Jerry Yanuyanutawa: From Rugby Fields to the Classroom

Fri, May 17, 2024, 1:39 AM
by Ananya Bhindi (RUPA Commercial and Communications Manager)

Recently, RUPA staff interviewed former Brumby and RUPA member, Jerry Yanuyanutawa on his experience playing professional rugby and transition journey into the world of life off the field.

Early Life and Introduction to Rugby

Jerry began his journey in the small village of Natewa, Cakaudrove, Fiji, where his father worked as a doctor. He first played rugby at Suva Grammar School. His talent took him to the Onkaparinga Rugby Club in Adelaide when his family moved to Australia for his father's studies at Flinders University. A pivotal moment came when Jerry was talent-scouted by family friend Rayne Simpson, along with Todd Louden, the current Sydney University coach, and former Wallabies team manager, Bob Edgerton. They encouraged him to move to Sydney, play rugby for Sydney University, and pursue further educational opportunities. 

Balancing Rugby and Education

Jerry is profoundly grateful for his time playing professional rugby. It was here that he learned the importance of balancing excellence in sports with academic and personal development. He emphasized the necessity of having goals beyond the rugby field, ensuring his off-field ambitions aligned with his on-field performance. With this mindset, Jerry completed a teaching degree, understanding that a solid education would provide him with options after his rugby career.

“I made sure I had a goal off the field and made sure that was always on par with the on-field goals. I did a teaching degree and made sure that I completed that as I knew a degree allowed you to have options post rugby.”

Jerry Yanuyanutawa

Planning for Life After Rugby

Jerry's transition out of rugby focused on being present and striving to be the best version of himself through the support of RUPA. He leveraged the skills he gained from sports, continuously refining and adding to them. Observing the dedication of players like Phil Waugh, the late Dan Vickerman, and Tim Davidson, who excelled both in sport and academia, inspired Jerry to apply himself fully in both arenas.

“RUPA is an amazing institution without them I wouldn’t have transitioned well. The Brumbies player welfare manager at that time Sue Crawford and RUPA representative Rosemary Towner were amazing. After finishing my teaching degree, I knew I still wanted to study as I saw the field of teaching as something I would like to enter when I retired. RUPA’s Training and Education Grant (T&E), gave me the opportunity to start a post graduate Masters in Business Administration at Charles Sturt University via online in 2012 straight after graduating with a teaching degree. When I moved to London Irish in the English premiership and Glasgow warriors in Scotland, the RUPA’s academic support allowed me to study online and pushed me to complete and graduate with an MBA in 2017. Thank you RUPA.”

 Reflections and Advice for Current Players

Reflecting on his journey, Jerry feels the advice and support from his wife Emma and RUPA were crucial, leaving him with no regrets. He advises current players to be proactive about their post-rugby careers.

"Don't wait until the end of your professional rugby career...self-checking is crucial. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and invest in self-development, whether through studying, working part-time, or talking to professionals in different fields."

Canberra Grammar School Head of Rugby and Teacher (Business and Economics)
Canberra Grammar School Head of Rugby and Teacher (Business and Economics)

 Current Role: Combining Passions

Today, Jerry is the Head of Rugby at Canberra Grammar School and a Business/Economics Teacher. Teaching has always been his passion, and combining it with rugby at Canberra Grammar has been a fulfilling experience. The school's ethos of preparing students for the world resonates with Jerry, who believes rugby can play a significant role in this preparation. He is committed to imparting the lessons and values he has learned through rugby to the younger generation, making his dual role both impactful and rewarding:

“I feel this Rugby/Teaching role at Canberra Grammar, with the support of the school, gives me the best opportunity to impact and impart some of the lessons and learnings rugby has given me to the younger generation which makes this role combination so impactful.”

Jerry's journey from the rugby fields of Fiji to the classrooms of Canberra Grammar School is a testament to the power of balancing sport with education and the importance of planning for life beyond the game.