Eels utility Joseph Paulo says his club and national teammate Bureta Faraimo is reaching his full potential now that he's realised what sort of sacrifices are necessary to make it in the NRL, comparing him to former Bulldogs flanker Matt Utai.
While Paulo hasn't been named in coach Brad Arthur's senior team to face the Roosters this weekend, his World Cup US Tomahawks teammate Faraimo will be playing his eighth top grade game of the year and hoping to add to his five NRL tries this season.
Paulo has spent most of the second half of the season playing for Wentworthville since being demoted by Arthur and says while the chance to show some leadership has benefitted him, it's the improvement in Faraimo that has pleased him most.
"Bureta, I played with him in America and it's good to see him really learn not only about the game, just about his body, about eating, the fitness and being a competitive winger," Paulo said of the 25-year-old New Zealand product, who qualified for the US side by virtue of his father's American Samoan heritage.
Faraimo is averaging an impressive 121 metres per game for the Eels this year, and early in the season signed a contract extension keeping him at Parramatta after being the NSW Cup player of the year in 2014.
"He squats the most in our team, he's pretty much like a Matt Utai. The guy is powerful, low centre of gravity," Paulo said.
"You know when you see guys like Utai, they're unstoppable with those low tree trunks – I don't want to go down there and tackle those big legs! I'm so proud of him, he's getting better and better each week.
"He's told me he's loving this year, learning about himself, and getting fitter. It obviously makes a difference when you give up the meat pies and the KFC to protein bars and juices!"
It's that more professional attitude to his diet and fitness that is now boosting Faraimo's NRL ambitions, according to Paulo.
"Professionalism, I see it grow on him. He's even saying he's going home, stretching and all that. Just that little stuff that he probably didn't acknowledge but now he knows what it takes playing outside the likes of [Will] Hopoate and [Ryan] Morgan, talking to him, honing in on his gift that he's got here. He's got the ability to be here, it's up to him."
A huge injury toll at the Eels in 2015 has also caused a flow on effect in NSW Cup feeder team Wentworthville, which has seen plenty of turnover as players have been called up to the top side at different stages, including 2015 NRL debutant Daniel Alvaro.
There has also been a switch up in the coaching ranks with Steven Hales moving from Eels NYC coach to taking on the Magpies job, and Brett Cook switching from Wentworthville to head up the NYC side.
"It's been a bit of a change up there in the middle of the year with Brett Cook going to the 20s and Halesy coming to Wenty, but they've both taken on the role with both hands and Halesy's done a great job mentoring the guys coming in and then having the senior guys to have him in that role, help him coaching," Paulo said.
"You see when the boys from Wenty come up to NRL they're just ready so it's good everyone's going to Went with that mentality, that attitude to work hard. If that door in the NRL opens then be ready to take it with both hands.
"It's going to help their development. It's good to see the likes of Daniel Alvaro, who was our fittest player in the off season, get that opportunity.
"You can see when the boys saw his name called out they all stood up and cheered for him because they know he's been working for it. Guys like 'Kel' [halfback Luke Kelly], who's been knocking on the door all year, just waiting for his chance and now he gets that chance to lead us," Paulo said.