Barry Ruttley is in a privileged situation and he knows it.
The Army corporal and former Bargo player has been given the blessing of his employer to chase his NRL dream, while also working in the Defence Force.
Ruttley was considering taking unpaid leave from the Army in the hopes of pursuing an NRL contract, but the Defence Force cut him some slack and found a posting for him in Sydney, which has seen him catch on with the Blacktown Workers.
Ruttley is a fullback on the park, and has been representing the Australian Defence Force in rugby league recently.
The 21-year-old is playing in the Festival of Rugby League World Cups, a lead up tournament for the Rugby League World Cup, to be played in Australia later this year.
There are four men’s Defence teams from the UK, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia, while there also University teams from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Pacific Islands, England and Australia. The Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces also have women’s teams.
Ruttley said the games were intense. He said while the teams as a whole may not have the skills of an NRL team, the contact and desire to not let mates down saw the combatants push themselves to their limits.
“We wear our hearts on our sleeve when we are out there on the field, and that is the special thing about playing with military mates,” he said.
“It is a different sort of style of footy compared to civilian footy. The mateship and bonds you have from the guys being in the Defence Force, the putting the body on the line for each other just is not there in civilian footy.”
Ruttley gave footy up for a couple of years after joining the army as a 17-year-old product of Bargo.
The running fullback, who said he had a set of ‘twinkle toes’ took up league again a few years ago with the Army, and now has a goal of making the NRL.
He has been playing with the Blacktown Workers, the feeder club of Manly, in the Sydney Shield and Ron Massey Cup competitions this year, and is hopeful of finding his way into the NSW Cup next season.
Ruttley said he was going to take a year off from the Army to pursue his dream of playing in the NRL, but the Army found a posting for him in Sydney, helping soldiers recover from injuries.
“I had joined when I was 17 and I had put in the four years hard work with my unit doing my job and not doing any sport,” he said.
“I am so lucky to be where I am at the moment. Everyone is really understanding and my job is very flexible.”
Ruttley said he aware the NRL might be out of his reach, but was willing to have a crack anyway, and if not, said he would always have an Army career to fall back on.