GERRINGONG'S Bob Henderson has been involved in the sport of rugby league since the early 1980s, when he first got involved as a player.
During that time, Henderson spent time at the Gerringong Lions and well as a number of Group Seven junior representative teams.
"After a very average career throughout the 1980s as a player I became involved with the management of various teams and clubs at the local level," Henderson said.
"Hopefully I have been able to make a positive contribution to these organisations establishing and maintaining systems and processes to ensure sustainability."
After retiring from work in 2015, Henderson decided to devote more of his time to the game he loves.
"After retiring in 2015, I found I had increased time on my hands and have since moved into the Universities program managing Country, NSW and Australian sides," he said.
"My association with this group started at the end of 2014, when my son toured Fiji with the Australian Universities squad.
"As a proud parent, I followed the tour and met some officials and AURL board members.
"Some time later a managerial position was advertised and I applied and the rest is history."
Since then, Henderson has been part of the fantastic program for five years, which offers University student the unique opportunity of playing international rugby league.
"The Universities program creates wonderful opportunities and rewards for high quality players who study at tertiary level," he said.
"Currently in both the NSW and Queensland squads, there are Canterbury Cup, Intrust Super Cup and NRL under 20s players all vying for selection in Australian squads.
"It's a great incentive for the players and the game in general to work towards a better educated person.
"History has shown that past players have gone onto be leaders in business and industry while playing our great game.
"From a personal perspective, being exposed to the professional rugby league environment and witnessing at first hand how players prepare and manage their programs has increased my knowledge of the game overall.
"My part of the business is ensuring that the boys are provided with timely and accurate information as well as having access to facilities and resources which allow them to perform at their peak on game day.
"I do however also enjoy planning recreational and cultural activities whilst in foreign countries, this is all part of broadening the experiences of the boys."
During his time with the program, Henderson has been part of a number of tours, including the 2017 World Cup in Sydney - with the most recent being his favourite.
"We toured South Africa last season and to see first hand the wildlife on safari was amazing," he said.
"Capetown is a beautiful city full of colour, culture and great food, but seeing the impact that Nelson Mandela has had on the South African way of life was significant for me.
"I'm now looking forward to returning to Fiji and reconnecting with the south pacific island landscape and people, its a really friendly, cultural and safe place to visit."
As Henderson alludes to, the Australian team, coached by Drew Dalton, is now preparing for this year's tour of Fiji in October.
"I get a lot of satisfaction from making a contribution towards a successful tour," he said.
"Even though my playing days were limited, I really enjoy being part of a team and gain much personal satisfaction by doing my small bit towards a victory on game day.
"There is no doubt that Australia is perhaps the strongest rugby league playing nation.
"This extends to the Universities level where we have enjoyed success the world over and remain confidant about this years international program in the South Pacific."
Looking ahead, Henderson encourages current rugby league players studying to University to get in the program in future years.
"Selection in these programs is highly sought after but the rewards are significant," he said.
"Some use it as a method of progressing to the NRL as is the case with current NRL players Anthony Don and Jordan Rankin with the Gold Coast Titans.
"Others enjoy the overseas travel and being able to secure a green and gold Australian jersey which not many players have."
The 2019 Australian squad contains University of Wollongong's Luke and Matthew Jurd, Trent Peoples and Matt Sheppard, Australian Catholic University's Jack Gibbons, Dylan Izzard and Declan Morrisey, Central Queensland University's Jack Brock and Brayden Torpy, Queensland's Griffith University's Matthew Butler, University of Queensland's Ryan Cameron, Queensland University of Technology's Sam Collins, TAFE New South Wales' Reed Izzard, Australian College of Physical Education's Harrison Leonard, Australian Trade College's Jack Miers, Hunter TAFE's Nick O'Meley, Mooloolaba TAFE's Dalton Phillips, University of the Sunshine Coast's Tom Rafter, Southern Cross University's Josh Rogers, Griffith University's Jake Sparey and Macquarie University's Royce Tout.
Joining Dalton and manager Henderson on the staff are assistant coach Todd Edwards, physiotherapist Mitch Chad, strength and conditioner Ryan Elson, trainer Grant Stephenson, logistics officer Mick Williams and AURL executive Bob Lennox.