For many sports fans, getting to work at their favourite club and spending each day supporting a team they love is just an exciting daydream.
For Stephen Caradonna, now in his final year of a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management) at Torrens University Australia, this dream became a reality last year.
Growing up in Western Sydney in a small suburb called Green Valley, Stephen has loved sports since he was just three years old. Touch football, Oz tag, futsal, tennis, golf and soccer have been some of his favourites to play over the years. When he watched the NRL, his favourite teams were the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the Penrith Panthers.
When it was time for Stephen to choose a career path after high school, he naturally followed this lifelong passion.
"I enrolled in the Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) course due to the love for sport I have had for as long as I could remember. The reason I enrolled in this course at Torrens is because of the set-up and classroom structure.
The course at Torrens University is without any lectures or tutorials, and not many exams. Instead, it predominantly includes weekly collaborative classes and assessments to complete as you go: this is what helped me make my decision to enrol.
This set-up is similar to high school, and the structure of classrooms made it easy to transition into university and also made it easier to learn, because there are no more than thirty students in a classroom."
Since he began his course, Stephen has learned a lot about all aspects of how a club can grow and can thrive as a business.
His passionate study of different clubs over the years, as well as the business insight he’s learned during his course have given him a well-rounded understanding of what makes for a successful organisation.
"I think a combination of professionalism and structure make for a really great club. To remain professional both inside and outside of the sporting club; whether it’s the team, coaching staff or commercial staff; to remain professional in nature so you keep a great reputation for the club, is essential.
Structure includes many different aspects, such as the rules set for all staff to follow, the quality of the work environment, the goals and objectives needing to be met and the work ethic in the club; all these are what also makes the club really great."
Last year, Stephen decided to put his knowledge to the test by organising an internship.
He made a few enquiries with staff, and his Success Coaches helped him write an exceptional resume and develop a set of goals and objectives for his internship program.
Before long, he was thrilled to hear from staff that an internship position had just become available at the Penrith Panthers Rugby League Academy - one of his favourite clubs.
He started his internship in August 2020 and completed it by November that year, as part of his course.
"The internship was an extremely versatile, fun experience that taught me a lot, as I worked my way through several departments such as Membership, Sponsorship, Merchandise and Gameday.
I took on a lot of different tasks and jobs, mostly helping out the staff to prepare for the upcoming Gameday or helping to answer enquiries in terms of ticketing and memberships."
His supervisors were really impressed with his work, and during the course of his internship he was offered a casual job in the Penrith Panthers merchandising department.
This meant he could continue to work in the club even after the internship ended, and while he completed the rest of his studies."Another task I took on later down the track was processing online merchandise orders through the finals series. This taught me a lot and gave me my first foot in the door, as I ended up getting a job as a merchandising assistant in this department, keeping me within the sporting industry."
However, Stephen’s career trajectory up the ladder at the Panthers didn’t end there.
After just six months in the casual position, he was called and offered a full-time role as the partnerships administrator within the Sponsorship Department, starting in May 2021."In late April I received a phone call from the Sponsorship Manager, Jeremy, who offered me a position in their Sponsorship team. I was over the moon as it is where I have always wanted to be since starting."
Just three years after beginning his studies, Stephen has gone from unpaid intern to Merchandising Assistant, and then to Partnerships Administrator at one of his favourite NRL clubs: all without even having yet graduated from his Sports Management Degree.
He’s reached his dream job at the Penrith Panthers in a very short time, and that’s quite an achievement.
"My dream job at the moment would have to be my current job in Sponsorship. My current responsibilities include administering all of the Sponsorships team work, such as managing the deliverables, contracts and finances. I also help to build relationships with Panthers sponsors, and I’m assisting and learning a lot from the other team members such as the executives and manager of the department."
Loyal to his team as ever, when Stephen graduates he will stick with the club that has given him this fantastic opportunity.
"After I graduate, I will continue to work for Panthers: I hope to make my way up in the ranks with hard work, dedication and loyalty. Over time, I hope to learn all I can and build my career up to become the highest possible role in the business I can be."
As well as getting help from his Torrens University Success Coaches, Stephen has also had some inspiration and assistance from the people around him, to get him to his dream job.
"My main role models are my mum and my grandmother, both of their work ethics are really high, and my mum has worked extremely hard all her life to be where she is today.
My mentor would have to be my partner Emma, as she is always motivating me to go that extra step every day at work. Throughout my internship, I can say that everyone who has helped me or worked with me has been my role model, as they have taught me what I need to do, to work in the department I am in."