Harry Conway knows exactly about the challenges and uncertainty a professional athlete can face across their career.
During his seven seasons with Cricket NSW, the hard-working fast-bowler spent four of those years on a rookie contract, waiting in the wings while other rookies around him such as Kurtis Patterson and Gurinder Sandhu were elevated to full contract status.
“When I was a rookie, for those three or four seasons, it was tough,” Conway said.
“From not getting selected to questioning whether you were good enough or if you’re ever going to make it.”
Now at 26, Conway is a mainstay in the Cricket NSW set-up. His value for lifting and keeping morale within the dressing room is almost as integral as it is with the ball in hand.
It was those early years Conway cited as the building blocks for his future, which helped him maintain balance and perspective on and away from the field.
He attended Sydney’s University of Technology (UTS), completing a Bachelor of Business over five years.
“That was something I found vital to everything I was doing on the field,” Conway said.
“I was playing a lot of second XI cricket and club cricket.
“And I think [studying] away from the game made that process a lot less intense for me. I was certainly able to find out what I loved doing outside of cricket and it didn’t put so much pressure on me when I wasn’t being selected.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the help of Cricket NSW and the ACA guiding me through that, so that was a great way to keep occupied during my rookie years.
Conway’s appetite for education and personal development also recently extended to an internship with sports apparel giant Under Armour.
After engaging with New South Wales Player Development Manager Lachlan McBain, Conway was able to embark upon a work placement with the global industry at their Sydney offices, through the Beyond the Boundary Program, (now GAMEPLAN).
“I’ve always had the ambition of continuing to learn away from the game,” Conway said.”
“Lachie got me into a room for a face-to-face meeting with the Under Armour General Manager of Australia and New Zealand. He facilitated a conversation basically outlining that I’d love to work for them in a week-long internship through the ACA.”
“I’m looking forward to that,” he added.
“There’s an activation in there and then four days of full work so I’m excited for that opportunity as well.”
Research has found that for athletes, having something to focus on away from the game, has direct benefits to on-field performance.
In July, following two years of development, the Australian Cricketers' Association launched its new wellbeing and education program - GAMEPLAN.
In the 2017 MOU, the players set aside $13.4 million to enhance their own wellbeing structures and GAMEPLAN provides a tailored approach based on the different stages of a players’ career; whether at the early, middle or later stages.
Conway’s NSW teammate Kurtis Patterson is one of the players who sits on the Player Development Advisory Committee, which also includes; the ACA, Cricket Australia, the State and Territory Cricket Associations and a number of players; namely Elyse Villani and Kristen Beams.
“Cricket NSW has really worked hard on its players being as busy as possible and finding hobbies or passions outside of the game so we can maximise performance on the field but also to maintain that mental stability off the field,” Conway said.
“I think doing these courses or the [GAMEPLAN] internships, keeps cricketers busy and occupied away from the game and it takes your mind away from form slumps, missed selections and being away from home and family sometimes.”