Jon Tuxworth July 13, 2012
Raiders lock Shaun Fensom is undergoing his builders apprenticeship. Photo: Jay Cronan
As a footballer, he's the epitome of blue collar and loves nothing better than getting his hands dirty for his teammates.
But Shaun Fensom's trademark work ethic was ingrained into him long before he first pulled on a Canberra Raiders jersey.
Growing up in the sleepy north coast town of Urunga, Fensom would rise with the sparrows for an honest day's work as a brickie's labourer.
While he's now right at home in Canberra's No.13 jersey, it was on building sites where Fensom felt most comfortable as a teenager.
It prompted him to take up a building apprenticeship this year under Raiders Toyota Cup assistant coach Mick Mantelli.
Much like his herculean on-field feats, Fensom hates idle time and jokes he may have attention deficit disorder.
''There were a fair few builders [at Urunga] I used to work with when I didn't go to school a couple of times, and the school holidays as well, just to get a bit of coin,'' Fensom said.
''I also did a little bit before I came down to Canberra when I was labouring just out of school, my football career's not going to last forever so I have to have something behind me.
''I've been around the sites for a fair while, and I just enjoy it.
''I always have to be doing something with my hands on my days off, I can't just sit at home and watch tele.''
Fensom said the memories of his 10-hour days with the tools help remind him how fortunate he is to live the life of an NRL star.
In an age where some of his contemporaries are dating Playboy bunnies or starring in vitamin commercials, Fensom's old-school approach is a breath of fresh air.
''It is hard yakka and you see the blokes out there on the tools everyday, they're working pretty hard so we're fortunate to be doing what we're doing,'' Fensom said.
''It puts everything in perspective as well, and makes you not take it [playing NRL] for granted as much and keeps you grounded.
''Maybe it's just the way I was brought up, having a good work ethic at home and when I have a job to do it properly, and to the best of my ability.''
Somewhat unfairly, Fensom is often pigeon-holed as a ''workhorse'' or a ''tackling machine''.
His efforts off the ball don't attract the credit they deserve, but they don't go unrecognised in the inner-sanctum.
''Everyone else in the team notices what I do and I get the recognition from them,'' Fensom said.
''That's all I care about and if I'm helping my teammates get forward, I'm doing my job.''
Mantelli is hopeful Fensom's initiative will act as an example to a generation of footballers he believes could spend their time more wisely.
''It's very refreshing. The rest of them think they're living the rockstar life and want to sit back and play Playstation,'' Mantelli said.
''To be honest, if you told 90 per cent of them these days how to do some work, they'd spit the dummy, cry and kick their legs in the air - that's the youth today.
''I believe what you do off the field, your work ethic, follows on to what you do on the field and you can't separate the two of them.''