Galuvao back from the brink

Joe Galuvao admits that there were times when even the prospect of playing first grade again – let alone an NRL grand final – seemed far beyond his reach.<br><br>“When you’re sent up to play Queensland Cup, you’re going to have your doubts,” the veteran back-rower says, pointing to a forgettable final year at South Sydney in 2007. <br><br>“You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. But then Parra came calling with an opportunity that I couldn’t resist.<br><br>“My philosophy was that if I put in the hard work, anything could come of it.”<br><br>Two years later and the 29-year-old has not only forged his way back into the NRL but is busy preparing for his second grand final after lifting the trophy with Penrith in 2003.<br><br>It’s a remarkable turnaround for a man that was unwanted by the Rabbitohs and told he would be better off spending his days with the church.<br><br>Thrown a lifeline by the Eels last season, he played just six games in the top grade under former coach Michael Hagan but, having led Wentworthville to the NSW Cup title, has become a regular once more under the guidance of Daniel Anderson.<br><br>“I guess it comes down to a bit of confidence and people believing in you,” Galuvao says, adding a subtle swipe towards his former employers.<br><br>“I’m very grateful to Parramatta for giving me this chance and I’d like to think I’ve repaid them.<br><br>“Last year was a stepping stone for me – I just tried to dig in whether I was playing for Wenty or for Parramatta and hope the rewards would come.<br><br>“As it turns out I won a grand final in reserve grade last year and this year I have a chance to win a grand final in first grade. <br><br>“It’s been an awesome journey so far.”<br><br>In many ways, Galuvao’s own journey has echoed Parramatta’s stunning charge towards the grand final this season.<br><br>Only three months ago the Eels were far more likely to win the wooden spoon than the Telstra Premiership and even a top-eight berth seemed a bridge too far.<br><br>Yet before Anderson could yell ‘Fuifui Moimoi’ they suddenly burst to life, winning 10 of their past 11 matches to sneak into the finals and then brush aside St George Illawarra, Gold Coast and the Bulldogs to book a date with Melbourne this Sunday.<br><br>If momentum wins premierships – and recent years suggest that it does – the Eels are about to complete the most amazing comeback in recent history.<br><br>“I definitely think momentum is important to have, heading into a grand final knowing that you’re playing some good footy,” Galuvao said.<br><br>“It’s a confidence-builder.”<br><br>Asked what had turned the Eels’ season around, the former Panther said: “I think just self-belief. <br><br>“Everyone was saying all year that we’d had a big off-season and had put in the hard work and we knew that we were better than the points we had put on the board.<br><br>“So I don’t think we were surprised by it.<br><br>“We knew that if we could string a couple of wins together we could really build our confidence as a team and gel together. <br><br>“At the time we weren’t thinking about grand finals, we just wanted to build some momentum.”<br><br>Ironically, now that they’ve made it this far, it is Galuvao that many of his team-mates will be looking to for advice.<br><br>Although four Eels – the others being Nathan Cayless, Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt – have played in a grand final, Galuvao remains the only one to have tasted victory.<br><br>And his advice is simply to enjoy it.<br>“Last time I played in one we just enjoyed it and made the most of it… it’s no different this week,” he said.<br><br>“Enjoy the week, enjoy the accolades and enjoy the pats on the back but also remember that at the end of the day you’ve got to focus on your footy.”<br><br><b>Late news…</b><br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Eels skipper Nathan Cayless remains confident his hamstring will withstand a rigorous fitness test scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The Eels medical staff intend to push the injury “to the point of tearing” to ensure all is okay.<br>