Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga outlined the pathway from Australian Schoolboys to Test level as he presented them with their first green and gold jerseys ahead of the team's five-match tour of England.
The squad, which includes players contracted to nine NRL clubs, spent last weekend under the guidance of Kangaroos elite performance manager Troy Thomson and will get a feeling for what it's like being involved in a professional sporting set-up during the tour.
Meninga told the players it was the first step on a journey which could take them all the way to a place in his senior squad and their first goal should be to aim for Junior Kangaroos selection next year.
NRL elite programs manager Brad Donald, who coaches the Jillaroos and works closely with Meninga, will join the schoolboys team for their two Tests against England Academy in Leigh on December 8 and Leeds on December 14.
"The Australian Schoolboys is the first opportunity for players in our sport to pull on the green and gold so when Mal became coach of the Kangaroos he saw it as a major priority to make sure that whatever we were doing for our other elite teams the Australian schoolboys were a part of that," Donald said.
"We have always funded the Australian Schoolboys but we are now helping them with performance staff so they take away a physio and sports scientist who can report back to NRL clubs. The presence of our staff will help to make them feel like part of the family."
Donald said the players were overawed when presented with their jerseys by Meninga, who was this year chosen as the game's 13th Immortal.
Meninga also talked about the RISE values – Respect. Inspire. Selfless. Excellence – which have been adopted by the Kangaroos, Jillaroos and Junior Kangaroos teams.
"Mal spoke about what they mean and where they came from, what the expectations are of playing for Australia and what the future looks like in terms of where to next for these players," Donald said.
"We talk about those values working on and off the field to make better people and they make better players ultimately. If they understand that and buy into them early enough they can find themselves part of the elite program with the Junior Kangaroos next year and then into the Kangaroos system.
"When you have got an Immortal and the Kangaroos coach standing in front of you telling you what the expectations are when you pull the jumper on for the first time, it just shows how valuable that jumper is and Mal talked about being the best of the best at a chosen time."
The Australian Schoolboys will kick off their tour with a match against England Colleges in Newcastle on Sunday, followed by games against Yorkshire in Castleford next Wednesday and Lancashire in Manchester on December 1.
- Timanu Alexander (All Saints College, Maitland; Knights)
- Max Altus (Farrer Memorial Agricultural College, Tamworth)
- Jalal Bazzaz (Illawarra Sports High; Dragons)
- Bradman Best (Brisbane Waters Secondary College, Woy Woy; Knights)
- Zac Cini (St Dominics College, Penrith; Tigers)
- Juwan Compain (Palm Beach Currumbin State High School)
- Stephen Crichton (Patrician Brothers College, Blacktown; Panthers)
- Harry Croker (Taree High School; Knights)
- Tom Dearden (Palm Beach Currumbin State High School; Broncos)
- Matthew Doorey (Westfields Sports High, Fairfield; Bulldogs)
- Matthew Dragisic (Marist College, Canberra; Raiders)
- Ryan Gray (De La Salle College, Revesby Heights; Bulldogs)
- Jock Madden (All Saints College, Maitland; Wests Tigers)
- Ratu Nanovo (Cambridge Park High School; Panthers)
- Tesi Niu (Marsden State High School, Logan; Broncos)
- Franklin Pele (Endeavour Sports High School, Caringbah; Sharks)
- Jason Saab (Westfields Sports High School, Fairfield; Dragons)
- Tommy Talau (Westfields Sports High School, Fairfield; Tigers)
- Jayden Tanner (Patrician Brothers College, Blacktown; Panthers)
- Beni Teaupa (Holy Cross College, Ryde; Bulldogs)
- Star To’a (Newcastle High School; Knights)
- Sean Vaivelata (St Augustine's College, Brookvale; Sea Eagles)