Parramatta should focus on getting more players into representative squads as part of the Eels' quest to regularly play finals football, according to the club's Samoan prop Junior Paulo.
Paulo was man of the match in Samoa's 24-6 win over Papua New Guinea during Representative Round and backed up for the Eels in their 22-16 come-from-behind win over the Raiders at Darwin's TIO Stadium on Saturday night.
His 161 metres, 15 runs, 54 post-contact metres and two tackle busts earned him praise from coach Brad Arthur.
The 25-year-old, who weighs in at 123 kilograms, didn’t mind admitting he felt a little fatigued as he sat on top of an esky in the Eels dressing rooms post-match. Put it down to two big running games in seven days plus the Northern Territory humidity, not to mention Josh Papalii and Dunamis Lui aiming up early in Darwin.
"Obviously winning helps in not feeling as sore," Paulo told NRL.com.
"It's an area we need to focus on – getting more rep players in our team. The more you do that, the better your footy is.
"We had a handful of guys go off and represent their countries and Gutho [Clint Gutherson] and Fergo [Blake Ferguson] went to Perth for NSW Origin.
"The more players that get to rep level is definitely good for us, but only if we all come back and be leaders."
It is part of the reason last year's wooden spooners are sitting in the top-eight - senior players setting the standard.
"I thought we did that against the Raiders. We didn’t get the start we wanted [falling behind 16-0] but we didn't give in."
Paulo's front row partner Kane Evans, a former Fijian international, was overlooked in rep round after a season and a half of up-and-down form.
"We know what Kane brings to the team with his aggression. It's a credit to him that he's worked harder to show that," Paulo said.
"He started off playing a couple of games for us in NSW Cup. But he knew where he had to get to and he went away from the field and did extras.
"Tonight he did what we want – ran the ball hard and tackling even harder for us. That's an area for both of us to play off the back of.
"We know our starts as front rowers help the team get off to a good start. It's something we need to do more."
Evans made 10 runs for his 110 metres in 43 minutes. He also made three tackle-busts and 22 tackles.
Match: Eels v Raiders
Round 15 -
Venue: TIO Stadium
- LIVE PASS
Paulo was playing against his former club for the second time and learned a lesson after the round five 19-0 loss at GIO Stadium.
"The first time we played them down in Canberra I sort of overplayed my hand a little bit," Paulo said.
"You can't go into games thinking you need to get one up. You need to just do your job as a team.
"Past couple of games we've been slowly building to the team that we want to be. And tough, gritty wins like that help.
"Normally we haven't been the side to play catch-up footy. We clawed our way back in the second half and I thought our benchies did a really good job.
"That 10 minutes before half-time they brought on a lot of energy. We need that moving forward – guys coming on a making some difference – they really stood out tonight."
David Gower and Tepai Moeroa came off the bench, each ran for over 100 metres and both made four tackle-breaks.