Giving players the knowledge and conviction to be able to tell their teammates when their behaviour is out of line was a key part of the 2018 NRL Rookie Camp.
Former South Sydney, NSW and Test great Ian Roberts, who is now an actor, conducted a Theatre Sports workshop with the 70 rookies and four NRL referees in attendance – role-playing different scenarios before being instructed on how to handle what can be extremely intense situations.
Fifteen other former players joined Roberts in addressing the next crop of youngsters last Friday and Saturday at the Novotel Sydney Norwest about a range of topics including resilience, social media, cultural awareness, VET pathways, the RLPA, behaviours and choices, respectful relationships, financial education and personal branding.
Roberts said it was clear the workshop was a vital part of the two-day camp, considering the poor decision-making of some NRL players in recent times.
"With what has happened recently, the conversation needed to be addressed," Roberts said.
"We ran different scenarios with the group and after the scene we discussed what could have been done better in certain situations.
"The scenarios that we ran were around bullying, drug use, misogyny, sexual assault, homophobia and mental health issues.
"This is also about blokes holding each other accountable and tapping their mates on the shoulder and saying no that's not OK – although the responsibility at the end of the day falls back on the individual."
Former St George Illawarra, NSW and Test great Ben Creagh ran a workshop on some basic financial concepts that young players needed to be aware of in the early stages of their careers – superannuation, taxes, their standard playing contract and player retirement accounts.
Creagh, who has been delivering the financial education program to NRL players over the last 12 months, said players needed to be setting goals not only on the field but off it as well.
"There's a huge financial shock when you do retire from rugby league," Creagh said.
"I shared some different financial strategies and different habits that have worked for successful people which is vital for these players at the stage they're at in their career.
"I also shared some of my experience about my football journey and the financial struggles you can have at times and ways to get out of it.
"It's important these young guys have this in the back of their mind because big contracts can come along very quickly and establishing good financial habits early will help when that does happen.
"They are already very goal-driven in what they want to achieve on the field but it's important for them to have some financial goals in place as well."
This is also about blokes holding each other accountable and tapping their mates on the shoulder and saying no that's not OK...Ian Roberts
Cronulla Sharks young gun Bronson Xerri, who recently extended his contract at the club until the end of the 2021 season, said the camp was beneficial in addressing some key messages as well as opportunities that are available to the players throughout their career.
"I really enjoyed the camp and felt like I took a lot away from it," Xerri said.
"Each presenter reiterated to us that it's more than just about playing the game.
"There are so many different aspects to ensuring we reach our full potential both on and off the field – whether it be the state of our mental health, making the right decisions, pursing a VET pathway and making sure we are financially stable for life after footy, to touch on a few topic we discussed.
"It was also great that past players lead the workshops and are supporting us young boys on our rugby league journey."