Riley Tonks of Kotara High School is sitting his HSC from Stockholm as he pursues an ice hockey career

International: Kotara High School's Riley Tonks is sitting his HSC in Stockholm, Sweden this month. Picture: Marina Neil.
International: Kotara High School's Riley Tonks is sitting his HSC in Stockholm, Sweden this month. Picture: Marina Neil.

NSW Hunter Valley student Riley Tonks is taking on the HSC from overseas as he pursues a career in ice hockey.

Speaking to the Newcastle Herald from his temporary home in Sweden, Riley said sitting the HSC from Stockholm International School has been difficult.

"It's been a test to try and balance because I'm here to play hockey but the HSC is obviously very important," he said.

"I think I've found the balance between training, the HSC and myself."

Having "always wanted to play overseas" Riley, from Kotara High School, first made contact with his new club Hasselby Kalvesta almost three years ago.

"We knew some people through hockey that recommended particular areas to play in so we contacted teams to see if they were open to it and this club said yes," he said.

"I had to fly over and try out and they gave me a month-long trial. After that month they said they wanted me to stay."

Due to lockdowns and confusion around travel, Riley returned home at the end of December last year during his second season.

"It was a real process coming home. I went from Sweden to Germany and then Germany to Singapore and then to Sydney."

"I contracted COVID on the way home. They think I picked it up at an airport in Germany when I transited through."

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Upon his return to Australia, Riley had to quarantine for a total of five weeks. Because he was still under 18 at that stage, Riley spent the time in a self contained granny flat at his father Craig's house.

"I came out of that quarantine straight into school which was a weird experience."

The original plan Riley said was to sit the HSC in Australia but amid ongoing lockdowns he and his family weren't sure if the HSC "was going to be delayed or cancelled". Riley decided to return to Sweden in mid September this year.

"I had the opportunity to come over and start playing again so we decided to pull the trigger on it and whatever happened with the HSC we would just kind of let it play out."

The experience of living in another country is unreal and I would recommend it to anyone.

Riley Tonks

Having not been to school in almost four months, Riley said he was getting through with a laptop and a few textbooks from home.

"It feels really wrong not being at school that long and then sitting the HSC," he said.

"I keep in touch with my teachers via email and I talk to school mates almost every day which has been a big help."

Rather than sitting exams simultaneously with his cohort in Australia, Riley follows the same schedule but in Swedish time.

"We had to pay for the exams to be facilitated which was only about one hundred dollars per exam," he said.

"Which isn't too bad seeing someone has to sit in a room and watch me do an exam for three hours. I kind of feel sorry for them."

Riley said he's settled into Stockholm life.

"On Mondays and Thursdays I go to the rink until about two thirty then I'll come home and do some study and head to training most evenings. After training it's usually more study then wake up and repeat," he said.

"My first year I only knew the basics like hello, goodbye and thank you but now I go full days without speaking a word of English."

Unsure what he wants to do long-term, Riley said his plan is to come home after the season finishes in April.

"I'll probably come home and see family and then once our season starts next year I'll hopefully come back over to play some more hockey."

When Riley spoke with the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday he had already sat two exams and was preparing for PD/H/PE the next day. Riley said even if he doesn't play hockey forever, he wants to be around the sport.

"Something to do with PE whether it was sports science or sports med," he said.

"I think I'd still have to do something within hockey even if I wasn't playing just because it's so important to me and has been a part of my life since I was five or six."

Reflecting on his time abroad, Riley said he would "recommend it to anyone".

"For me as a player the hockey has been incredible but I also think I've matured a lot as a person since coming over," he said.

"If you get an opportunity to live or work overseas it's probably a once in a lifetime thing so you should take it."

This story Meet the NSW student sitting the HSC from Sweden first appeared on Newcastle Herald.