Paulo could've been a Raider this year
Junior Paulo could have easily been opposing his Eels teammates for the Canberra Raiders this weekend if Ricky Stuart had his way.
While Paulo confirmed weeks ago his future lies at the green machine for the 2017 season and beyond, the 23-year-old revealed he could have been there a whole lot sooner.
The Eels will play the Raiders on Saturday afternoon, with both clubs mindful a victory will help consolidate a place in the top eight.
"There were talks in the off-season about me coming down to play with them this year but with the squad we have here I was just looking to have a big year with the Eels. I feel I owe something to the club," Paulo said.
"For me it's just another week. Canberra's another chapter of my life I'm set to enter in the future. The decision was something that was hard for me but I'm a young father and I have a small family so every decision about the move was around them."
Paulo has taken the NRL by storm in 2016 averaging 115.4 metres and 21.6 tackles per game including two tries in the past two weeks.
The 22-year-old's form could see him come under serious consideration for a berth in Brad Fittler's City Origin team.
"It's something everybody as a footballer [is striving for]. It's always going to be in the back of my head. If I'm lucky enough to get an opportunity, I'll be happy to take it with both hands and run with it," Paulo said of a potential representative debut.
"For me, if I'm doing my job every week for my club then hopefully I will get a chance at some stage in my career. I'm happy enough to play good footy and if that's what they're looking for then I'll be happy to play."
Paulo credits a newfound maturity for his improvement as a player as he closes in on 50 NRL games.
"I have a couple of seasons underneath my belt now. I don't really see myself as being a senior player at the club but being here for a couple of years now, we have plenty of young squad members who look up to me to play a lead role," he said.
"I'm happy the boys look at me that way, but I'm just focusing on my own game."