David Westley knows firsthand the hard work and dedication athletes need to pursue a successful sporting career.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, David played in the NRL for the Parramatta Eels and Northern Eagles and won a Grand Final with the Canberra Raiders. David also played for Papua New Guinea in the 1995 World Cup in England.
After a successful playing career, David turned to coaching and returned to his hometown of Cairns. He led the 2021 Cairns Kangaroos Women’s Rugby League team to a Grand Final win and assisted with coaching the North Queensland Gold Stars Cairns squad. David was also the head coach for the Papua New Guinea Women's National Rugby League team, the PNG Orchids.
Passionate about developing young players, David said it made sense to sign on as the coach of TAFE Queensland's Cairns Academy of Sport Northern Pride Program.
"I have extensive experience in game development, local league and grassroots coaching, right through to the international competition as a player, coach and match official. As a born and bred Cairns rugby league junior and having achieved the highest level of my sport, I wanted to get involved in the Academy to give back and help players achieve their goals," David said.
The program offers athletes access to mentors and coaches as well as professional sports training. Students also undertake an athlete-specific curriculum focusing on nutrition, sports psychology and sports science, while completing a TAFE Queensland qualification of their choice.
"I didn't have anything like this Academy when I was younger, so it's great that young regional athletes today have this opportunity. It's good for players who have just finished high school and don't know what they want to do, just that they want to develop themselves as an athlete, so they'll get that opportunity with this program. Academy athletes will pretty much be training like an NRL player and they'll get the chance to further their education as well."
David said athletes also need options for life off the field and gaining a qualification as part of the Academy program was a great opportunity for students.
"It's important because it's something to fall back on. I played for 10 years in the NRL, but I had a lot of teammates who only lasted a season and some of them didn't have anything to fall back on. So it's important that Academy students who are chasing certain sporting goals also have an education or work skills behind them," David said.
Like the Academy athletes, David will also be hitting the books, studying a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAE40116) at TAFE Queensland.
"Self-development is really important to me and studying this course is perfect for how I want to develop myself as a coach. I'm sure the skills I'll gain will complement my coaching experience and really help me make a difference with grassroots programs for young athletes."