Junior Paulo wouldn’t have it any other way.
Running hot from a very successful Canberra Raiders campaign this year in the N.R.L, Paulo could well have chosen to pursue an international career with Australia.
In fact, he was named last week as a front runner for a spot in the team, but he is in Samoa this week, looking forward to the chance to represent his country against Fiji this weekend.
Born in New Zealand, Paulo who hails from Satuimalufilufi and Safotu, said he is delighted to be in Samoa at this time.
“It’s definitely something special to be part of the first rugby league international test in Samoa,” he said. “It is something I am proud of and representing both of my parent’s country of birth is definitely something that I will look back to when I finish and say that I was part of this game, so yeah it means a lot to me.”
Paulo said this game is a special game for him because he will be playing in front of his country and family.
“Being a kid who was basically raised in Australia, it’s also still good to have that connection with your heritage.
“My grandparents from my dad’s side are still here and to be able to play in front of them means a lot to me and it’s something special.”
Paulo started playing rugby league at the age of five.
“My dad pretty much just put a ball on my hands when I was five years old and I just ran with it from there throughout school, that’s all I wanted to do.
“I started when I was five years old and I never wanted to stop ever since then. And now that I am here, I am very grateful for all that has happened.”
Looking ahead to the game on Saturday, Paulo said that the small time they had to bond and prepare for this game is not an issue.
“We all have rugby league in common. And we’ve gotten to know each other in the first two nights we got here.”
Preparations have been going well so far. “Preparations are going well, we were able to check out Savaii and it’s a beautiful island, and you know for most of us, who grew up in Australia, haven’t seen that side of things;it’s also something special to see what this island has to offer.
“And it’s definitely been productive since we got here on Tuesday night. We really are loving it here and hopefully there’ll be plenty more tests to come.”
What can we expect from the game on Saturday? “Probably a firecracker show for sure,” said Junior.
“We have two islands going at it, and I’m sure Fiji is coming here to get a win, and we are also trying to do the same especially in front of our people. Hopefully the crowd will all turn out in numbers and that’s what we want to see.
“We want to put on a show for the people and also for ourselves too. Yeah it’s going to be a blockbuster performance.”As a proud Samoan, Paulo said he always loves coming back home.
“I just love it here; will probably find myself coming back here in Samoa when I retire. I just love coming back here, it’s something that I have always loved to do, to keep coming back here frequently and I will be back again.”