Newcastle legend Danny Buderus has praised the emergence of the rookie class of 2017 and believes their development as footballers owes much to their greater focus on education off the field.
In the space of just three weeks we have seen the likes of Ata Hingano, Nick Cotric, Marcelo Montoya, Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Braidon Burns, Viliame Kikau, Brian Kelly, Moses Suli and Jayden Brailey make their NRL debuts and instantly look at home.
Many are still in their teens and are following on from recent teenage sensations such as Latrell Mitchell, Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic and Kalyn Ponga in proving that if you are good enough, you're old enough.
The ability of young players to make an immediate impact in the top grade has caught the eye of 257-game veteran Buderus who credits their off-field education for their on-field confidence.
"Debutants have set the NRL alight with not only their skill, speed and strength, but their decision-making and calmness under pressure. It's like they're already seasoned campaigners," Buderus writes in the Round 4 issue of Big League.
"But to be able to play in the top grade, these kids need to be educated – and I mean that in both football and tertiary terms. A solid education is the best way to make clubs and fans proud of what they do off the field as much as on it.
"The education players get on all things football and life is standard in all NRL clubs, and the advances in the programs that are run nowadays is huge.
"Talent isn't enough anymore. Everyone is training hard and every player has ability, but how receptive the players are to learning and receiving messages with the right attitude is key.
"An open mindset and commitment to playing at the highest level is what sets you apart from the rest, but the way people and players learn can be very different."
The way coaches and clubs adapt to the needs of each individual player is certainly vastly different from when Buderus left Taree to join the Knights in the late 1990s when the club was at the peak of its powers.
"When I started at the Knights in 1995, it wasn't so much about education, facilities or science. It was about the experiences we shared and encouraging that togetherness which made us better players and teams," said Buderus.
"We trained at a park with a demountable as our change room but we thrived on having that set-up. We loved it.
"I remember we were doing the notorious 'beep test' one late afternoon with a car on the sideline and the stereo up full-bore.
"One of the coaches was sitting in it, honking the horn to signal every beep. It was pretty funny, and it distracted us enough to take our minds off the work we were doing with a bit of laughter.
"It's safe to say training environments have changed a lot in the last 20 years.
"Players and the game today demand world-class programs that give everyone a chance to succeed."
The Round 4 issue of Big League celebrates the ISC Marvel Super Heroes round with features on Roosters half Luke Keary, how Parramatta plan to win the hearts and minds of Sydney's west and Bulldogs great Terry Lamb defends besieged five-eighth Josh Reynolds. Available from newsagents, supermarkets and at the ground with digital version available through www.zinio.com, Apple iTunes and Google Play.