Nick Ward shares with the PFA his work experience time at De Bortoli Winery, from sampling their finest drops to working alongside some of the best wine makers in the country.

Just minutes into his debut for the Western Sydney Wanderers last season disaster struck for Ward and the midfielder ruptured his ACL.

Confronted with an extended period on the sidelines he knew one thing: “I have to get myself fit but I also have to use the time wisely off the pitch,” said the midfielder.

After a conversation with the Wanderers Player Development Manager (PDM), Troy Baverstock, he came up with what he was looking for.

“I have a real interest in wine and I started looking at courses and then the PDM at the Wanderers said there was a program that the PFA was running that could help me decide whether the wine industry would be for me and I could go work in a winery and see what it’s all about.”

A key part of the PFA’s efforts to ensure the wellbeing of its members on and off the pitch, Ward was referring to the PFA’s Beyond the 90 work experience program.

“When Troy explained the program to me it seemed pretty logical. I have heard of a lot people that have gone and done courses and never gone into that field. It took a little while to get all the dates sorted but we got there.

“I got to experience all aspects of working in a winery. Steve Webber, the Chief Winemaker, and his wife Leanne De Bortoli took me in and looked after me so well. I worked mostly in the cellar but Steve would take me round and show me the vines, the process, the pruning and let me try all the wines.”

Having a well established reputation as one of the country’s finest wineries, Webber said Ward would benefit hugely from gaining experience before deciding his path forward in the industry.

“It was a pleasure to have Nick around,” said Webber. “I think coming and gaining experience is really important as you can go a lot of different ways in the industry. From winemaking, retail or opening your own restaurant and it is important you get experience before going locking yourself in.”

For Ward the time at the winery would prove invaluable for not only life post football but also in helping him through his long and grueling recovery from injury.

“I want to get back playing and I had all the rehab to do but I knew I had nine to 12 months where I would have time to do some stuff away from the pitch.

“After doing work experience I know a lot more about the industry now. It is definitely something that interests me and I have not discounted it but I have to work out which path I want to take.

“There are lots of different courses. During my time there it helped a lot as I could speak to the wine makers and the cellar hands, these guys are working in the industry and had great advice.

“You can do short courses at wine shops and that is what I’m going to look at first to give me a bit more understanding. I have recommended the program to other players because you can learn about what you want to do, which I think is really beneficial especially considering how difficult transition is.

“A lot of us have been in football for a long time and your sole focus is on football and you neglect the fact that it’s a short career and you have a lot of living to do afterwards.”


For more information on the PFA’s Beyond the 90 work placement program contact the National Manager, Player Development Ben Robertson via