. And I was. I had wanted to get a trade, like all my mates back home were doing. I was juggling my landscaping apprenticeship with playing and training with the Canterbury Bulldogs Jersey Flegg team, the under 20’s. The work was tough, especially when you’re the first year apprentice and ‘the footballer’, all the best jobs are saved for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so much that in all my exams at TAFE I received marks of 100%. I was passionate about landscaping and thought that there was something special as opposed to the plumbers, electricians and concreters when admiring the final product.
But it wasn’t to be for too long. In a tackle against the Cronulla Sharks at Toyota stadium 3 blokes came down on my leg breaking it. The boss, left with no choice, had to let me go. He wasn’t worried about my football career, he was looking for a reliable worker that he could count on, which was totally understandable. I realised then that if I wanted to chase my ultimate dream of being a professional rugby player, the apprenticeship would have to be sacrificed. This is where the studying again option soon became a genuine consideration. The toughest thing about the apprenticeship and working hard was rocking up to training, sometimes just in time, sometimes late as you had to go home with too much mud and concrete all over you to shower before entering the gym, was that you weren’t performing to your peak. Friday night games were especially tough as it meant putting in half a days work out in the sun, and trying to remain hydrated and not too exhausted before you headed off for the game.
I knew I needed something less labour intensive. My options were limited though after my efforts in my final year at school. Luckily, I had a few mates who were attending the Australian College of Physical Education (ACPE). Fortunately, I was accepted and offered a scholarship. I commenced my Physical Education degree in 2006, less than 18 months after completing my HSC. Being a part of the Waratahs academy and having to do the early mornings and late nights, I was very grateful that I was no longer out in the sun doing labour intensive work.
My 2nd year into the degree and it was time to do a ‘placement’. 2 weeks in a Kindergarten class (we were required to do a primary school placement) was thoroughly enjoyable, and exhausting, but I realised that teaching wasn’t for me. It limited my options. In many ways I was already thinking about life after rugby, I knew I wanted to be a little more in control of my own destiny and I didn’t feel as though teaching would do this for me.
I transferred over to the Sports Business Degree and loved it from the start and have never looked back… That was in 2008.
During this time I have moved to Italy, moved back to Sydney, worked fulltime as a Garbo (rubbish collector), moved up to Brisbane, where I transferred my degree to Griffith University, played in New Zealand and continued my studies over there, moved to Sydney, then Dubbo, then the UK, then Poland, and back to the UK again where I finally completed my degree. All whilst continuing my studies. It hasn’t been an easy journey to say the least.
Which is why I am writing this. I could not have done this without the support of RUPA, ACPE, Griffith University and it’s amazing staff. I want to say a big public thank you for everything you and your members of your staff, both past and present, have done for me throughout this time. You have held my hand and walked me through many issues on many occasions. Many of these staff members I became comfortable enough with to use nicknames and consider friends. Special mention to Rosemary Towner of RUPA who has been there from the start and has always only been an email, phone call or coffee away and has always made time for me. I have relied on all of your organisations and staffs support, advice and patience to get me where I am today and achieve this great achievement. To say I have been a hindrance on your time with some of my requests, would again, probably be an understatement. Some of these including, but DEFINITELY not limited to being:
- Need a change of date for an exam
- Can you go out to the uni and enrol me I’ve been over in SA
- Can you notify the course convenor that I’m going away for a few weeks
- I enrolled in the wrong subject and today is the final day to change the course can you please go and do this
- I have completed a course that I already had RPL for, can you find out if I can get RPL from somewhere else
- Can you see if I can complete my degree by correspondence even though they don’t offer that
- Can you touch base with my old university and get the transcripts
- Can you see which university will accept RPL from my old college
- Can you sort out my T & E forms, I know they were meant to be in last week
- Can you please hand this assignment in, it’s meant to be done by close of business today and we have training all day
- Can you please ask for an extension on this assignment
- Can you please ask for an extension on this assignment
- And again, can you please ask for an extension on this assignment as well
Juggling study, especially during a super rugby season with the constant travel, particularly the international travel was tough. The season generally ran throughout the entire semester with the end of the season coinciding with the exam period.
I have been quite fortunate to not only live my dream in being a professional rugby player but capitalising on and benefitting from the many perks that come with it, and I’m not just talking about the straight to the front of the line at Cargo Bar with the $50 bar tab card.
I was definitely not going to waste an unbelievable opportunity like this when it was presented to me as part of my first professional contract. It is not only this degree that I have pursued whilst also able to be reimbursed for as either as an Australian professional player or past professional player. I have done my Personal Trainers course, my security licence, my RSA and RCG, truck licence course, firearms licence course (you know, in case I want to become a roo shooter and stuff), a board of directors course, an agricultural course and a property course. All paid for thanks to RUPA.
Talking to many past players about transition and life after rugby, the same message seems to come through, though put in many different ways. It’s not necessarily about finding another passion outside of rugby when you are finished, which is the ultimate goal. It’s about eliminating those things that you thought may be your passion whilst you are playing so that you aren’t having to do it at the end of the career. That’s definitely my bit of advice for current players. Although I haven’t decided exactly what it is I want to do in life after rugby, I have narrowed down what it is I want to do. I have definitely eliminated things I don’t want to do. Teaching, nope. Fitness industry, nope. Construction site, probably not anymore. Hospitality, not for me. Garbage industry, HELL NO!
As I am finally able to sit back and reflect on what it is I have achieved with finally getting this ‘Testamur’, it is something I am incredibly proud of. More so than the majority of university students would have an appreciation for. It hasn’t been a 3 year phase of getting blind on college campus and rolling up to lectures when not too hungover. It has been an unbelievable journey with many highs and lows, and plenty of obstacles and challenges that have been overcome that has taken me 10 years of perseverance, and one that I truly believed I wouldn’t have done without RUPA there all the way by my side. For me this is like earning a cap, or winning a cup or a ring. Once you have achieved it, no one can take it away from you. Who knows it may not be finished just yet…….
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