Canberra’s NRL stars say Junior Paulo will be welcomed with open arms if he makes an early switch from Parramatta, believing their strong team culture could help him.
The Raiders and Paulo’s agent are lobbying the Eels to allow the embattled forward to make the move ahead of his two-year deal, which begins next season.
Manager Sam Ayoub feels it will be in Paulo’s best interests to be released immediately and get away from some of the “distractions” in Sydney.
Paulo, 22, posted a now-deleted Instagram photo of himself, fellow Eel Corey Norman and Penrith hooker James Segeyaro dining last Friday night with convicted criminals.
The photo was believed to be have been taken in the hours before Norman was allegedly found to be carrying MDMA capsules into The Star casino. He has since been charged with drug offences.
Paulo was also caught playing in a third-grade rugby union match under a false name earlier this month, one day after a NRL game against Canterbury.
And now the Raiders – renowned for tossing out problem players in the past – believe they can help.
Skipper Jarrod Croker said the likes of Joey Leilua, who joined from Newcastle mid-season last year, and ex-Sydney Rooster Frank-Paul Nu’uausala had reformed under coach Ricky Stuart.
“Those guys have come in and bought right into Sticky’s culture and the way the club runs – and I think we’re seeing the benefits of it now,” he told AAP on Thursday.
“If he (Paulo) does come this year, or next year, I’m sure he’ll be fine and the boys will welcome him with open arms.
“Off the field, we’ll just help him as much as he can and, hopefully, he enjoys his time here.
“I know a lot of players, most players that come here, don’t expect to enjoy it as much as they do. The boys that are here now really enjoy it, so I’m sure he’ll be no different.”
Superstar hooker Josh Hodgson agreed, saying he wouldn’t have joined the club in 2015 if the culture wasn’t right.
“If anybody was to come mid-season, I’m sure they’ll fit in really well,” he said.
“I don’t want to play in a team that didn’t believe they could win and achieve things because you’re wasting your time.”
Eels forward David Gower, though, would like to see Paulo remain at the club, as their slim hopes of making the finals slip away following two losses and with points still to be stripped for salary-cap rorting.
“He’s been big for us,” Gower said.
“He’s been fantastic, especially with Timmy (Mannah) being hurt. He’s been one of our forward leaders and plays nice big minutes for a big man.
“He’s got nice skills so, hopefully, he stays with us for the rest of the year.”