Suzanne Highley has dedicated 16 years of her life to helping Townsville’s homeless, championing Indigenous issues and tackling the scourge of methamphetamine addiction.
And now the Gold Training educator is helping the next generation of North Queensland footballers to learn coping strategies and develop as on and off-field leaders.
Seven North Queensland Toyota Cowboys under-20 players are enrolled in Gold Training’s Certificate IV in Youth Work, which builds personal resilience and professional skills needed to support young people.
Gold Training is a specialist training company focused on achieving rewarding employment outcomes for Queenslanders through demand-driven and strategic training.
“They are wonderful young men, and are cognisant that as footballers they are looked up to and listened to – whether they like it or not,” Suzanne said.
“What they learn through the youth work qualification is broad, but the primary outcomes are the skills required to identify and manage stress, either their own or that of others, and the frameworks to build relationships and to play an active role in the community.
“It’s great to see so many of the young Cowboys passionate about doing something that addresses the growing incidence of mental health issues among young adults.”
Suzanne said the relationship she has built with the players – she goes to all of their home games – and the quality and structure of the Gold Training syllabus was the secret to keeping a group of 17 to 20-year-olds engaged.
“We focus heavily on linking theory to practice, while the part-time nature of the course balances their study requirements with their football workload,” she said.
“The training goes both ways as well – they learn about complex issues facing young people today and how they can make a positive difference, and I learn a lot about football.”
One of Suzanne’s star pupils is Cowboys NYC back-rower Hiale Roycroft, who enrolled in the course to contribute to rugby league on and off the field.
“It was important for me to build a career that could be used within and outside of football, and the youth work qualification is perfect for that,” Hiale said.
“Suzanne is a great teacher and what I’ve learned through Gold Training is setting me up to be a better team player and a better role model for young people in the community.
“I’m building the skills and knowledge I need to give confident and good advice to my teammates, and to give back to a game that has given me so much.”
Hiale and his teammates will graduate in October this year.