Incredible footage shows footy players destined for stardom dominating their opponents years before they cracked the big time as professionals.
The countdown before rugby league stars return to the field is set to reach a climax, with the 2020 NRL season kicking off tonight.
As fans gear up for the year ahead, Daily Mail Australia has tracked down classic footage of several superstars as schoolboy prodigies showing off the incredible skills that later made them household names.
Kalyn Ponga (wearing his trademark headgear) while playing ruby as a 16-year-old in 2014
Ponga, 21, (pictured in a recent trial match for the Knights) has become a superstar in the NRL
At the age of 21, Newcastle Knights superstar Kalyn Ponga is already one of the game’s biggest names.
He made headlines as a 15-year-old schoolboy all-round talent when he signed a four year contract with the North Queensland Cowboys, turning down offers from four other NRL clubs, Super Rugby’s Queensland Reds and AFL team Brisbane Lions.
A montage video from 2014 of a 16-year-old Ponga wearing his trademark headgear starring for Anglican Church Grammar School in the Brisbane-based GPS rugby competition shows just how easily he could have been an Australian Wallaby.
A fan who commented on the YouTube video last year listed the wealth of rugby union and league talent in the clip that also went on to make the top grade.
They include Queensland Reds stars Liam Wright and Angus Scott-Young, NSW Waratahs stars Mack Mason and Harley Fox, who’s now playing in Ireland.
NRL players featured include Melbourne Storm halfback Brodie Croft, South Sydney recruit Jaydyn Sua, who has joined from the Brisbane Broncos and Izaia Perese, who made his debut with the Broncos last year.
A 17-year-old David Fifita (centre) hams it up for the cameras as a member of Keebra Park State High School side that won the national GIP Schoolboy Cup tournament in 2017
Three years on, David Fifita (pictured training in February for the Brisbane Broncos) has become one of the best second-rowers in the NRL
Broncos second rower David Fifita, 20, is another rising NRL star who burst onto the scene as a schoolboy prodigy.
Footage of Keebra Park State High School line-up being introduced for 2017 national GIP Schoolboy Cup final shows Fifita, then 17, hamming up for the cameras.
Television commentator Andrew Voss describes him in the footage as one of the best schoolboy forwards ever seen and the favourite for the Peter Sterling Medal as schoolboy player of the year, which Fifita went on to win.
Payne Haas (pictured with the ball) was a schoolboy rugby league sensation in 2017
Payne Haas is expected to be a star once again for Brisbane Broncos and NSW in 2020
Fifita’s Broncos teammate and NSW Blues Origin star Payne Haas was also an devastating opponent as a 17-year-old.
Footage of him in action from 2017 shows the powerful big forward beating tackles, racing down the field as as much pace as an outside back and unstoppable as he charged towards the try-line.
Another NRL star who could easily cross codes to union is Melbourne Storm prop and Kiwi international Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Melbourne Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona (pictured centre playing for Wellington College in 2012) first made his name as a schoolboy rugby union star before switching codes
Nelson Asofa-Solomona (pictured in February) is one of the biggest stars for Melbourne Storm
Footage from 2012 shows a 16-year-old Asofa-Solomona starring for Wellington College in New Zealand in a rugby union clash against Rongotai College, scoring tires and racing down the field.
But his heart was with league and was already contracted with Storm at the time before making his NRL debut three years later.
Asofa-Solomona’s Storm teammate Suliasi Vunivalu is another who first gained everyone’s attention as a teenage rugby sensation in New Zealand.
The Fiji-born star moved to Auckland at age 16, where he starred for Saint Kentigern College and later made the Auckland Blues development side.
But he was soon poached by the rival code and joined Melbourne Storm, where he has scored 73 tries from 95 games since 2016.
Vunivalu will return to his rugby union roots next season after signing with the Queensland Reds for 2021.
Suliasi Vunivalu in rugby union action for Saint Kentigern College. He later crossed codes to sign with NRL club Melbourne Storm
Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu (pictured) will switch codes at the end of the 2020 season
Highlights from 13 years ago show a teenage Shaun Johnson making his name in touch football at Orewa College in Auckland before becoming an NRL star with the New Zealand Warriors and the Cronulla Sharks.
The old footage shows Johnson showing off his famous sidestep, blistering speed and passing skills that have made him a star over the last nine seasons in the NRL.
A 2013 video of then-Sydney Roosters rookie Roger Tuivasa-Sheck shows not only NRL highlights but also footage two years prior as a schoolboy rugby union star for Otahuhu College back home in New Zealand, where he now plays for the Warriors.
In 2011, Tuivasa-Sheck represented the New Zealand schoolboys in rugby union and and captained Otahuhu College at the national secondary schools tournament.
He was signed by the Roosters within months and made his debut the following season.
Shaun Johnson (pictured in 2007-08) first made his name in touch football in the New Zealand junior ranks before becoming an NRL star with the Warriors and Sharks
Veteran halfback Shaun Johnson (pictured in a recent trial march for Cronulla) has the opportunity to play his 200th NRL game this season if he remains injury-free
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in 2011 racing away to score a try for Otahuhu College at the New Zealand secondary schools rugby union tournament. He switched codes months later
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (pictured playing for the Warriors in a trial on Sunday) hopes to bounce back after spending 2019 sidelined with injury
A rugby union superstar hoping to make the switch to the NRL is All Blacks star Ardie Savea, who’s eyeing off a move to either the Melbourne Storm or Sydney Roosters.
New Zealand’s 2019 player of the year is eager to follow in the footsteps of former All Blacks teammate Sonny Bill Williams – who switched back to rugby league from union to sign a deal last year worth $10million with the Toronto Wolfpack.
Footage from seven years ago shows Savea starring as an outside centre for Rongotai College before he later shifted to the forwards, where he has become one of the world’s best players.
New Zealand All Blacks star Ardie Savea (pictured as a schoolboy playing for Rongotai College in 2013) is eyeing off a switch to rugby league
Ardie, (pictured with his wife Saskia and son) wants to follow in the footsteps of former All Blacks teammate Sonny-Bill Williams and switch codes to rugby league
Taniela Tupou burst onto the rugby scene in New Zealand with Auckland’s Sacred Heart College in 2014 after scoring a spectacular hat trick.
Nicknamed the ‘Tongan Thor’, his pace and deft footwork were rare for a teenager of his size, and the 130kg behemoth was quickly held up as a future All Black.
However he turned down New Zealand rugby and chose to sign with the Wallabies in Australia where his brother Cliff lived.
Tupou now plays for the Queensland Reds, and has represented the Wallabies 16 times.
Taniela Tupou burst onto the rugby scene in New Zealand with Auckland’s Sacred Heart College in 2014 after scoring a spectacular hat trick
Tupou now plays for the Queensland Reds, and has represented the Wallabies 16 times