That was until he happened upon a Facebook advertisement for a Diploma of Sport (SIS50319), opening up a potential new career right in front of him.
"When I looked into TAFE Queensland’s sports courses, I saw the Maroons Academy program, which looked good. When I discovered its alignment with Queensland Rugby League, I enrolled as soon as I could," said Stephen.
The course perfectly combined the theory and practical skills he needed to turn his love of rugby league into his new career.
Throughout the course, Stephen has mastered aspects of sport development, event management, health and safety and risk management . These are all areas required for a career supporting the sport, which has paid off as he's now an Assistant Development Officer with the NRL.
"Thanks to the Academy program, I'm currently working in my dream job, in my dream industry growing the sport I love, and it's fantastic," Stephen said.
In his role, Stephen visits schools and rugby league clubs, teaching young players the correct way to tackle, kick, and pass, giving them the confidence they need to play at the best of their abilities.
He also assists coaches to run skills clinics, host gala days and other development programs to build awareness and participation in rugby league – something he says doesn't often feel like work at all.
Stephen credits TAFE Queensland's rugby league specific course for his new career. The Maroons Academy program saw him embedded within the Queensland Rugby League environment, where he learnt essential back-office skills and how to coach.
"Studying was an amazing experience – I was learning in a relaxed, mature environment with a class full of rugby league fans," he said.
"There was a lot of work involved in terms of assignments, but I found it quite easy to manage because I've been passionate about this sport my whole life, and I wanted to be there."
Throughout the course, Stephen and his class were connected with the QRL, NRL, various clubs and schools, to attend coaching clinics and gala days to implement what he learnt.
"It's was interesting to learn about coaching and things like risk management and managing player emotions. I feel the practical skills I learnt are transferrable to virtually any job in sport."
During his studies, Stephen found a way into working in the industry by networking at various events, meeting the people who eventually hired him.
"Gala days were great for networking with NRL and QRL people and getting to see how their events run from behind the scenes, and it was good to understand how they ran their initiatives."
Now six months into his new job, Stephen says he couldn't be happier. And with his dream of working at the elite level of rugby league one step closer to reality, Stephen hopes to make his way up the NRL system while still coaching at his local club.
"It is only my first job, and I'm on my way to getting to where I want to go professionally, and the course was a great foundation and an excellent start for me," he said.
"I'm determined to pursue a long-term career in rugby league, and I am confident this qualification and the practical skills I learnt when combined with the contacts I've made will help get me to where I want to be."