Footy star inspires star students of tomorrow

Corey Payne

At just 27 years old, National Rugby League (NRL) player Corey Payne has earned himself a list of accomplishments in the fields of sport, academia, business and philanthropy that would make anyone proud. His future ambitions are just as worthy.

The talented Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs player was named in this year’s NRL-Rugby League Players’ Association inaugural Academic Team of the Year. The honour recognises academic achievements of elite players and encourages athletes to engage in higher education. It is a big shift away from traditional league values.

“To be recognised for my efforts in the NRL’s Academic Team of the Year is a pretty big deal," says Payne. "It's a proud achievement, but hopefully it also inspires some of the younger guys coming through.”

Payne is currently enrolled in a Master of Commerce at the University of Sydney. During his undergraduate studies he established the Future Direction Network (FDN), an organisation which encourages students from South-West Sydney to pursue higher education by offering them mentoring, career advice and support to find and apply for scholarships. In coming years FDN plans to also provide its own scholarships.

“A lot of kids in the west think a place like Sydney University is for other people, not for them,” says Payne. “The natural progression is to leave school, get a job and start contributing to the family,” says Payne. “But that’s a short-term gain. We’re so lucky here. There are support networks available, scholarships available. And that’s where the University of Sydney’s disadvantaged students alumni funds really help.”

Payne donates to FDN’s scholarship fund every month. “It is my belief that society is diminished when anyone of us is denied a proper education,” he says. “That’s why the scholarship fund is so important. For me it’s a chance to give something back to the community that gave me so much and I hope to continue it for the rest of my life.”

The University has recognised Payne’s philanthropic work and academic and sporting achievements with the 2011 University of Sydney Young Alumni Achievement Award.