There’s no shortage of players in the A-Leagues and Australians overseas pursuing education and development outside of football.

In fact, during the 2021/22 A-League Men and Women seasons, over 160 players had their heads in textbooks, were learning new languages, studied short courses, took on apprenticeships, undergraduate and honours degrees and attended coaching accreditation courses.

It’s a trend that continues to grow year on year, with players understanding the importance of balancing football with extracurricular pursuits and preparing for life after football.

One player who is acutely aware of the importance of education is PFA President Alex Wilkinson. 

At the start of the season, Wilkinson received a Torrens University Scholarship to help him pursue a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), which he believes will assist with his transition into a role in sports management post-football.

“I find study is a great escape from football and it takes my mind off football-related things and lets me focus on something else,” Wilkinson told

“I’m not going to be around [in football] forever, so it’s important that I’ve found something that I can use in life after football. I’d love to stay in sport in some capacity, ideally football, so in a perfect world I would be able to use the MBA once I’m done in a sporting or football environment.

“Each [A-Leagues] club has a Player Development Manager (PDM) from the PFA who come out and support all of the players in looking to explore options in their life outside of football. 

“I talked extensively to [Sydney FC PDMs] Gabby Rippol and Jake Timpano about some options and Torrens has a partnership with the PFA and once that partnership came about it, it all fell into place.

“I’m really lucky to be one of the players to have received the scholarship and I can’t thank Torrens enough.”

Read: Players access $1m in education subsidies 

The other scholarship recipient during the A-Leagues season was Canberra United’s Grace Maher, who is studying a Bachelor of Business with Torrens University, focusing on sports management.

“I’m really passionate about youth football and so this degree is interesting to me because it is relevant to everything I am doing now, even as I’m playing,” Maher said.

“It teaches you how to manage people, what makes a great business, what makes people tick and part of that is learning about myself and what makes me work.

“It’s also something that is going to help me help others when I have stopped playing. That’s something I’m working towards, and this degree is helping me understand all the ins and outs of what I need. You can get a lot out of life experience, but you do need theory.

“I want to finish up with a degree that will let me run a business or network of people that support youth players in professional environments.”

Of the 167 players to receive education grants, 103 are engaged in formal study through bachelor’s degrees, while 16 are completing postgraduate degrees at university.

From exercise science to criminology, biomedicine and criminal justice, there’s a wide range of academic areas that players are building knowledge and skills in. 

Read: Education and personal development remain at the heart of players’ careers

Through the PFA, the players’ access to education and development is made easier via education grants, which is an annual subsidy available to all members.

“Education grants that the PFA gives are a wonderful initiative… it encourages players to study, it gives players cash in their pocket to help them towards achieving goals off the pitch,” Wilkinson said.

“It’s really important that people are planning for their life after football and being proactive in searching for things that they enjoy outside of sport and something that they can move into when they eventually hang up the boots.”

The funding, which is made available to players through the PFA’s Player Development Program and secured via Collective Bargaining Agreements with the Australian Professional Clubs (APL) and Football Australia (FA), has helped hundreds of players complement their football careers with off-field learning.

“It’s so important that funding is provided to the Player Development Program. Not just for study, but for mental health and all other facets of the player development program that the PFA provides,” Wilkinson said.

“In the past this side of the game has been overlooked or not funded enough and with players transitioning out of the sport have experienced a lot of problems, whether it is mentally, relationship problems or anxiety.”

Read: In My Words: Kahlia Hogg – professional footballer and Fulbright Scholar