FORMER Australian Schoolboys captain Tim Auremi provided a reality check to the 90 players attending the NRL rookie camp at Wollongong University on the weekend as he choked back tears while telling them about the spinal injury that ended his career before it began.
On the eve of their first full season in the under-20s for Canberra, Canterbury, Cronulla, Penrith, St George Illawarra and Wests Tigers, the players were continually reminded only 12 per cent of them would graduate to the NRL.
Most obviously believed they wouldn't be among the 88 per cent missing out and they were also told that those who did make it would need to be determined, committed, strong-willed and possess the right attitude and a good work ethic, as well as talent and playing ability. They would also have to be lucky.
Auremi, who played in the under-20s for Parramatta in 2009, possessed all of those qualities and had skippered the Australian Schoolboys and NSW under-18s teams the previous season but a spinal injury denied him the chance to fulfil his potential.
With tears in his eyes and a quivering voice, Auremi read from notes on a phone as he told the NRL hopefuls how he had struggled to cope until the Men of League Foundation helped organise a traineeship for him as a development officer at the NSWRL Western Sydney Academy.
It was a sobering tale for the rookies, who wrote down goals such as playing State of Origin or representing their countries, as they were told the average NRL career was just 42 matches - or less than two full seasons.
It was the fear of becoming such a statistic after a sickening broken leg in 2007 that prompted St George Illawarra prop Michael Henderson to undertake a course to enable him to present a workshop on sex and ethics at the rookie camp.
Henderson suffered the spiral fracture to his right leg in his 45th NRL match and he said it still troubled him during his next five seasons with Gold Coast.
''It was tough, so that is partly why I did the course,'' Henderson said. ''I couldn't train, so I was trying to further my studies as much as I could and when I did the course, it struck a chord with me.''
During the 60-minute session, on Saturday, Henderson advised the players on topics such as violence against women, what to do if they received pornographic images on their phones and whether someone could consent to sex when they were intoxicated.
He also told them if they saw their teammates doing something they didn't agree with, or someone who needed help, not to ignore it but also to carefully consider their actions.
''I have always been an honest sort of bloke from a good family who brought me up the right way and I guess you see things sometimes that you don't agree with, so hopefully if we can change the perception of the way things are done and how things are dealt with, they will stop and think about the consequences before doing what they might have done before,'' Henderson said.
''It is not like you are preaching to them, you are passing on some information and some stuff from your experiences because the time will come when they will be in a situation where someone has had too many drinks or something and hopefully this can help them out.''
The benefits of developing and maintaining a good reputation were highlighted in another session presented by former Raiders captain Alan Tongue, titled ''Personal Brand''.
''It's not just your goals on the field but your goals off the field and the legacy that you leave behind that are so important, and you need to make sure that is in the forefront of your mind when you act and speak,'' Tongue said.