Former Blues prop Mark O'Meley is inspiring Parramatta enforcer Junior Paulo ahead of his NSW Origin debut
Junior Paulo is ready to “run through blokes” on Origin debut for NSW after some inspiring words from his idol, former Blues prop Mark O’Meley.
Over a decade after watching O’Meley dominate for NSW, Paulo is primed to follow in his idol’s footsteps and star on the Origin stage.
The Eels enforcer has gained valuable insights from man nicknamed, “Ogre”, who has been in NSW camp as the team’s Covid-19 marshall, heading into Origin 1 at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday night.
“Mark was the king of coming off the back fence and it has been great to be able to learn off him,” Paulo said about O’Meley, who played 10 Origins for NSW between 2001 and 2006.
“He made a name for himself by doing that and being the enforcer bloke to put the boys on the front foot.
“Mark just told me to enjoy that first hit up and try and set the tone for the team.
“I guess everyone wants that first hit up and if I do get a chance, I won’t leave anything in the tank and I’ll just run through blokes and hit hard as well.
“It is going to be a game of who is the toughest and who can last the longest.”
Paulo’s journey to Origin has been long, and challenging path.
Several off-field incidents threatened to detail his promising career before he left Parramatta to sign with the Raiders in 2016.
“I think moving to Canberra helped me become more mature,” he said.
“It was the first time I moved away from home and I was a young parent that taught me to make better decisions.
“Any decision I made was for my family and that is one thing that has been a key influence for me off the field.
“It all starts with me playing good footy and living a happy life off the field.
“My parents have always been there, and I’ve got a beautiful partner who is mother to my three children.”
Paulo has been waiting to play Origin his entire life, so he has vowed not to waste a minute of the time he receives on the field.
It’s a lesson that has also been drummed into him this week from Blues coach Brad Fittler and his assistants in Craig Fitzgibbon and Danny Buderus.
“Those guys were made for Origin,” he said.
“It is good to be around them and the best part is just learning from their experience.
“I’m just excited to be around the boys and in camp working with Freddie and the likes of Fitzgibbon and Buderus.
“In terms of quality, it is second to none and we’ve got a good bunch of boys in camp as well who have helped me settle in being one of the new kids on the block.
“We have already started to build combinations on the field, so I’m looking forward to the series.”