Fitter Paulo back to boost Raiders
Returning Canberra Raiders prop Junior Paulo is raring to go against the Cronulla Sharks after missing the first round of the Telstra Premiership through suspension.
With Raiders forwards Joe Tapine (finger) and Clay Priest (suspension) out of the clash against the premiers, the return of the former Eels giant is a timely one for Ricky Stuart's men.
The 23-year-old revealed he didn't have it easy while his teammates prepared for their opening game with the North Queensland Cowboys, and has shed some weight over the pre-season in a bid to increase his game time after averaging 48 minutes since moving to the nation's capital.
"It was another week of flogging for me so hopefully I can make it up to the boys for missing Round 1," Paulo said.
"We definitely have a big pack at the Raiders and everyone is accountable for their actions off the field.
"Being able to do boxing in the off-season has helped me to return in good nick.
"I played around 128-129 kilos last year and now I'm between 122-124.
"The big boys like to do damage in the kitchen and we also like to go to work on the field, too."
Paulo will slot straight into the starting No.8 jersey alongside Australian representative Shannon Boyd, a player who the Samoan international will look to combine with in various stages throughout the season.
"He [Boyd] deserved that rep jersey at the backend of last year for Australia," Paulo said.
"It's awesome when you've got another big bloke that tries to push you on the field and he'll run over people, so to be able to play off the back of that is something that our game plan structures around.
"If our forwards are going forward then our backs are able to do what they do so it's definitely an exciting brand of footy we play here at the Raiders.
"Stick (Ricky Stuart) says the more rep players you have at the club the more things you're doing right on the field so it's definitely showing for us."
In a scary thought for opposing teams, the return of former Gold Coast Titans forward Dave Taylor from suspension is only another week away and has added even further size to the already monstrous Raiders outfit.
Paulo insists the former Queensland Origin forward is also lighter on the scales since joining the club.
"Everyone knows what he can bring to the table and it's the fittest he's ever looked," he said.
"He came to the club around 136 kilos and he's now down to about 123-124, so he's raring to go and bring something special to this team."
This article first appeared on NRL.com