For Dyldam Parramatta Eels prop Junior Paulo, Toa Samoa’s 18-6 win over Mate Ma’a Tonga to take home the Pacific Shield wasn’t just for the crowd, family and countrymen watching, but also for those who couldn’t be at the game.
After joining the Samoan side as 18th man in 2014, Paulo played his first ever Test for Samoa at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday night, missing the opportunity to play for the Kari City Origin side on Sunday in Tamworth.
“I was able to play for City, but choosing to play for Samoa was something special to me and my family,” Paulo said.
“It was something that was really inspiring, and I guess playing for my heritage. I lost my grandfather last year and he would have been proud of me, to play for our country. That was so special to me.”
The frenetic match saw Paulo line up alongside his Eels teammate Kaysa Pritchard, as well as two forwards he knows well from past Bulldogs clashes, Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard.
“It feels like we’ve known each other for years,” Paulo said.
“This was my first time meeting Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard and playing on the same side as them instead of playing in front of them.”
“He’s always a firecracker the little Kays (Kaysa Pritchard). But he’s got a lot of heart and I guess that’s what we play for: we play for our country and we carried them tonight and it was something special for us to get the win [for them].”
“Having the crowd lift up the atmosphere was what kept us in the game. We always knew that Tonga was going to come out all guns blazing, but we just had to weather the storm there and we were lucky to get them in the back end of the game. It’s a credit to our outside backs, who got in there and helped out our middle.”
Long after full-time, the Toa Samoa side stayed on the field celebrating with their supporters - click through to see the Samoan side’s on field siva.