A footballer who actually enjoys studying? Yep, Ben Creagh has never been one to subscribe to conventional wisdom.
‘‘It helped me find something I enjoy and it helped me find something I’m suited to for a job after footy,’’ the St George Illawarra skipper said of his tertiary education at the University of Wollongong.
‘‘Footy can be pretty full on at times and it’s good to be able to go somewhere in the afternoons like university with a different group of friends and a different group of people just to keep the brain ticking over.’’
And so after six long years of juggling a rugby league season within a couple of semesters, Creagh is now the sport’s advertisement for how it should be done.
Donning the traditional gown and mortar board, with the cherished piece of paper to match, the 28-year-old graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Commerce degree yesterday.
But perhaps it’s the numbers Creagh will leave behind him - rather than the ones he will confront post-playing - which will be most significant.
He was one of the founding members of the Graduates of League program which aims to encourage university entry and completion rates among professional athletes.
Creagh, the first graduate from the program, has proven he has just as much sway in his off-field leadership as he has on it.
‘‘When I started six years ago there wasn’t too many guys making university an option for study away from footy,’’ he said. ‘‘Year after year I think there has been more and more guys taking it up and giving it a go.
‘‘Within the club I think there’s something like 26 players - NYC, NRL and some Cutters players - that are all studying at the moment. That’s great for when they retire.’’
And so too for the man himself, who was flanked by his proud parents and wife Aislinn yesterday. Creagh is the first member of his family to graduate with a university degree.
But he certainly won’t be the last footballer if he has anything to do with it.
See Tuesday's Mercury for a list of Monday's graduations and photos.