Joe left his hometown of Wagga Wagga to play with the NRL, representing South Sydney Rabbitohs, the Sydney Bulldogs and Penrith Panthers during his 10-year career.
But now he has retired and returned to his hometown to take up a position as an Aboriginal Education Worker with Mater Dei Catholic College. He is also in his first year of primary teacher training at Charles Sturt University.
Joe has not given up sport entirely, as he now boxes professionally.
“When I had the interview with the College I made it clear straight away I wanted to train as a teacher, and the College has been very supportive of me,” Joe says.
“The distance learning at Charles Sturt has its positives and negatives. I can’t speak highly enough of the support I get from Maria and all the staff.
“They are always checking up to make sure we are getting the work done and we have tutors at home.
“It’s good to be able to stay with the family and have their support and the community’s. I can also talk to other teachers at my school about the coursework, although I work in a high school and am doing primary training.
“On the other hand when we go into campus four times a year we are faced with very intense workloads.
“It’s also hard to get into a rhythm of study when you are working at home.
“But I know some of the women on the course with children really appreciate being able to stay at home, and some of the younger ones straight out of school.”
Joe says it’s crucial that more Aboriginal people train as teachers.
“It’s no secret that Aboriginal people relate better to other Aboriginal people, so the more Aboriginal teachers in class the more benefits to students, who can relate to them culturally, and have that connection with land and identity.”