Joseph Paulo credits his stint at the World Cup leading the USA for reenergising his love of the game. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos
The names Taylor Welch, Kristian Freed and Michael Garvey will mean very little to Parramatta fans but these are just some of the members of the USA Tomahawks team who have inadvertently helped to revitalise the blue-and-gold.

Coming off consecutive wooden-spoon seasons that those at Parramatta refuse to even acknowledge any longer, Joseph Paulo's assignment to captain the Tomahawks at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in theory seemed the next chapter in a punishing tale of being a whipping boy.

But with shock wins over the Cook Islands and Wales the Tomahawks qualified for the World Cup quarter-finals in their very first attempt, and reconnected Paulo with why he started playing rugby league in the first place.


Speaking after his side's third win in five games that through Saturday night had them level on six points at the top of the competition table, Paulo said that the World Cup experience rejuvenated his passion and helped to bring a new energy to the Eels' efforts for 2014.

"One thing I took away [from the World Cup] was the enjoyment," Paulo told NRL.com. "When you're enjoying your footy it takes away the pressure and gives you pleasure when you're playing. 

"For me to go out there and play footy and play with all these guys who are just hard workers – they're part-time footy players – and given that opportunity to lead them I took a lot of joy out of.

"We didn't get paid over there or take it for granted, we just enjoyed each other's company and obviously brought back why we always played footy when I was young and that was to enjoy it.

"They always say it's not how you start but how you finish and it was obviously a positive note for me to finish the season and just bringing that confidence back from finishing the tour over there and bringing it here to Parra'.

"Even rooming with Haynesy (Jarryd Hayne), he spoke really highly of how much he enjoyed that World Cup tour. It meant a lot to him – he's been playing elite footy for a while – but getting that success it breeds confidence, it breeds belief and with this group that we have here we know that we're slowly building.

"We're not getting ahead of ourselves but we're just really enjoying our footy."

Paulo played five-eighth for the Tomahawks throughout the World Cup and the extra dimension he brings as a ball-playing lock forward was a feature of the Eels' 25-18 win over the Broncos last Friday night.

On numerous occasions he took his large frame right to the defensive line before releasing a deft pass that created time and space for his outside men to work from. Playing on the back of powerful charges from the likes of Manu Ma'u, Kenny Edwards, Junior Paulo and Pauli Pauli, game-breakers such as Chris Sandow and Jarryd Hayne asserted their skill on proceedings and sent the large contingent of Eels fans at Suncorp Stadium into a state of delirium.

The return of former interim coach Brad Arthur has obviously been another key factor in the Parramatta resurgence and Paulo believes he has come back to the club a more complete coach following his time as an assistant at Manly.

"Brad's learnt a lot at Manly, the way they train and set up plays," said Paulo. "You can tell he's a more mature coach. We had him for those five weeks, he was awesome, but he's still honest and up front, nothing's changed about his personality.

"You can just tell that his coaching structures have definitely progressed and every day he's getting better and better."