Parramatta prop Junior Paulo is excited for what a new-look Eels pack can deliver in 2020 after the entire squad hit the ground running this week.
Paulo – a seemingly perennial member of the dreaded "fat club" at this stage of most pre-seasons at the Eels and Raiders – looked fit and lean on Tuesday as most of the club's NRL squad arrived at Westmead Children's Hospital to spread some Christmas cheer.
"It definitely wasn't an off-season like the last one," Paulo said with a smile.
"I still managed to keep active and definitely the majority of our team has returned in good nick and we're happy to build from there instead of having to wait for guys to catch up, it's been a good return for everyone."
Paulo was keen to see what new faces Ryan Matterson and Reagan Campbell-Gillard could add to the blue and gold pack, with the latter back into running and light training after an off-season elbow cleanout.
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"It's good to get a couple of fresh faces and obviously Origin players as well, people in the mix, it's definitely helpful for us moving forward into next year and what we're trying to build here," he added.
"Especially for our middles, we know what they bring to the team, Matterson was one of Tigers' best performers this year and obviously we know what RCG is capable of in the Origin arena.
"He's come back off the back of elbow surgery so he needs to get some more k's in the legs and I'm sure he'll be ready to go once the season kicks off."
The Eels produced a stunning turnaround in 2019, going from last to fifth with only a few handy tweaks to the roster. If too much time is spent dwelling on that, Paulo said the players would risk getting ahead of themselves.
"Everyone's just ready to take 2020 on," he said.
"It all starts from the preparation during pre-season. We found that out last year, it was a good pre-season for us and we're aiming to have the same impact in 2020."
Another outcome of building a successful culture was the eagerness of so many of 2019s good performers to extend.
Key men Clint Gutherson, Mitch Moses, Dylan Brown, Reed Mahoney and Michael Jennings have all extended or are close to doing so while promising youngster Oregon Kaufusi also recently extended.
"We're trying to build a successful culture like successful teams like Melbourne and the Roosters and I think we're heading in the right direction," Paulo added.
"When you've got people who want to stay at the club, I think we're making the right moves off the field as well so everyone wants to be part of the club. 2020 will tell and hopefully, we can keep building on what we did this year."