HE has yet to appear in a first-grade game, but Newcastle Knights officials have so much faith in Pasami Saulo’s potential they are set to lock him in for the long haul.
Saulo, a 2016 Australian Schoolboys representative, spent the first half of this year in National Youth Competition before progressing to Newcastle’s NSW Cup side, featuring in their play-offs campaign.
Last week the towering 19-year-old kicked off his first pre-season with the NRL squad and is expected to be groomed for a possible debut in 2018.
His agent has been negotiating with Knights officials and it is understood they are close to agreeing to an extension that would secure him for the next three seasons, until at least the end of 2020.
The Maitland product and former Hunter Sports High School student, who has been with the Knights since he was 15, is still eligible for under-20s next season but hopes to be featuring at a higher level.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
“It’s hard and the body is still getting used to it.
“But it’s a good bunch of boys and they’ve welcomed me. I’ll be trying to learn as much as I can off them.”
Saulo, the 2016 recipient of the Carlson Club-Andrew Johns Medal won previously by the likes of Johns, Brett Kimmorley, Owen Craigie, Anthony Quinn, Dane Tilse, Kade Snowden, Jarrod Mullen and Sione Mata’utia, said the step from under-20s to reserve grade had been challenging.
“It was tough,” he said.
“A little bit slower, maybe, but the physicality of it was much more intense.”
At 188 centimetres and 107 kilograms, he already appears built for first grade but his goal during the next few months is to “get a bit bigger and stronger and work on some speed”.
“Eventually maybe 109 [kilograms] would be a good size,” he said. “Lean muscle.”
Already one of his Australian Schoolboys teammates has graduated to the NRL – Canberra winger Nick Cotric, who was the Dally M rookie of the year this season.
Knights coach Nathan Brown has blooded 15 debutants in the NRL in the past two seasons. Saulo hopes to become the 16th.
“I’ve just got to perform in training and show him what I can do,” he said.