NRL | Rookie Newcastle Knights prop Pasami Saulo says his young family is his inspiration to make it in the NRL

He is the rookie Knights prop taking his first tentative steps in the NRL, juggling a footy career with fatherhood – all at the age of just 20.

But rather than stressing about carrying such a load and responsibility at his tender age, Pasami Saulo views his situation as a “blessing”.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,”he told the Newcastle Herald this week.

“The dream has always been to play in the NRL. And my young family – they are what’s driving me. I feel blessed with how it has all worked out.”

Saulo’s young family is his two little boys, one year old Hikairo and new born Manuia, and his partner of three years Kate Stobbs, who gave birth to the newest addition to the family a little over a week ago, a few days after the young prop’s NRL debut in Auckland against the Warriors.

“Neither of them were planned but I’m really happy it’s happened and blessed they have come into our lives,”Saulo said.

“Kate is absolutely awesome with them and we have had plenty of support from our family and the club. We are young but it’s going really good.”

So good that without the added responsibility, Saulo is convinced his game would not have developed as quickly.

“Without my family, I probably wouldn’t be as driven or focused,” he said.

“I’m doing this for my family. I need to look after them and support them and hopefully, I can make a go of it and I’ll be here at the Knights for a long time.”

Family has always been important for Saulo. Born at Belmont, he is the eldest of five kids with his Australian mother and Samoan father moving around when they were younger.

They spent a couple of years in Sydney and some time in Brisbane before moving back to Morpeth, where Saulo played some junior footy with the Bulls.

Knights junior recruitment boss Troy Pezet described him as “this fat kid” with talent who came into the club’s Harold Matthews Cup squad weighing 107 kgs when he was 16, the same weight he strips at now, four years later.

“It’s true, I was a fat kid and I had to make some changes and some sacrifices to stay here,” he says.

“Back then, I’d ride my bike from Morpeth to Maitland train station three days a week to get into Newcastle for training and then ride home again afterwards but it’s obviously been worth it.

“I had a season with the Maitland Pickers in the Under 19’s when I was playing S G Ball and that’s when I really started to shoot up. I wasn’t really too concerned about my diet until I spoke to the club’s nutritionist [Rachel Svenson] and she has been a real big help in getting my skin-folds down.”

The boom on Saulo has been around for a few years now with a couple of the NRL’s heavyweight clubs sniffing around but the Knights have always had him under lock and key.

Despite still being able to play Jersey Flegg, he has spent the majority of the season in NSW Cup before coach Nathan Brown decided to give him a taste of the top grade against the Warriors a fortnight ago.

“He’s obviously had plenty going on outside of footy with his family and Dean Noonan [Knights head of welfare] has done a great job there and Pasami’s game has come on really well,”Brown said.

“He is a really good kid and I was looking to give him a couple of games before the end of the season and he’s handled it like I knew he would.”

He only got a few minutes off the bench in his debut against the Warriors in Auckland and admitted he struggled to contain his nerves.

But he felt far more comfortable for the experience in the win over the Panthers at Pepper Stadium last weekend.

“I just had the nerves under more control and I knew what was about to come up,” he said.

“It felt really good, much better.”

But he faces an even greater test on Sunday, up against a battle-hardened Sharks pack who have dominated the Knights physically on plenty of occasions during a run of seven straight victories.

“I’m just really thankful that Browny has given me the opportunity to have a crack. I’ve got a lot of things to work on and hopefully, I just keep improving,” he said.

“I’m looking for a massive off-season and I’ll work on all the things I need to work on in the pre-season and hopefully be playing every week in the NRL. That’s the goal.

“There’s a chance for me here and I need to take it.”

Deeper reading: The Newcastle Knights

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