While many idolise footballers and athletes, there are fewer more inspirational or courageous stories than that of Kristen Thorne, the most worthy of NSW Rugby League Scholarship recipients.
“It has honestly been one of the best things I have ever encountered in my life,” Kristen said. “Just how it has allowed me to go to such a good school - it’s unbelievable really.”
New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) and the International College of Management Sydney (ICMS) have partnered to provide a scholarship valued up to $30,000, which includes financial support and paid work placement. This unique scholarship gives winners like Kristen the opportunity to gain skills in applied sports management working with the NSWRL.
“These scholarships will significantly improve the lives of those who are fortunate enough to be awarded them,” said NSWRL CEO David Trodden.
“Education is vitally important to career prospects and personal development and, through this agreement, both the NSWRL and ICMS are making it more accessible to those involved in NSWRL-run programs and competitions.”
After a life full of setbacks, Kristen hopes to follow her dreams into a successful sports management career and has taken a very large step after receiving one of three scholarships to study Business Management at the International College of Management, Sydney.
“I love it,” Kristen says. “It’s so different at uni, it’s awesome. The teachers, the students - I’m in my prime right now.
“I’ve got ambitions to work in public relations and it’s always been a dream of mine so hopefully I can go as far as possible and follow it into the sports arena.”
Growing up in Norah Head, on the NSW Central Coast as an only child, Kristen was just three years old when her mother, Tarni-Lee, passed away in a traffic accident. Kristen’s love for sport stems from a young age when her dad, Matthew, used to take her to try out for different sports.
“As a child I tried out every sport and when I say that, I mean it,” Kristen says. “Playing with teams and as an individual, it’s just one of the biggest motivations really. Just playing as a kid and realising what it does for people and the positive effects of it are something that’s a real passion of mine.”
Kristen was set for a successful career in professional surfing after she won a NSW title but her father’s death forced her into caring for her grandmother, Marie, and focusing on her education.
“My dad and I moved into my grandmother’s after she got sick and she ended up getting cancer straight after my dad passed away,” Kristen says.
“I don’t really see it like I was the sole carer of my grandmother. She could help out wherever she could. It was hard but at the same time I never really went without anything.”
Asked where her source of strength comes from, Kristen is at loss as to how she has come so far despite all the setbacks.
“I don’t really know where it comes from. I guess just from how I was brought up. I hung out with my Dad, so I am just his daughter. Also, my grandmother is one of the most inspiring and humble ladies I have ever met and I learned a lot of great wisdom from her. I think that’s rubbed off.
“It just gives you that immense appreciation for everything you get and work for. I was working two jobs and it taught me to appreciate so much. With this magnanimous scholarship, it’s amazing.”
Kristen, immensely grateful for the opportunity, knows how much it would mean to her dad.
“He’d be in tears with joy,” Kristen says. “I’m the first person in our family to finish high school and go to university. He’d be so proud that I’m getting a university education.
“Education is one of the best pathways to getting the career you want. It is one of the most important things in my life and it allows you to follow whatever you want and it gives you a lot of values and morals that you think you wouldn’t really get without education… it’s also the best time of your life, not only are you getting an education, you’re meeting new friends for life, making connections.
“I’m so grateful.”