Canterbury fullback Sam Perrett and former Warriors centre Jerome Ropati will spend time during the off-season as student athletes at UCLA in Los Angeles after being chosen as the inaugural winners of the NRL Pasifika Academic Excellence award.
The pair will travel to LA in mid-October to take up scholarships at the world famous university and learn about Pacific Islander studies and Pasifika outreach programs at UCLA, while also attending training and games with college sporting teams.
"Basically they will spend 10 days mimicking what the student athletes do in their college sports system over there," NRL welfare and education manager Nigel Vagana said.
"They will attend lectures, they will present to a couple of groups and they have got a Pacific Island Student Association at UCLA that they will spend time with and present to and brainstorm ideas with.
"They will jump into some of their community projects and see the type of work they do in the community over there, they will attend a couple of sporting events and they also have a rugby [union] team at UCLA, which has a few Polynesian players and a Samoan guy and a Tongan guy on the coaching staff so they are going to do some work with them."
The award, sponsored by Diamond Galleria, is the culmination of a partnership between the NRL and the Australian National University, aimed at improving the social and economic wellbeing of Pacific island communities through sports development and education.
Perrett and Ropati were chosen by a panel comprising Vagana, Roannie Ng Shiu of the ANU and Keith L. Camacho of the UCLA.
Perrett started his own construction company this year, mentors young players juggling apprenticeships with football, is a director of the Rugby League Players' Association and an education ambassador at the Bulldogs.
"I have been thinking about all the different things I can learn from this and I am really looking forward to seeing how the athletes do all their training, and their facilities and their scheduling, and how it all works in with school," Perrett said.
Ropati is also an education ambassador at the Warriors and a recipient of a New Zealand Universities Blue, awarded to students who have achieved excellence both on and off the field.
"That is normally reserved for All Blacks captains, so for someone from a Pacific background who plays rugby league to break into that arena was a massive," Vagana said.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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