Joseph Paulo's "perfect partner"!

Dedicated Eels fans might have spotted the PAULO POWER or PERFECT PAULO signs popping up in the crowd on the Western side of Parramatta Stadium in the last two years.


They belong to the petite Katy Gourlay, sitting between her good mates and fellow Eels family members and girlfriends, cheering on fianc Joseph 'Sefa' Paulo in the Blue and Gold.


The home-made signs hint at some big changes for Katy in the four years since she started dating Sefa.


"The first little while I didn't enjoy the footy; we used to fight," she says.


"I didn't understand why our whole weekend had to revolve around this whole game, why he couldn't come to a wedding the day before, or do anything the night before."


"I didn't really think it mattered if I was there or not, and I didn't see that he might need me there."


But how have Sefa and his Parramatta teammates taken to Katy's transformation into one of their biggest game day supporters?


"At the start Sefa really liked it, but then I think the boys were ribbing him and he started to get embarrassed. Especially last year [in 2012] a lot of the other girls didn't come so maybe they were just jealous that their girlfriends said it was too cold while I was still there with my signs," she laughs.


Growing up with the Knights as the family team, the Newcastle native has found a new home - and a new team - in Sydney. Working as a social worker to find housing for homeless teenagers while studying for her Education qualifications, Katy's forging a career path that will see her ready to teach kids anywhere from juvenile detention to hospitals.


But her initial move to Sydney at just 18 years old was to study at Bible College, and it's Katy's faith that first saw her cross paths with Sefa at Hillsong Church in Baulkham Hills.


"He asked me out for a year and a half, and I wasn't very interested," she admits.


"Then he asked me to go feed the homeless, it was our first little hang out, and I realised he was a pretty awesome catch."





In the more than four years since their first date, the couple has become engaged (in early 2013), started planning a December wedding - perfectly timed to not clash with the Rugby League World Cup - and just as Katy says her world has expanded to include her trips to Parramatta Stadium, Sefa's outlook has widened, too.


"The first two years it was hard dealing with wins and losses, knowing you have fans who aren't happy with the result or your effort. I was always so nervous to see him after a game."


"I know a lot of other girlfriends still get scared for their partners to come out at the end of the game but Sefa's pretty good."


"He does get upset but I truly think he appreciates seeing me and his mum there. And I think he knows now that football isn't everything, he has a lot of good things in his life."


And since the arrival of Bec Vella as the families co-ordinator for the Eels, the families, wives and girlfriends of the Parramatta Eels are more tightly-knit than ever.


"We get spoilt now," Katy says of her second 'Parramatta' family.


"We all come to the games, we'll come early to the leagues club and have dinner then all watch it together. We have dinners during the week, and on away trips we're all invited to go road-tripping together."


"Even when girls are fighting with their boyfriends they'll go to Bec for a talk, we all love her. She looks after us all."


The family feeling extends to Sefa's teammates, with Tim Mannah and a group of Eels players also regulars at Hillsong, and to both families, with Katy's mother switching her allegiance from the Knights to the Blue and Gold.


And despite her growing love for the footy - Katy admits that she screamed and cried with excitement when she heard Sefa had scored his first try for Parramatta in 2013 - there are still times when footy and real life clash for the couple.


"I'm not complaining, but I see that he misses out on a lot," she says.


"He's missed out on some of his best friends' weddings but at the same time it's a part of his job."


"In the first few years he was injured a lot, so there were always worries about if he'd get picked or if an injury would come back, and I understand now that he's never going to not play and risk not playing again."


"But then there are so many good things, like the invitations he gets me to events!"


And when it comes to Parramatta fans, she loves seeing them stop to talk to Sefa.


"He's so friendly, he's always laughing. To be honest everyone just loves him, and I don't blame them cause he's pretty great."