Strength without agility is a mere mass.” Fernando Pessoa
What an imposing football sight is the Eels’ Junior Paulo!
Opponents know that any collision will be an unpleasant encounter. Defenders who try to wrap their arms around him and wrestle his 124kg frame to the ground face a near impossible task.
But the powerful Eels prop is so much more than the sum of his physical dimensions. With his rich vein of form attracting the attention of a growing number of NRL pundits, fans are becoming increasingly aware of his praeternatural skills and athleticism.
What do I mean by that? Check what Joey Johns had to say about God’s handiwork in creating Junior Paulo.
Realistically, 20 stone footballers should be expected to possess all the speed and agility of a three-toed sloth. In contrast, watching big Junez carry the football is rugby league’s Endymion – a thing of beauty.
Where does one begin to laud such footballing pulchritude?
From an NRL perspective it began at the Eels in 2013, and after three years in the Nation’s capital, it’s now in full bloom in his second season back in the Blue and Gold.
My insights begin with the training track exploits of the Eels powerhouse. Those moments are a window to his skill set.
The Samoan international’s footwork during warm up/agility drills with Trent Elkin are astounding to watch. When he delivers the evasive manoeuvres that would do Brad Fittler proud, it’s highly impressive but not surprising.
To illustrate, consider this moment from Friday night as he bamboozles the Cowboys defence.
He takes the ball on the back foot then accelerates towards the defence. The right foot step, followed by the left foot step, then the hit, spin and offload – put those moves to music baby and take it to the charts.
This evasiveness, in addition to brute power, sees Paulo averaging 3.3 tackle breaks per game. To put this in perspective, and ignoring the one off performances of Gower and Field against the Cowboys, Junior’s average places him second at the Eels behind Michael Jennings (3.4) and compares quite favourably to the elusive Kalyn Ponga (3.9)
The old chestnut description of “halfback trapped in a prop’s body” is regularly applied to Paulo’s passing game. Fans have marvelled at the balls he’s thrown in playing a link role to the Eels outside backs. He can straighten the attack and pass at the line as adroitly as any top class pivot, and therein lies an additional weapon to his arsenal.
Tackling Junior is an unwelcome task for a single defender. When he engages the defence, the threat remains that he’s going to run the ball. Spaces are opened as others are drawn to the tackle, creating opportunity for support runners.
And if the big bloke carries the ball into the tackle, a rotation of his torso often frees the arms to facilitate the offload. Amongst his astonishing 8 offloads against the Cowboys was this pearler which led to Sivo’s third stroll to the try line.
Watch as he stands in the tackle of one defender, gets the interest of two more Cowboys, then twists his body to deliver a classic pass to Brown.
And yet there is still more to discover about Junez.
Few might know of Junior’s kicking skills. Though only on display at training – given Brad Arthur is unlikely to issue any match day licence – it’s not unusual to see sideline kicks sail between the posts in the competitions held during extras.
It’s probably best to describe the Cabramatta junior’s style as “bullying” the ball over the crossbar. The strike isn’t necessarily the sweetest, but the footy often travels low, straight and true.
Such was his kicking form one week, I had to ask him (from the other side of the COVID fence) whether he ever took conversions in junior footy. With his typical smile, and arguably channeling the immortal Jack Gibson, he answered, “Nah, I had the wrong number on my back.”
The Origin contender’s skills off the boot aren’t limited to off-the-tee. Paulo will often jump in to hoist high kicks for the back three to catch, and those bombs carry all of the awkwardness for which a team’s kicker would strive.
And just when I thought that there was nothing else to be found in Junior’s kicking kit bag, the talented middle forward produced a chip and chase for a giggle at last week’s Captain’s Run. Why not?
To finish the picture, let’s trot out some numbers. Consider this list of quality averages in 2020 – just under 56 minutes played, 170 running metres (his career average sits at less than 120 metres), 92.6 tackle efficiency. Then we have the raw totals – 26 offloads (topping the NRL), and 506.6 post contact metres.
At 26 years of age, and in his eighth season of NRL, Junior Paulo has unquestionably struck a purple patch of form. Arthur and the coaching staff are making full use of his talent and athleticism, and Trent Elkin deserves kudos for having him in the best condition of his career.
How good is it to behold?
Junior Paulo, an Eels football beauty!
I just love the first video! Coen Hess is just completely lost trying to work out what to do!
How good was it to watch at the ground too JonBoy?
When they teams ran out for the 2nd half I said to my kids, “Sivo is going to score two tries in the corner here”. At full time my youngest took great joy saying “you were wrong Dad! He got three”. The 7odd thousand were in fine voice with the ySivo Chant but I reckon it should have been a Gutho Chant! Maybe that’s something we should start petitioning for if he keeps up this form. Hell, let’s do ‘me all!
Paulo / Laney / Matto / Mooouse-tache
Put you in charge of the megaphone to lead the RCG chant mate?
Sixties, I reflected in another post that RCG has really allowed Junior to blossom as a total footy player. RCG has a tremendous work rate which allows Paulo to strut his skills. Why do the team look much fitter this year under Elkin, what is so different ?
