2018 Australian Schoolboys and Under-18s Rugby stars Joey Walton and Spencer Jeans are the recipients of this year’s RUPA Schoolboys Scholarships and will each receive $2000 in education reimbursements to support their ongoing off-field development in 2019.
While both Joey and Spencer have demonstrated enormous potential on the Rugby field, their selection is based on the broader criteria for the Scholarships which includes displaying exemplary behaviour and leadership at school, positive work habits and application to study and involvement in a variety of school or community activities.
They follow in the footsteps of the likes of Noah Lolesio (2017) and Dylan Pietsch (2016), with both of these players progressing to currently be professionals at the Brumbies and Australian Men’s Rugby Sevens respectively.
Prataal Raj, RUPA Chief Executive, congratulated the young men on their significant achievement.
“On behalf of RUPA, I’d like to extend our heartiest congratulations to both Joey and Spencer,” Mr. Raj said. “As always, we had a number of applications for these scholarships, and selecting two individuals was a challenging decision.
“RUPA’s mandate at all levels is to assist players in striking the right balance between life on the field and life away from Rugby. Both Joey and Spencer have professional Rugby aspirations, but they have also demonstrated that they appreciate the need to find that balance, and these scholarships will play an important role in allowing them to do that.”
Inside centre Walton attended Wadalba Community School at the Central Coast in 2018 before relocating to Sydney this year to study a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science at UTS and play his Club Rugby with Gordon, as well as continuing his development in the NSW Gen Blue Academy program.
“The RUPA scholarship takes away some of the stress in regard to my tuition and getting to and from home when I have time off,” he explained. “I understand that not every young player with the ambition of playing professionally achieves that, so it’s really important to me that I have a Plan B in place.
“Even if I am lucky enough to play professionally, I also understand they’re not the longest of careers, so I have picked something I find interesting and can imagine myself doing in the future."
Queensland-based scrumhalf Jeans attended The Southport School in 2018, and is studying a Bachelor of Business at, and playing his Club Rugby with, Bond University as well as developing as part of the Queensland Academy system.
“I initially thought about going down a science-based path, but as I grew older, I looked at family members with business backgrounds and thought it would be a really good fit to head that way while also continuing to develop my Rugby,” he said.
“I’m really enjoying it so far, Bond have been fantastic at fitting in my training alongside my study. I think there is a big responsibility for me to not put all of my eggs into the Rugby basket. I’d love to be a professional Rugby player, but that’s not necessarily a reality so being able to have a foundation through study is huge and gives me something to fall back on.
“The scholarship takes away some of the pressure settling in to the University lifestyle and ensures I’m able to get the right equipment and access to be able to succeed.”
Walton played for tournament winners New South Wales 1 at last year’s Australian Schools Championship, with Jeans representing Queensland 1 who finished third.
Both players were selected in the Australian Schoolboys Extended Squad in July following the Championships and earned selection in the final squad which played against Tonga and New Zealand in Brisbane last October, starting in the backline in both matches.
They were then both selected to tour the Northern Hemisphere in December, as the team was for the first time extended to include non-school attending Under 18s players. The purpose of this was to ensure that the development pathway was not closed off to those who were still eligible by age, despite having concluded their schooling. The team completed a successful tour, winning three of four matches including those against Scotland and Ireland, with the duo playing a key role.