GROWING up, the 100 hectares surrounding his home just south of Campbelltown was James Tedesco's training paddock where he pushed himself to reach his goal of playing in the NRL.
On Sunday afternoon, he'll have reached it when he runs on to Leichhardt Oval alongside Benji Marshall, Robbie Farah and the fellow former St Gregory's College student he wants to emulate, Chris Lawrence.
''When I was in year 7 at St Greg's, Chris was in year 12,'' Tedesco said. ''I remember when he made his debut in first grade, he was still at school and all the papers came to school and took pictures of him and his friends. I looked up to him.''
Lawrence didn't even know that Tedesco was a fellow student when he made his debut, until the fullback told him three weeks ago.
Now 19, Tedesco's playing style has been compared to Melbourne's Billy Slater, and he admits he's been influenced by the Storm No.1.
''Slater's support play and his speed is what I base my game on,'' Tedesco said. ''I'm up there in the sprints at training and I've got pretty good agility off the mark.
''Tim [Sheens] seems to like my fitness. He likes fullbacks having no excuses to get to the ball.''
One of the requirements as a fullback is to communicate with the back line - difficult for a shy teenager playing with a line-up full of superstars.
''A big role of fullback is to talk and yell,'' Tedesco said. ''The boys all tell me to yell, and Chris [Lawrence] has been really good with that.
''He tells me where I should be telling him to be, and encourages me to tell people where to be.''
Before last season, Lote Tuqiri nominated Aaron Woods as the rookie who would make his mark with the Tigers. Woods went on to play 24 games for Wests Tigers.
This year, Tuqiri is looking to the teenager with the No.1 on his back to shine.
''Young Tedesco has a good head on his shoulders,'' Tuqiri said. ''He's a really good trainer and has impressed with everything he's done. They're the guys you want in your team.''
A year ago, Tedesco was playing for Western Suburbs Magpies in the SG Ball before being promoted to the Wests Tigers under-20s team. He then won their player of the year award.
While ''trying to stay grounded'', what will his first-grade debut mean to James Tedesco?
''It would mean so much to me, my family, my friends, everyone who has watched and supported me my whole life,'' he said.
''But no one would be prouder than myself.''