“Rugby made me a better man” - Teofilo Paulo
Sports has always been an agent of positive changes; from bringing nations together, to healing personal internal conflicts.
For Teofilo Paulo, rugby not only gave him a career, it also made him a better person.
The Samoan lock who was born in Wellington, New Zealand found his love for rugby and has never put the rugby ball down ever since.
“I liked rugby when I first started,” he said during an interview with the Samoa Observer.
“My mom took me to a rugby club called Norths in Porirua which is Jerry Collin’s club where I stayed for two years.
“From there I went to a few other rugby clubs before going to Saint Patrick’s Silverstream in Wellington.
“It was there that I found my love for rugby.
“I had pretty bad anger management problems and someone told me that taking it out on rugby would help and it actually did.
“Playing rugby helped me so much in that regard.
“The physicality of the game just got rid of a lot of tension and anger I had built up in me, from the hard hits, the scrums, and everything else just helped me leave everything behind on the field.
“After every game I would be so tired but it would feel so good, especially when you play alongside teammates; playing rugby teaches you so much more than just hitting one another.
“It’s one of the best ways to build character and you learn so much from friends and fellow players.
“If it weren’t for rugby, I might have ended up going the other direction just like many other boys; rugby made me a better man.”
Ever since Teofilo found his passion for the sport, he began chasing down his dream of representing Samoa one step at a time.
“So from there I made it into the Wellington Academy after that I went overseas to Ireland and played club rugby there,” he said.
“When I returned in 2009 and got an opportunity in North Harbour up in Auckland and I stayed there for four years followed by a three year opportunity to play for Auckland Blues.
“Then in 2012 I got my first opportunity and honour to play for Samoa.
“I currently have one more season playing in Italy club rugby but this is where my heart really belongs.”
According to Teofilo, his family sacrificed a lot for him and he will make the most of it and not let a single drop of sweat go to waste.
“I never really picked this sport as a career,” he said.
“I was just blessed to be good at it and now I’m just focusing on not taking it for granted. I want to try making the most of all the opportunities when I get it.
“As I grew up I watched my parents and family sacrifice for me; I will never forget that sacrifice and it encourages me to be better than I was yesterday.
“They helped a lot through the little things; they don’t know how big those little things meant to me; things like dropping us off by foot every day and working hard even when they are tired so that they can provide for us.
“Now that I can, I just want to provide for them and make sure that they have a relaxing life as they get old; I’m still working on that one.”
From all the teams he has played in, there is nothing more honourable to Teofilo than to wear that blue jersey.
“I am very much honoured to be part of the Manu,” he said.
“It’s a different feeling to play for this country, just the support of the people leaves you breathless; there’s a different vibe when you’re around the boys I just can’t explain it.
“Sometimes it’s just an awesome feeling; I will probably remember these games more than any other one when I finish up with this career.
“Playing for Samoa definitely feels better than being part of any other team I have ever played for.”
Teofilo concluded by ensuring Samoa that this new era of Blue Jerseys will make everyone proud.
“Thank you Samoa for your continuous support,” he said.
“This is a new era; we have a new young team, new coaching staff so hopefully we build a new Manu Samoa and maybe qualify for the World Cup.
“For those future rugby stars my message is to enjoy being young because when you’re older time just flies.
“Work hard and stay in school, if I could have it any other way I would go back and do better at school.
“Just listen to your parents because when you grow up and have kids and you try and tell them off you will remember back to when you were just like them.
“Rugby is not an easy game, don’t just focus on the one thing, you must always have a back-up plan so that’s why you have to do well in school.”