Pulu unfazed by big-name reputations
When Leivaha Pulu runs on midway through the first half for the Titans against Manly Warringah on Monday night, don't be surprised if he goes looking for the biggest, meanest figure on the footy field.
At 26 years of age Pulu is not your everyday NRL rookie but has become an integral part of a Gold Coast outfit pushing for a place in finals football for the first time since 2010.
He has played every game so far this season and come off the bench in all but one; his role from coach Neil Henry a simple one centred around energy and enthusiasm and lifting his teammates.
And if that means running straight at Martin Taupau on Monday night or putting on a big shot, so be it.
"I've never played against him so it will be pretty cool to play against 'the beast', the one everyone is talking about," said Pulu, whose 192-centimetre, 110-kilogram frame matches up well to the imposing stature of Taupau at 190 centimetres and 112 kilograms.
"For myself, I love doing this and I love the challenges that have been thrown at me.
"He's a big fella but I like the challenges so it will be good to go up against him.
"I've played NSW Cup for the last six or seven years and I just want to come on and do the best for the boys.
"I want to come on and just make an impact. If it means coming on and talking to whoever is next to me or coming on and running at whoever just to give the boys that little boost I'm keen to put my best foot forward."
A father of two children, Pulu's path to the NRL on the Gold Coast has been a circuitous one.
A Keebra Park product imported from the Marist Saints club in Auckland, Pulu went to the Wests Tigers before quitting to take better care of his young family.
He juggled exhausting work commitments with semi-professional footy playing with Wyong in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW and after missing out on a contract with the Sydney Roosters was invited to chase his dream at the Titans this year.
There remain some rough edges to polish but as he showed with his pass down a short-side to Anthony Don for the match-winning try against the Panthers in Round 11 he is intent to never let an opportunity pass him by.
There have been sacrifices along the way but the biggest issue currently facing one third of the Titans' famed 'Hair Bears' is to cut down on the portion sizes and keep bread out of his diet.
"For myself I have to try and get better at things like my preparation. That's still a bit new for myself but I'm still learning about my body a bit more and just putting things into place where I can play week in and week out," said Pulu, whose weight once ballooned to an astonishing 149 kilograms.
"I've been putting carbs into my diet. I used to be a big person so I cut carbs out but knowing my body now I know it needs carbs for the games and just trying to get the electrolytes in and sleep.
"Sweet potatoes, small portion of rice and I know bread is no good for me so I've cut that out.
"Every day I wake up in the morning and I thank the Lord because I've been blessed.
"I'm someone who hadn't played NRL before to now be playing pretty much every week but I've still got a lot to learn and I'm still improving each week."