Pauli can be one of NRL's best: Brown
He's been one of Newcastle's quiet achievers in 2016 but the Knights coaching staff have something bigger in mind when it comes to young forward Pauli Pauli.
Yet, despite his hulking 22-year-old frame, Pauli struggles to see himself as a future NRL star.
At 120 kilograms and 193 centimetres tall, Pauli has battled huge expectations since the Knights signed him from Parramatta in January.
Two games off his 50th NRL appearance, Pauli has shouldered the responsibility of helping several younger Knights forwards in acclimatising to first-grade football.
At the same time, Pauli has been adjusting to life out of home for the first time in Newcastle where trivial aspects of adulthood have become a big deal.
Three months ago – when Pauli's move to the back row in the Knights' Round 11 loss to the Wests Tigers coincided with his best performance of the year – Knights coach Nathan Brown said people forgot how inexperienced the Hills District Bulls junior is.
"Pauli's a project for us. Pauli Pauli's career will go where Pauli wants it to go," Brown said at the time.
"If Pauli really, really focuses and gets himself really fit and hard, he could become one of the best players in this competition as a back-rower. There's no doubt about that at all.
"He certainly has a nice feel for the game so hopefully Pauli can make the right sacrifices in the right areas and gets the best out of his potential."
Being viewed as potentially one of the NRL's elite players in the future is a hard concept for Pauli to grasp.
His rawness on and off the field may help Brown mould Pauli down the line, but for now it's a mental obstacle for him to overcome.
"I don't look at myself as a top player, I look at myself as being me," Pauli told NRL.com.
"I don't expect much out of myself but the coaching staff do. They see the potential in me.
"If I can take that all in and pull through, it will come around for me eventually.
"It's a mental battle every day. Not just in footy but in life as well, just to showcase what I have.
"I need to turn up every week and get as much out of training and the advice I've been getting as I can."
Pauli's mission this weekend will be combating Titans mid-season recruit and former Eels teammate and captain Jarryd Hayne.
Pauli's happiness to see the former San Francisco 49er back in the NRL will be thrown out the window when Hayne runs out onto Hunter Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"I'm definitely happy to see him back. I know it's not in the colours that he wanted to come back in but he seems to be appreciating the opportunity he has at the Titans," Pauli said.
"He was always positive at training back at the Eels. He's just an influential player, even when he's not talking. Just him being around, the Titans boys would love that.
"He's a good guy to have around, but I might have to [smash him]."