Paulo: I owe Eels a big year
Star Parramatta prop Junior Paulo says an agonising decision to leave his junior club was made in the best interests of his young family but feels he owes the blue and gold a big final year.
Paulo has been a wrecking ball over the opening three rounds and a huge factor in Parramatta's strong start to the year, and though his big-money move to Canberra from next year is a blow to Eels fans the 22-year-old Cabramatta Two Blues junior is keen to go out on a high after sorting out his playing future.
"It was something I was hoping to do in the pre-season, I was hoping to get it out of the way and put it to bed but I'm just happy my future's secure," Paulo told NRL.com ahead of his side's big Round 4 Easter Monday clash against Wests Tigers.
"I'm still 100 per cent committed to the blue and gold this year and giving whatever I have to offer to the blue and gold.
"It sort of feels like I owe them something for coming through the junior ranks here. I'm happy the team are still happy to have me on board. This is my last year here and it's something I've got to work on as an individual to give back to them."
Paulo said at the heart of his final decision were his two young children, 17-month old Mario-Cade and four-month-old Rosalina.
"It was something I kept dwelling on in the pre-season, it was a hard choice for me but I'm a young dad, I've got two kids at home," he said.
"Being young, it's probably one of those opportunities that won't come around very often. If the opportunity was there to jump at it I probably did what most other people would have done and that's look after their family so for me, I'm just happy to put it to bed. I've got a young family, two kids under two and I'm only 22!
"Canberra's going to be the next chapter in my life and I'm happy my partner and kids are going to come down with me. For now I'm just focusing on week to week footy with the blue and gold."
Paulo was speaking out the front of Westmead Children's Hospital on Wednesday where, along with the bulk of the first grade squad, he was about to tour the wards, hand out some Easter eggs and put some smiles on a few kids' faces.
Showing his softer side, the imposing-looking Paulo – even well before his official club duties began – posed for photos with young kids and their parents out the front of the hospital, along with fellow hard men Manu Ma'u, Danny Wicks and Kenny Edwards.
Those four players may all have been soft touches with fans and kids at Westmead on Wednesday but they'll be out to show the other side of their characters on Monday when they take on an unheralded Tigers pack that has also been getting the job done over the opening three games.
"The Tigers are a team to get off to a fast start so it will be up to us to match it with them. It's going to be a tough challenge for us but in saying that in the past three weeks our middle's been holding our heads high and we're hoping to do another job this weekend," Paulo said.
"I'm just happy to be doing a job for the team each week. To get two wins out of the three games we've had and coming up against three of the best defensive teams, it's been a solid challenge for us and we're happy we're living up to that so far.
"We're lucky enough to have a lot of depth at the club, especially in the forwards as well, there's a lot of depth so it's keeping us starters in first grade on our toes so to have that depth at a club like this is something special."