Dr Wayne Usher is an experienced and versatile educator, currently working on the cutting edge of interdisciplinary research, fusing sport, psychology and social inclusion for people with disabilities. With a breadth of work experience in primary, secondary and higher educational settings and as a multi-skilled athlete and coach, Wayne is interested in research that supports social, community and organisational impact.

Wayne has spent 17 years at Griffith University in the Education faculty, where he is now a Senior Lecturer in Health and Physical Education, convening large undergraduate and postgraduate (Masters) courses. 

He has been responsible for bringing together the National Rugby League’s (NRL) Game Development Committee and Griffith University’s Psychology faculty to design and implement the RISE program – a program to support the mental health and personal development of Junior Rugby League players’ performance, participation and personal well-being. From such an ongoing partnership, there have been a number of external grants and publications.

Wayne says:  

“In the past, I would have the NRL come out to the University to demonstrate game delivery within a school physical education environment for my students. From this collaboration, I commenced a research partnership, with the NRL, to investigate Junior Rugby League retention rates. From this report, and others, several changes in the game were explored, one of which is the RISE program. It is an excellent example of inter-disciplinary research.” 

Dr Usher’s research was part of a large body of international evidence that went to legitimise the need to change the way Junior Rugby League was being designed and implemented in Australia.  Initiatives that were developed and implemented from this evidence [including Dr Usher’s research] includes:  

 1) RISE, 2) League Tag Competitions, 3) 18 Month Registration, 4) Community League, 5) Development Competitions, 6) Tackle Safe, and 7) Weight Related. 

Another project Wayne is currently collaborating on is LeagueAbility  

Wayne says:  

“An exciting project that I have the privilege to be involved in, is the Titan’s LeagueAbility. This is providing opportunities for players with a disability to play Rugby League. I get the opportunity to do some coaching, across two 10-week blocks on Wednesday evenings throughout the year. There is a great committee and team of devoted coaches, admin staff and volunteers.”  

The LeagueAbility community has a Mission to create a nationwide NRL competition for players with a disability, using sport (RL) as a vehicle for promoting social inclusion for all. This team also has the opportunity to play a match at the Titan’s home game. 

Wayne says:  

“I am wanting to see my research assist LeagueAbility with their Mission to create a nationwide competition for Rugby League players with a disability. The LeagueAbility committee is currently seeking funding and support to help set up these competitions, based upon national and international programs that are already operating successfully. 

It’s early days and grass roots at the moment, but it’s getting a lot of interest and traction from other NRL clubs. What the committee is aiming to do is give the clubs the background research to help them set it up – based on national and international best practices. Hopefully, our research can assist in this framework”. 

Wayne is working with another GIER expert [Dr Michelle Ronksley – Pavia] on this project, and we are looking forward to seeing the impact and results of such an important collaboration.  

On this, he says:  

“For me it’s about creating change. That’s what makes research worthwhile. If my research wasn’t making a difference in people’s lives, I wouldn’t be as motivated. Creating change is rewarding, especially in a space where we can afford, motivate and encourage people with a disability to be involved in sport.” 

He is also part of a further partnership arrangement with Griffith University and Griffith Sports College, by way of linking Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placements and the LeagueAbility community. This aims to give Griffith students the opportunity to gain experience, increase employability and research in the disability sector. 

To read more about this fascinating work and follow Wayne’s collaborative research please see his Griffith experts page and below:  

Australia’s National Rugby League’s Player Development Framework: Evaluating strategies (2019). 





Doctoral capital and wellbeing amongst Australian PhD students: exploring capital and habitus of doctoral students





Examining the Process of Implementing a Three-Step Mental Health and Wellbeing System of Care for Children and Adolescents Across Multiple Community Settings