Former Brumbies prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa is back in the nation’s capital and ready to start the next phase of his life.
The Fijian international hung up his boots recently after completing his third season in Scotland, playing for Glasgow Warriors in the Pro12 competition alongside the likes of Wallaby Taqele Naiyaravoro, former Reds flyhalf Sam Johnson, former Waratahs Greg Peterson and Grayson Hart and former All Blacks hooker Corey Flynn.
Although he’s only 31 years old, Yanuyanutawa has long kept an eye on his future outside of Rugby and as he told RUPA, the time was right to head ‘home’ and begin the transition into life away from Rugby.
“(This year), I wasn’t enjoying my Rugby as much as I was when I initially moved over to Europe,” Yanuyanutawa says. “I knew where my Rugby career was at and I knew my contract was up, so I made the decision to retire.
“When I first moved over to Europe my plan had been to play in France and that never eventuated, so it’s been a good reminder to always look at option B. In this case, that meant it was time to move into the real world, so when I saw the John Paul College in Canberra were looking for P.E. teachers, I had a crack and I got the job and now I start for Terms 3 and 4, which I am really excited about.”
Yanuyanutawa will move into the fulltime workforce while also continuing to study, where he is close to completing a Masters in Business Administration through Charles Sturt University. He already has a Bachelor of Education to his name, and he has been preparing for his transition into teaching by assisting classes (when his Rugby schedule permitted) at Glasgow’s Kelvinside Academy College. He’s looking forward to completing his studies, and admits it was hard to keep on top of them while playing Rugby professionally.
“Studying long distance is pretty tough,” he says. “Also, transitioning from an undergraduate degree to a Masters program is very different, as it challenges you in so many ways. Trying to find the time and the motivation to sit down and try and do some work is a big ask when you’re tired physically and mentally, but the subjects and units I’ve taken have been really good. They’ve challenged me and helped me move closer to what I want to do post-Rugby, which is to work in education, and by having the right support network and people around me it has made the transition a lot smoother.”
Yanuyanutawa, who played for the Brumbies for three Super Rugby seasons before moving to London Irish and then Glasgow, is looking forward to putting down permanent roots in Canberra.
“I’ve always liked the place, and when I played for the Brumbies it really grew on me!” he says. “I like the slow pace way of life; it’s obviously not too relaxed, but it’s not hustle and bustle either. I bought property here before I left with my wife, Emma, and it’s somewhere we were always hoping to settle down; all the pieces of the puzzle have fit into place perfectly since we’ve come back, and it’s been great to settle back in Canberra.”
Yanuyanutawa feels very blessed that his planning will allow him to head straight into the next phase of his career, and he credits his own focus on education to the advice and support of others, including RUPA.
“I’ve always been very conscious of the fact that Rugby doesn’t last forever,” he says. “Even back when I was at school, I always wanted to see my academic results as the priority ahead of my sporting achievements.
“A lot of senior players and a lot of mentors that I’ve had along the journey kept telling me to work away and finish my degree, because only you can determine how your future will pan out. As a professional athlete, there’s so many factors that could derail your career including contracting and injuries.
“Every one of the Clubs I’ve played at I’ve always looked at the senior players, and a lot of them – the smart ones - have begun acting on their plans five years in advance, so that by the time they retire they have a means to live by straight away. That’s impacted me a lot, and I’ve learnt from that.”
Yanuyanutawa also understands that lots of players don’t plan their transition as well as he has.
“Sport is a bubble at the end of the day and when the bubble bursts the smart ones are the ones who conditioned well and live on to do other things, however I do understand that the majority of players do struggle in both the southern hemisphere and up north,” he says.
“You read and hear about a lot of players who go through depression after professional Rugby, and a lot of them take a few years to come back because they don’t necessarily have anything else to go into. Since they’ve come into a Rugby program, that’s all they’ve known. It’s experiences like that and things you read which have impacted my decision to finish my teaching degree and do my Masters.”
And so it is that this week, Yanuyanutawa will walk into John Paul College with a tracksuit on and a whistle around his neck.
“Education is an area I’ve always been interested in, even when I was in high school,” he explains. “I got given opportunities at Sydney Uni, and ACPE, and then Charles Sturt, and the whole way through I took advantage of the Training & Education grants and programs offered and supported by RUPA. I tried to take full advantage of all of the opportunities on offer, and I am really glad that I did.”
As for staying involved with Rugby now that he is back in Canberra, Yanuyanutawa believes he can provide valuable insights to young players as opposed to getting involved with the professional setup at the Brumbies.
“At the moment I just want to watch it (Super Rugby) from afar,” he says. “I’ve spoken to a Club down here who I would like to help out in the coaching of younger players and I’ll be helping out with the school’s Rugby program.
“I see opportunities for me to help in more of a mentoring role, assisting young Rugby players not only with their rugby skills and what I’ve learnt but also from a personal experience as well. There’s a lot of aspiring professional Rugby players at John Paul College, so I’m looking forward to getting involved with them.”
The ‘Front Rowers Union’ in Canberra remains intact, with Jerry enjoying living back in the same city as many of his former teammates including Ben Alexander and Dan Palmer.
“I catch up with Benny and Palms on a regular basis, have a coffee with them, and I’ll definitely support the boys (Brumbies) when I can. It’s just great to back in Canberra, I’m really happy.”
Click here to read Part Two of the Jerry Yanuyanutawa interview, where he gives us an insight into former Glasgow teammate Taqele Naiyaravoro and tells us why he thinks the Wallabies should play a Test in Fiji.