Jaxson Paulo still cops it from Rabbitohs fans.
Thankfully, the jibes are now much easier on the ears of the 23-year-old, who was subjected to death threats via South Sydney’s social media accounts after a rough night against Penrith last August.
“You get some people saying, ‘You made the worst mistake of your life’, and you’ve got others saying, ‘It’s the best decision you’ve ever made’,” Paulo said of the daily feedback he gets living in Rabbitohs territory after his switch to the Roosters.
Life as a Rooster sits well with Paulo after three games, especially after beating Alex Johnston to bag two tries in a 20-18 last-start win in the game’s oldest rivalry. It was arguably Paulo’s best NRL outing.
Recruited on a bargain-basement two-year deal by Trent Robinson last year, Paulo remains grateful for the family members who flew from his native Gold Coast to support him last year when abuse flooded in from Souths fans and an unwanted spotlight followed.
He’s also grateful for support from the Rabbitohs and Robinson’s bid to build him back up over summer.
Jaxson Paulo has scored four tries in three games for the Roosters.Credit:Getty
“No one really thinks that that’s going to come out [abuse], especially from supporters that you think have got your back through thick and thin,” Paulo said before Thursday’s clash with Parramatta.
“I’ve seen a bit of it – it’s not really the true diehard supporters, it’s the ones that don’t understand, or don’t see where it’s coming from, or they’re betting and stuff like that, which isn’t the best thing.
“After the game that last time [against the Panthers], I think I just turned everything off. More than likely I’m my biggest critic, so I already knew I played a bad game. I knew that I was going to feel it from someone, so I turned it off before I even got to see any of it.
“I spoke to my family, saying I’m all right. They were just worried about me more than anything. I sat there and spoke to them about it and just said, ‘Look, it’s a game. Stuff happens. I’ll come back bigger and better’.
“The start of this season, that’s where I wanted to come out and just show what I could do. So far so good, I guess.”
Paulo was under the microscope early on against the Rabbitohs in round three, misreading a back-line shift that led to a Johnston try. He was also targeted in the air by Cody Walker, fumbling an early kick in the process.
Robinson was full of praise for Paulo’s response – two tries stepping inside Johnston and a team-high 192 running metres – and rightly so considering what happened the last time he started a game with a couple of errors.
“Three rounds in and he has to go and play against them,” Robinson said.
“A lot of that stuff can come up, so I feel like that game showed the maturity. He had to play his former club, he got beaten on a pass and a kick in the first 10 to 15 minutes and then he nailed his role.
“He came back triumphant in the way he played. I feel like that’s the snapshot of where he’s at as a player.”
Paulo backed any further legislative reform beyond the Online Safety Act, introduced in 2021, to combat social media abuse of players and officials.
Meanwhile, he said every day of his first pre-season under Robinson “felt like being back at school” as he was given a crash course in the Roosters’ style of play and history.
“Coming into pre-season, I was a little bit all over [the place] from last year, coming through last year with all the struggles,” he said.
“Then coming here and Trent was really big on me just developing and being the player that he knows that I am and just making sure I understand all the Roosters stuff. I’ve felt like it’s been home ever since I walked in for the first day.”
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