It has produced stars such as James Tedesco and Jack Wighton. Former captains include Nathan Cleary and Campbell Graham.
But not every player gets their fairytale ending.
“I wasn’t ready to deal with it until I was probably in my late 20s or early 30s. I didn’t deal with it properly,” said Auremi. “I’ve never been able to replace the feeling of playing rugby league.”
Even though he regained feeling in his arms and legs, and was able to walk, his neurosurgeon ruled out ever playing again.
“Hey [the neurosurgeon] broke the news to Tim,” said Kerry Auremi, Tim’s mother.
“Speaking from his heart he said ‘you cannot play a contact sport again. It’s too risky’.”
“That road back to health was terrible.”
It’s something Kerry still thinks about because, although Auremi’s injury was an exception, the reality is that most young players will never make it professionally. When that time comes, she says, they aren’t prepared for what they will do after a life in rugby league.
“It was a like a death in his life. And you have to grieve,” she said.
“Hey [a sports psychologist] said to Tim, ‘on the 24th of April [day of the injury] Your life was going in one direction, and on the 25th of April your life has gone in another direction. And until you can come to terms with that, you’re not going to move on’.”
Brendan Barlow, principal of MacGregor High School and coach of the 2008 Schoolboys side, said that Tim was an intelligent player and empathetic leader.
“He was always a dream [to coach],” said Barlow.
“He was the sort of player that you always wanted to coach. Extremely well-disciplined, had great values, and was a really good leader of the side. His actions were his words, and he brought the best out of other players … He was a pleasure to coach.”
Adjusting to life after league was difficult for Auremi, and taking up an apprenticeship in a trade job was also out of the picture because of the physical nature of the work.
However, he was thrown a lifeline. That came in the way of a traineeship with NSW Rugby League, after family friend and former Bulldogs player, Tas Baitieri, contacted the Men of League Foundation and was able to organise funding for the position.
Since then, Auremi has worked across the NSWRL in development positions, and is currently working for NRL Victoria as a pathways and coaching manager.
For other players who make their way to the NRL through the Schoolboys system, it’s a dream come true. But other dreams start to take over and, suddenly, rugby league isn’t the be all and end all.
Ashleigh Nisbet captained the 2014 Australian Schoolboys side when they toured England and France, and went on to play under-20s and reserves football for Cronulla, Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra.
But when Nisbet tore a pectoral muscle, he was left wondering what he would do if he couldn’t play rugby league.
“When I did that [the injury] I was like, ‘OK, I have to have something else going for me’,” Nisbet said.
“So I just started doing a little bit of personal training work for someone … and then my girlfriend and I started our own business, a little PT business, and then we ended opening up a gym.”
For a while, Nisbet balanced playing and running the gym with his partner Alanna, but his entrepreneurial ambition took over. When the gym started to take off, he picked the business over the NRL. It’s a decision he doesn’t regret.
“The business got pretty full on, and it got to the point where I was juggling them both, and it was getting pretty hard,” said Nisbet.
“I’m pretty happy with what we’re doing. We live a pretty awesome lifestyle… I’m glad how it all worked out.”
As for Auremi, he is working with the NRL to expand the game in Victoria, and is helping young players achieve their dreams of making the grade.
“I’m probably at peace now, but for a long time I wasn’t,” Tim said.
“I get a kick out of helping and seeing young fellas enjoying themselves playing league.”
For Barlow, making the schoolboys team “is an achievement within itself” and “something that they [people] can never take away from you.”
And he said that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Tim’s name alongside a schoolboys team again, but this time, as the coach.
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