Hard work and Trent Elkin Prometheus. In my training reports I documented the build up in conditioning workload during the preseason. They didn’t belt them first week, but gradually increased until they hit them with some of the most brutal sessions I’ve seen. I remember before the first brutal session, Murf walked past us and gave us the heads up that it was going to be a ripper. He wasn’t wrong. I felt guilty watching it!
Hi mate i’m glad you have written this about Junez if there is such a thing he is my -player of the year for Parramatta i am astounded as how he keeps going for so long the game is so demanding and quick
Mate, you’re a good judge of a footballer, so much respect for your opinion. Have to agree.
Sixties, I’ve never pictured Junior as a mythological hunter/shepherd, but his skills are sublime and therefore poetic more than prosaic. I only hope Brad Fittler is familiar with Greek myth (he is married to a woman of Greek heritage) and gives Junior his opportunity to shine in Origin footy come November.
Well, I did draw more on the poetic Endymion – “a thing of beauty is a joy forever!“ I’m hoping that our hero is part of the team to deliver Eels supporters the ambrosia which they deserve – that sweet, sweet title.
Now that sort of poetic sentiment would sound mellifluous to the ears.
You’ve impressed with your lexicon this evening Achilles 👍👍👍
Junior is a powerful player who must be attracting plenty of opposition analysis and focus. But he’s so skilled and unpredictable that he’s proving impossible to shut down.
Like the awesome Lillee & Thompson partnership in bygone cricket days, Junior and RCG work well together, both in some of the best form of their careers. Look forward to seeing these two take on the current NSW bookends this week.
Spot on DDay. He can feature in the team sheets, but how do you plan to shut Junior down when he’s in this sort of form. Extra defenders? He passes. Hold off? He’ll isolate someone. I reckon teams just to defend in their systems.
Last week I was late putting in my claim for seats to the Cowboys game. It was a problem that I created but that did not stop me winging all week about the lousy seats behind the Southern goalposts. In the second half, right in front of where I was sitting Jr got ball, the vision you have posted. That right foot step was a thing of beauty. Your video does not do it justice looking from behind. To see the 124kg frame coming straight at you then comes the big right foot step it will be one of my… Read more »
John, that move Junior put on looked just as amazing from the other end of the stadium.
G’day John Eel, I sat at that southern end also with my wife, daughter and one of my grandsons, her youngest son. I hope you weren’t the bloke who’s bourbon and coke I trod on and squashed moving into our seats? Anyway it was a great a perspective to watch the game from for a change and as I told our crew at halftime. “How good will it be to watch Parra score all their second half tries right in front of us? It sure was. Another point I have become excited about is our starting frontrow of RCG and… Read more »
Rowdy, I agree with your opinion, which I’d say is saying “matches are won in the engine room.” They were important when we won, though it wasn’t an interchange back then so having good replacements was beneficial. Junior and RCG seem to complement each other but the job done by our bench has also been impressive.
Ricky never quite brought out Junior’s talents for the Raiders. His last year there was as a bulked up (is that possible?) bench warmer. Maybe that assisted Junior to become more focussed about achieving his potential. He was just getting warm with us when circumstances forced him away, but he’s back with a vengeance, under the right coach, in the right roster.
BDon, he stripped quite a few kg last year, and this year Elkin has taken his fitness to a whole new level. I marvel at some of the things he can do on the footy field at training.
Joey Johns reckons despite his frame he is as light on his feet as a ballerina. His words not mine
Yes mate, it’s a fair comment. Included the clip of him saying similar.
Is that where I saw it.
It has taken JP sometime to put all this together. His next five years should be his best. Why? Because he hasn’t been over used that equated to his physical growth. His football maturity has, it seems, matched mental maturity. He is mixing with the right people. Jason T from the cowboys looks really tired simply because he has been flogged from a young age. He really needs a good rest. The same will happen to Paas and Fifta. It’s common knowledge, the really good bookends play their best when they hit the mid to late twenties. Look at Klemmer… Read more »
Very well stated Zero. Excellent points.
Great article Sixties and any article using ‘pulchitrude’ gets 2 thumbs up from me. On Junior, its great to see him finally getting the attention he deserves (Looking at you B Fittler/A Johns et al), what a player. I remember the first time i saw him in his first stint with Parra in his debut year against I believe Saints where he bumped Mitch Rein out of the road during a carry and offloaded to JHayne for one of the easiest tries he ever scored. From back then, you could see he had something special, almost a shame he had… Read more »
Cheers Luke. 😁😁😁
Terrific anecdote about that debut game. Hope it brought back memories for other people too.
A bit off topic but the story about Stefano in the Herald by Prozcenko was very good. Was positive and informative.
I would like to see a bit more of that type of journalism from the league writers.
Proshenks does his groundwork John. As opposed to the bloke who took some grabs from this post.
Can play, has always had the ability since his “junior (Paulo) days”!
I believe going to the Raiders did two things for Junz. He got the money to show his potential could be and would be expected to mature into consistent performance. It also took him out of “the mug gangsta” environment which he was mixing in, here in Sydney with some of his equally foolish and immature peers. He returned a better man and footballer. Those silly peers are either gone elsewhere or just GONE.
He’s definitely a leader now Rowdy.