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Life After a Professional Athlete’s Career

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Kurt Gidley celebrates his try. Copyright © Renee McKay/Action Photographics.

Newcastle’s homegrown Kurt Gidley is best known for his brilliant career with the Newcastle Knights ending in 2017, leading the star to transition from full time professional sport into a Business Development Manager’s role with Protech Group.

Kurt Gidley grew up a Novocastrian boy, kicking off his first shot at footy in the under 7’s at Wests Rosella’s Newcastle who now own the Newcastle Knights.

His first professional opportunity came to play for the Knights was in the under 17’s S G Ball squad before making his professional debut in 2001. The now footy legend played there for the rest of his NRL career until 2015, going on to play for the Warrington Wolves in the Super League in the UK.

Gidley then retired at the end of 2017, stepping away from professional sport and footy and entering a post footy career business development role. When asked if he knew what direction he wanted to go into when he retired, he said nah not really. “When I was still playing footy, I was always probably going to go down the path of a strength and conditioning coach – I was always pretty fit, I enjoyed motivating and encouraging my teammates and driving accountability,” said Kurt.

Being in a captaincy role with the Knights and Warrington for a number of years, Kurt found he not only enjoyed leadership roles but wanted to take it further professionally in business.

“I was always thinking of going into a strength and conditioning position back at the Knights, but I needed a change and a new challenge by the time I finished playing my footy career and went into a Business Development Management (BDM) role with the Newcastle Knights before an opportunity at Protech arrived,” said Kurt.

Protech provides workforce solutions to the civil infrastructure, construction, rail, engineering, mining resources and power generation maintenance around the country. The mining sector in the Hunter Valley is a vital part of Protech Newcastle’s business success.  

With no previous experience in those industries and certainly stepping into the unknown, Kurt reflected on the things that he learnt in footy when it comes to perseverance, work ethic, a great attitude and willingness to learn. These traits have without a doubt helped him with his transition from a business development role at the Knights to a BDM role at Protech.

When asked about the transition, the former star said, “It was pretty hard to be honest – the transition from a long-term professional athlete into normal workforce hours, I suppose we have always been used to training schedules and routines leading into games, really unstructured compared to a Monday to Friday 40-hour week.”

“I was so used to training and playing whenever the coaching staff told us to. 7 days a week, morning, afternoon or night, public holidays, whatever. There was no such thing a sick leave or the thought of not turning up. We were totally committed to each other, the team, the goal.”

“Transitioning from that type of routine that we are all used to in professional sport into Monday to Friday 9-5, it’s a real challenge with longer days and without that high intensity competitive sport provides – it’s just different to what I was programmed to do for the previous 17 years,” Kurt added.

The decision to move into that Monday to Friday role was made easier with his wife Brooke and 3 young daughters Arabella, Macy and Hallie in mind, now able to enjoy relaxing on weekends and spending time with his family (and of course watching the footy whenever he gets the chance).

Also an ambassador for the Newcastle Knights, Kurt still works at home games, but has enjoyed transitioning away from just being in that sporting environment and learning a bit more around business and how it works.

It can be extremally overwhelming to try and work out what you want to do post career when you’re so focused on a professional sport. Kurt had some great advice for those currently looking at opportunities beyond their sporting career.

“It’s really about making the most of those relationships you meet through business when you’re a player, through sponsorships and through the clubs and different rep teams – they certainly help you when you retire and want to move into a career post footy.”

“I’ve recognised now that the relationships that I’ve built through my footy career and in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley are certainly helping out now with my career at Protech that’s for sure.”

“And you know, it’s not about using your name from my footy career, for me it’s about earning respect and credibility in a new industry and leveraging from those relationships I built with local businesses and people and turning them into genuine business opportunities.”

A Newcastle Knights fanatic myself, Kurt Gidley will always be a sporting legend to me. Now, I also see him as an inspiration in not only challenging himself by transitioning from sport, but using that experience to his full potential to become a brilliant business manager today.

If you’d like to hear more about what Kurt and the Protech Group are doing visit their website at https://www.protech.com.au.

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