When the dream became a nightmare:
TWENTY teenagers stand on the goal line of their NRL club’s training ground.
It is 4.45pm on a Monday and the teens are among the best young talent in rugby league – members of their club’s squad for the NRL’s under-20s National Youth Competition.
Coaching staff line up down the sideline and cup their hands around their mouths.
The drill begins and the players run past the coaches.
“You f—ing faggots are soft,” one of the trainers screams.
“You will never make the NRL. You are too weak, you f—ing pussy,” a strength and conditioning coach jeers.
“Keep running, c—s. Your future is behind the bar at the leagues club.”
The crudeness of the drill is supposedly designed to give players a little taste of the big time – a feel for the abuse drunken dopes in the crowd will hurl if they make first grade.
They all dream big, but one of those sprinting teens stands out as a future superstar.
He’s only 18 and has three NRL sides chasing his signature – waving deals under his nose worth between $120,000 and $160,000 a year.
Long after the sweat and coaches’ venom are washed away in the showers after training, his heart is still pounding. He sits in his car and screams. For 20 minutes. Then he slumps back, frozen in the driver’s seat.
Stomach churning from the abuse, it’s an hour before he switches on the ignition.
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It is my belief that the NYC or National Youth Competition is to be abandoned in a couple of years and replaced by state Under 20 competitions along the lines of the NSW Cup and the Queensland Cup reserve grade competitions.