Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Rugby great shares his insights into life

Owen Finegan’s talk after formal dinner

The special guest for this year’s Warrane Awards Dinner, Australian Rugby great Owen Finegan, entertained residents with highlights and anecdotes from his career and offered suggestions on how to succeed in life after study when he spoke.

During his talk on Wednesday 30 October 2013, Mr Finegan, who won 56 caps for the Wallabies from 1996 and scored the winning try in the final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup, emphasised the importance of education.

The holder of a degree in Business, a graduate diploma in project management and a Masters of Education, Mr Finegan explained that he was offered the chance to pursue tertiary education free of charge while playing Rugby and he decided to become one of a small number of players who took up the offer.

“I studied over the 10 years of my (Rugby) career and the three years afterwards,” he said.

“Study sets you up for life and that is what this College tries to do. It tries to make sure that when you leave university you are a more balanced and well-educated human being, so that when you are future leaders in different industries and different areas, you are well educated and making decisions that are good for the community.”

During his speech, Mr Finegan complemented residents on the culture of the College and said it reminded him of the Australian Rugby team at its best.

One of the main themes in his talk was the importance of family. “I am very lucky in my life to be surrounded by really strong family,” he said. “My father, who passed away in the last ten days, had thirteen brothers and sisters and my Mother had fourteen brothers and sisters, I have got two brothers, two sisters and over 100 first cousins.” He said that when Wallabies players were each asked how many tickets they wanted for matches, some would say two, four or eight, but when it came to him he would always say 38.

“There are multiple things that I count as blessings in my life,” he said, “but my family is definitely one of them.”

He told residents that a big part of life is about “taking opportunities and making sacrifices”. He said his first big break came when the sport of Rugby became professional in 1996. He had been playing for the NSW Waratahs for two years, in 1994 and 1995, but was told that he didn’t have the athletic ability to play for the Wallabies.

He said sometimes determination and drive make all the difference to achieving your goals and in 2001 when the British and Irish Lions Rugby team toured Australia, he was named Australian player of the year.

Mr Finegan emphasised that one of the biggest influences in his life was his own father.

“He was very strong on treating people with respect – on treating people how you wanted to be treated,” he said. “I think doing that makes you a much better person and people remember you. My dad died eight or nine days ago and I have had a lot of feedback from so many people who said; ‘I only met your dad once but he made such an impact on our lives.’

“Try to emulate someone like that who is a good role model for you.” One thing that my father “drilled into his children” was that “it is in giving that you receive”. It was a virtue that he lived to the point where many people still speak of his great generosity and of his willingness to put himself out for others.

[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: Details of other guest speakers are available here]