SOUTH Coast rugby league trio Adam Clune, Euan Aitken and Rhys Kennedy have all been acknowledged for their commitment to off-field studies by being named in the National Rugby League/Rugby League Players Association's 2020 Academic Team of the Year.
Albion Park-Oak Flats' Clune, who made his NRL debut with the Dragons in 2020, recently completed a Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) with distinction at the University of Wollongong.
Clune's 2020 teammate Aitken, who has signed on with the Warriors, recently completed a Certificate Four in Fitness and Certificate Four in New Small Business - both at the University of Wollongong.
The Shellharbour Sharks and Merimbula-Pambula Bulldogs product is also currently studying a Bachelor of Exercise Science at UOW.
Finally, Moruya's Rhys Kennedy, who played 13 games for the Broncos in 2020, just finished both the Bachelor of Exercise Science and Certificate Three in Fitness - both at UOW.
Joining these three in the team of the year are Sharks' Connor Tracey, Storm's Christian Welch, Knights' Jayden Brailey, Cowboys' Jake Granville, Eels' Reed Mahoney, Roosters' Nat Butcher, Tigers' Alex Twal, Roosters' Matt Ikuvalu, Titans' Anthony Don and Warriors' Kirra Dibb - with the last two being named the respective Male and Female Academic of the Year.
"This year's Academic Team of the Year will be remembered as one of the most disciplined and determined," NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.
"Our squads have been in a biosecurity bubble all year but the commitment of these players to continue to further their studies during the pandemic is a remarkable achievement."
A total of 93 current NRL players have completed or are completing a university degree, while seven players are doing a Masters degree, through 32 different universities.
A further 106 players are completing traditional trades while 610 VET qualifications have been achieved by all current players.
"We have 84 per cent of players currently engaged in career development," NRL wellbeing and education manager Paul Heptonstall said.
"We have long believed, and it is backed up by research, that players who further their education are more likely to succeed on the field.
"It is also pleasing to see some of our most successful clubs off the field as some of the most engaged clubs with their off-field development and education."