Pulu's grand journey to take on Cowboys
Titans rookie Leivaha Pulu insists he won't be intimidated by the star-studded Cowboys outfit despite watching their grand final heroics 12 months ago from a one-bedroom hotel in Blacktown.
Pulu's assignment to help shut down the rampant Cowboys forward pack in Gold Coast's must-win game on Saturday evening shapes as the latest milestone in a rookie season that was 26 years in the making.
Last weekend against the Panthers Pulu's injection into the game sparked the Titans into action and his maiden try in the NRL early in the second half was the first step in the home side's comeback after they trailed 14-0.
It's a far cry from where he was this time last year playing with the Wyong Roos in the NSW Cup and having to cram his young family into a small room for a fortnight before they began their new life on the Gold Coast.
Despite having a two-year NRL contract in his possession sharing the field with the likes of Thurston, Scott and Taumalolo still appeared a distant dream but the powerful back-rower has promised to make the most of his opportunity on Saturday.
"I watched it at the Sports Club in a one-bedroom motel before I came up to the Gold Coast," Pulu said on Monday.
"Before I moved up me and my family had to sacrifice staying at a rental place to stay at a one-bedroom shack for a couple of weeks before we moved up to the Gold Coast.
"It would be unreal just to play against those fellas and it will test us as a team. To where we came from at the beginning of the year to where we are now I'm really proud of the boys and confident in them as well.
"At the end of the day everyone has two hands and two legs and everyone's normal, it's just who comes out with the bigger heart."
Something of a surprise contributor to the Titans' strong start to 2016, Pulu played every game in his rookie season until he was dropped for the Round 23 clash with the Wests Tigers.
Sent back to play for Tweed Heads in the Intrust Super Cup to work on his defence, Pulu said that he has rediscovered an attacking spark that promises to be an important weapon for the Titans against North Queensland.
Pulu came up with a perfect offload for Jarryd Hayne late in the first half against the Panthers and said with their season on the line now is the time to put their skills on show.
"Before I used to just try and tuck it under the wing and get forward but it's that time of the season where I will try and offload a bit," said Pulu, who was pipped by South Sydney's Cody Walker as the NRL's oldest debutant in 2016.
"That's the reason I went back to Tweed Heads. I started to enjoy my footy a bit more and I got to do more things that I wanted to do and getting more confident that I can do it in the NRL.
"There were little things I was sent back to Q Cup for. It was just little things in defence that I had to work on but it's something I improved on.
"I'm a big believer that everything happens for a reason but I came back more confident and playing a bit more footy as well."
And just like a year ago in that Blacktown hotel room, when Pulu registered the first points of his NRL career last weekend, his partner Lina, daughter Carayanidis and son Amon James were there to share the moment.
"It's taken me a long time – 25 rounds later – I'd swap it for a win though. I was blessed to get my first try," Pulu said.
"It was a blessing and to have my family there to witness it was unreal, to look over and see my kids and my missus there.
"It was a hard loss on the weekend but everything happens for a reason and this week we've got another week to prove ourselves and it's against the No.1 team in the comp."