FROM the footy field to the world of academia, Mark Sargent has risen to the top through a combination of hard work, talent and true grit.
The 48-year-old former Newcastle Knight and Kangaroo prop has just received confirmation of his PhD in public policy at the University of Newcastle.
His work explored NSW gambling tax regulations, particularly those involving electronic gaming machines.
The former Knights captain has also completed his MBA and Masters in marketing.
Once accustomed to storming through bodies with a footy in hand, Dr Sargent can see similarities between his previous and current vocations.
He likens the past seven years slogging away at his studies to his battle on the field to claim his first Kangaroos cap in 1990.
"Both were fairly significant achievements and there's something similar in that respect," he said.
"You don't see much running of the footy or tackling [in studying], but I think some of the stuff that you take out of them are the same.
"You've got to knuckle down and stick with it and both are testing to see if you've got what it takes."
After starting his doctorate in 2006, Dr Sargent is relieved to finally have it behind him.
He said he had originally embarked on the degree to tie in with his work in the alcohol and gambling licensing industry but the PhD would still be useful in his research-based work with his own business and the university.
Dr Sargent was also busy with family life this year, with younger daughter Georgia finishing year 10 and elder daughter Courtney completing her HSC.
Although balancing study with work and family was tough, he said waiting for results was the most difficult part.
"The main problem was the examination process. You're in limbo for a number of months, so there was workload stress but more worrying was the great unknown," he said.