Media contact

Amy Coopes
UNSW Media
(02) 9385 1370

When Lachlan Hughes runs onto the football field, all cares and concerns fade away.

“I love that I'm able to cross a white line and escape everything else going on with life. I also love the fact that it does the same thing for so many others,” he says.

The UNSW Arts/Law student and Ben Lexcen scholar was signed to Sydney FC as a midfielder last August, just months before sitting his HSC.

It was a baptism of fire, with a call-up at his very first team session to replace the injured Terry Antonis against Sorrento FC for a game that was only two days away.

“Long story short, a very nervous first day turned into a pretty exciting one, once I'd signed and was packing my gear to travel to Perth the next morning,” says Hughes

“I’ve loved every minute at Sydney FC since then.”

For the 18-year-old, football has been a lifelong passion.

Raised in Sydney’s inner west, he has been playing since he was five and says football is in his blood: grandfather Pat Hughes captained the Socceroos in 1965 and his father also played at representative level.

Hughes describes Argentinian forwarder Lionel Messi as his professional idol – “a freak talent” – and says his greatest dream is to represent Australia as a Socceroo.

And while most of his St Aloysius’ College classmates were cramming for the HSC, Hughes was representing Australia in a series of under-20s international friendlies in New Zealand, and training with the Sky Blues.


Sydney FC was “amazing”, Hughes says, offering its unwavering support for his studies and giving him time off to prepare for exams, but it was a delicate balancing act.

“Things were always pretty hectic between studying, training and having a social life but I just made sure I stayed focused, and tried to have a reasonable balance.

“For me, the hardest part was having to keep things in perspective – things can’t always go exactly the way you want or expect them to. I had to get over trying to be a perfectionist, and rather focus on doing the best I could,” he says.

Hughes credits Sydney FC youth coach Rob Stanton with helping him grow as a footballer and a person. “[He] changed my perspective on my own personal development while opening my eyes to completely different tactical ways to look at football.”

The hardest part was having to keep things in perspective – things can’t always go exactly the way you want or expect them to.

After finishing school, Hughes accepted a place at UNSW through the Elite Athletes and Performers (EAP) program, which offers enrolment and some academic flexibility to assist athletes balance their elite sporting or performance commitments with their studies.

The program has supported several Sydney Swans players through their studies at UNSW and a number of Rio Olympic hopefuls are current EAP students, including Australian rugby sevens star Henry Hutchison and water polo player Nathan Power.

Hughes was impressed with the flexibility of the EAP program, and decided to defer his first year of law so he could focus on football and community work.

With many of his friends taking a gap year to volunteer in Asia, Hughes decided to do the same at home, signing on to the Cardoner Project, a not-for-profit student-focused initiative led by the Jesuits that supports disadvantaged communities in Australia and overseas.

He lives with a group of students above the project’s Two Wolves Community Cantina in Chippendale, where they do volunteer shifts in the eatery and bar, serving an authentic street food menu (including ‘Pope Francis empanadas’), all to raise money for development projects overseas.  

The University’s relationship with Sydney FC will only deepen following the club’s announcement this week that UNSW will be a major partner to the Sky Blues in their AFC Champions League 2016 campaign.

Asked for his advice to budding young athletes contemplating the twin challenges of sport and study, Hughes says the most important thing is to keep things in perspective and be patient.

“I'm a long way from making it, but what I've achieved so far has come with patience, and I'll keep that patience when it comes to reaching the next level.”