As the level of professionalism has increased in Rugby League, so too has the development of NRL clubs junior systems. In their desperation to secure the superstars of the future, NRL clubs have started to sign players at an early age. It is now not unlikely for schoolboys as young as 13 to sign with an NRL team and subsequently be introduced to the professional game through the Harold Mathews, SG Ball and Jersey Flegg competitions.
The signing of players at such a young age can have some serious consequences. While it allows young teenagers an opportunity to develop their skills within a professional infrastructure, it also runs the risk of giving schoolboys false hope that they are destined to be rugby league superstars on million dollar contracts. In reality very few ever make it to that point.
Ultimately what eats away at many fans is that signing players who are barely in their teens flies in the face of a long held culture in the code. In previous eras, players would be