A week in and Canberra recruit Junior Paulo feels he has a new lease on life, having left an NRL club with seemingly no chance of playing in the finals for one on the brink of the top four.
The former Parramatta prop made an earlier-than-expected debut for the Raiders in Friday’s 30-18 win over Manly, less than a week after departing the scandal-hit Eels amid much controversy.
A warning from NSW Police for allegedly consorting with criminals compounded a rough month for the western Sydney outfit, who had been docked competition points and fined for salary cap rorting.
“It’s hard to deal with coming from a club like that,” Paulo said on Monday.
“But I’m just grateful I’ve got an opportunity down here in Canberra to get my headspace right away from Sydney.
“There was a lot going on, especially around the club, and off the field for myself as well.
“I just felt like it was the best move for myself and especially my kids as well being a young father.”
Paulo hopes to find a house for his partner and two children – one-year-old son Mario-Cade and eight-month-old daughter Rosalina – to settle down in Canberra within a couple weeks.
On Monday morning, he had to drop them off in Sydney before driving back for training.
“I noticed the difference straight away … just the traffic, that’s the one thing I don’t miss about Sydney,” he laughed.
“Coming to Canberra, I’m already calling it home. It’s pretty much God’s country isn’t it?”
Paulo, like coach Ricky Stuart, rued the Raiders’ fadeout in the final 25 minutes of their clash with the Sea Eagles – despite still walking away with their third win in a row.
They face Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday; a team on the other end of the spectrum with three consecutive losses following a defeat to the Warriors in New Zealand.
Just one point separates the sides on the NRL ladder, with the Broncos fourth (16 points) and Raiders fifth (15).
Canberra will be without man mountain Shannon Boyd and Jack Wighton through suspension.
Wighton on Monday took the early guilty plea to a contrary conduct charge for touching touch judge Brett Suttor in the victory over Manly, leading to a one-week ban thanks to loading from a previous unrelated incident.