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From shipping containers to semi-finals: Pauga's Roosters resurrection

Roosters flyer Junior Pauga was unloading shipping containers when he got a call offering the opportunity to join the Roosters NRL pre-season in 2023.

When the Wests Tigers told him there was nothing left for him at the club at the end of 2022, the 27-year-old returned home to Brisbane to live with his family and began full time work at a freight company.

After already having cracks with the Warriors, Broncos and Wests Tigers systems, Pauga accepted his NRL dream had past - but handed a new glimmer of hope in becoming a Rooster - he packed up his bags and returned to his share house in Auburn.  

“I had nothing, my manager told me I had nothing and I was pretty sad. I wasn’t sure what I was doing," Pauga said.

“I went back to work full-time and was unloading containers. It was a pretty hard job, the first couple of days were alright but it takes a toll.

“But five weeks later, North Sydney gave me a call to ask if I was keen to come back and play for the Bears, through the Roosters.”

Junior Pauga and Sam Walker combine for a beauty


After busting his gut in the NRL pre-season, Pauga made his presence felt immediately on the Bears edge, scoring 14 tries and averaging over five tackle busts in 11 games in reserve grade.

Come May, when veteran winger Daniel Tupou suffered a hamstring injury, coach Trent Robinson looked to the Samoan speedster to fill the vacant edge position.

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“They gave me six weeks at the Roosters for preseason and so I took that and just ran with it and six weeks turned into 14 weeks and I ended up making my club debut,” he said.

“So I took a risk, and it was worth it.

“Everyone calls me young, I don’t think they know I'm 27… but I’ve just got to keep believing and just back myself.”

Pauga hasn’t looked back since making his club debut in Round 14, having played seven games on the Roosters edge, including Saturday's stunning 13-12 triumph over the Sharks.

When the humble winger returns to the Roosters’ left edge in Friday's semi-final against Melbourne, Pauga will be living proof that a second, third, or even fourth chance could not be far away for those hungry enough to chase it.

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“Obviously this is my first year of finals so I’m just enjoying the week and spending time with the boys and when it comes to the weekend and just get my job done and just do my part of the team,” he said.

“When I walk through these doors each day I just feel truly grateful and very lucky.

"I’ve worked so hard to get here and I have to pinch myself, that’s something I do every day when I wake up.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.