Warriors coach Matthew Elliott says backrower John Palavi’s pre-season performance demanded he make his NRL debut against Parramatta.
Back-rower John Palavi’s long wait for his NRL debut ends on Sunday, with Warriors coach Matthew Elliott saying his form demands selection.
The 21-year-old Aucklander will run out at lock against Parramatta in Sydney, having played the first of his 64 matches for the Junior Warriors in 2009.
“It’s pretty exciting for me and my family,” he said.
“It’s been a long road and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Palavi said the hard work he put in during the pre-season had made him optimistic of a promotion to first grade.
He said he had been able to draw on the experience around him, particularly second-rower Feleti Mateo, who will begin on the bench against the Eels.
Palavi sat out the opening trial against Gold Coast, but made the starting 13 against Super League champions Wigan and Brisbane.
The former Junior Kiwis captain, who spent 2013 with the Auckland Vulcans in the NSW Cup, described his style as based on aggression.
“I like to be aggressive on attack and defence,” he said.
“That’s just what I bring to the team.”
Palavi’s achievements haven’t come just on the field.
He was head boy and dux at St Paul’s College and has since had to balance his medical studies at university with his football.
Elliott admitted that, if he had been asked 12 months ago about Palavi’s prospects of being in the NRL at the start of 2014, his reply would have been: “I think it’s a stretch.”
But he said Palavi had been massively impressive in his approach over the summer, on and off the training paddock.
“I had no choice but to pick him, not because it was just my choice, but also players came to me and said he’s got to be in the team,” Elliott said.
“It’s a pretty fair endorsement.”