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TAFE Queensland students Darcy Simpson and Kaiyla Ward are rugby league stars on the rise who are achieving success on and off the field.

Darcy enrolled at TAFE Queensland with a clear plan.

"I decided to join the Academy of Sport to further my education in business, by getting my diploma and creating a segway into university where I want to do a Bachelor of Business Innovation. Also it helps me further my rugby league career so it was just a great opportunity for everything," Darcy said.

Darcy is part of the Cairns Academy of Sport Northern Pride Program, an athlete development initiative equipping rising sports stars with the tools to pursue success in and outside the sporting arena.

Nineteen-year-old Darcy experienced a major high not long after joining the program.

"I've been trying to get into the Northern Pride Rugby League system and through the Academy of Sport, I got to work with the Northern Pride Under 20s coach. I then got an opportunity to be in the squad, so the Academy's been a really good experience. Getting picked was exciting and a big shock to the system, it definitely made joining the Academy of Sport worth it."

Darcy said he's a better athlete after joining the Academy and gaining access to mentors, coaches and special workshops.

"The Academy of Sport has definitely helped me in my sporting journey with the technical side of my sport. I didn't know much about diets or about weight training, stuff that could really help me in the long haul I just didn't really think was relevant and that's definitely helped me a lot now. I've definitely elevated my sport to a whole new level."

Darcy is studying a dual qualification, undertaking a Diploma of Business and a Diploma of Leadership and Management (BSB50215)/(BSB51918).

"I'm a hands-on learner and my teacher has been great at adapting the course to fit the needs of each individual in class. The course is also flexible and I've been able to fit my studies around my sporting and work commitments," Darcy said.

Kaiyla is also positioning herself for success on and off the rugby league field. A trailblazer, Kaiyla became the first woman to join the Cairns Academy of Sport Northern Pride Program. She already has an impressive sporting resume, which includes selection for representative teams in Cairns, the Northern Marlins, the North Queensland Gold Stars and she was picked for the Under 19s shadow team for the 2021 State of Origin.

Kaiyla said she decided to join the Academy to take her game to the next level.

"In the future, I would like to be playing for a National Rugby League Women's team and one day represent my family's home country of Papua New Guinea in a World Cup."

"The Academy training puts you in a professional environment, so it's getting you ready for that next step to becoming an elite athlete. You're also around like-minded people, people who will push you."

Alongside her sporting aspirations, Kaiyla is a keen welder and she's completing a Certificate II in Engineering Pathways (MEM20413) as part of the Academy program.

"I decided to study engineering because it's something that I'm very interested in and something that I could potentially have on the side of rugby league. I think it's really good to get a qualification because it means I will have something to fall back on or do when I'm not playing," Kaiyla said.

"The Academy is a really great opportunity, especially for girls in Cairns. It's a very rare opportunity so if you come across it then definitely take it and step out of your comfort zone because you'll learn a lot about being in this Academy. Personally, I think I've gotten stronger with my rugby and I've learnt a lot about the course that I am studying."

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Cairns Academy of Sport