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No stranger to setting himself fresh challenges, be it in rugby, sevens, league or boxing, Sonny Bill is among a cohort of 10 players from the Blues to have enrolled in a Bachelor of Applied Management through Capable New Zealand, a school within Otago Polytechnic.
The New Zealand Rugby Players Association and New Zealand Rugby have created the opportunity for players to complete study within their personal development time as part of the joint venture and as specified in their Collective Employment Agreement.
The Blues group, including Williams, will remain based in Auckland, utilising Otago Polytechnic's Queens St campus on occasion.
They follow in the footsteps of a range of elite sportspeople who have studied through Capable NZ.
These include sevens legend DJ Forbes, Olympic athletics coach Raylene Bates, Black Caps cricketer Grant Elliott, Tongan rugby international Hale T-Pole, Samoan rugby international Seilala Mapusua, Silver Ferns netballers Jodi Brown and Katrina Grant, windsurfing legend Barbara Kendall and White Ferns cricketer Katie Glynn.
Glenys Ker, Programme Leader of Capable NZ's undergraduate programmes, has been working closely with the Blues players, who began their studies in June.
As a facilitator, Ker works with the players, guiding them through their learning tasks and giving them academic support where necessary.
"It's the first time Capable NZ has had a group from a sports club undertake this study with the benefit that they can work as a group, learning and sharing together.
"They have 10 months to complete their studies and, hopefully, they will graduate in April 2019," Ker said, adding it should be stressed the players are continuing their sporting careers.
"I understand that sport is a big part of their lives — it is their career — and they have actually achieved a lot of things, both in and out of sport.
"They are beautiful writers. Their ability to reflect on what they do, what they have done, who they are and who they want to be . . . it's a real privilege to gain such insights," Glenys says.
"Credit must also go to the Blues club and their Player Development Manager, Victoria Hood, for supporting the players so strongly in their academic endeavours.
"They are no different from other students, really. They will get as much support as any student. At the end of the day, they will still have to meet the academic criteria required of a Level 7 New Zealand Qualifications Authority-endorsed degree."