NRL Rookie Spotlight: League’s hottest prospect Paul Alamoti ready to revive Bulldogs

Bulldogs fans have been desperate for something to cheer about for nearly a decade – and local junior Paul Alamoti might just be the answer to their prayers.

The 19-year-old was top-rated for instant success and has been well-regarded within the walls of Canterbury since joining the club in his early teens.

Alamoti has broken through with the Dogs and played on all junior sides before making the leap to the NSW Cup in 2022, starring in just 15 games with four tries and four assists.

The nearly 100kg center is a handful for opposing defenses for his power and speed, making him one of the most promising young stars in the NRL.

MORE: Canterbury Bulldogs 2023 season preview | Every NRL club’s rookie to watch

Only speak to The sports news Ahead of the season, Alamoti expressed his gratitude to Canterbury and his desire to help them change things on the field.

“I came to Bankstown Bulls when I was 11, I had a buddy who played there … I played there for a couple of years and then we went to Milperra Colts,” he said.

“I did all the development teams, played Matts, Ball, and a game of Flegg, and now I’m here. Not everyone can say that they started out at junior club and then worked their way up to the NRL top team… it’s a good feeling.

“I played the NRL trial last year and before that only played a few games of SG Ball, got injured and had a year off. Coming back into the Cup from my injury was a huge leap – there is a huge difference in the strength and speed of the game.

“I’ve competed against men who were in and out of first grade and whose bodies are fully developed and I’m just a young pup in the game. It was a good challenge and I loved every moment.

“I was very grateful to the club for giving me this chance. I feel like it took me a couple of games to get into it, but I feel like the end of the year when I was good was good.

“I had an injury after the U19 origin but coming back from it felt like I was flying at the end of the year.”

With highlights popping up at a young age and NSW Origin selections coming underage, Alamoti was seemingly destined for greatness before he was even allowed to hold a driver’s license or have a pint.

But the rising star never bought into the hype and credited his close family unit with keeping him grounded as his rapid rise through the Canterbury grades continued.

“I never really trusted myself — my family keeps me grounded and my dad was always strict with me,” Alamoti said.

“Every time he felt like I was out of place, he kept bringing me back. I found them very supportive – I have a very close-knit family and everyone just kept everything in the house so I don’t feel any extra pressure.

“My old man was the best person. He has always invested so much time in me since he was young – everything I needed for football, basketball and school was always there for me.

“He’s given me every opportunity I’ve gotten now and he’s pushed me every time.

“Everything I have now I owe him.”

Canterbury have undergone sweeping changes both on and off the field, with a major recruitment campaign and a new head coach in Cameron Ciraldo who will hopefully help them get back to the finals.

The club have also appointed Raymond Faitala-Mariner as “club captain” and brought in veterans like Willie Mason and Andrew Ryan to inject “Bulldogs DNA” into the current group.

Alamoti believes things are going in the right direction off the field, which can only lead to better results.

“You can feel that the DNA of the club is slowly coming back,” he said.

“There are a lot of connections to Ciro [Cameron Ciraldo] brought in and everyone bought into it. A real team atmosphere has developed around the store, everyone has gotten closer – the boys have been involved in everything.

“He’s very approachable and I feel like I can talk to him as a mate – that connection there is really good. He helped me a lot, especially with my defense and that was probably my Achilles’ heel last year.

“Dimensions [Wilie Mason] was massive in preseason at the club. Ever since he came in, he’s brought his old DNA with him from his playing days.

“He was massive – every now and then he pulls me aside and just chats to me about life experiences and football stuff and how to be a professional.

“Our skipper Ray was the best. He’s been a guardian angel to me since I came here and did my first NRL session a few years ago. He was the first to take care of me, he took me under his wing – especially this whole preseason.

“Every week he has a little debrief with me about things I need to improve and things I’m doing well.”

Alamoti heads into the club’s opening round clash with Manly full of confidence, where he is expected to earn the first crack in the vacant middle position following the off-season departures of Aaron Schoupp and Corey Allan.

A true student of the game, Alamoti has been looking at players past and present to ensure he can take on the best full-backs the NRL has to offer in his rookie campaign.

“GI [Greg Inglis] is just the best left center – everything he had in his game was great,” he said.

“Good running game, very strong defensively – I’ve made a lot of videos about him.

“Lately it’s been Justin Olam and Joey Manu, probably the top two centers in the last three or four years, and I’ve watched a lot of videos about them and also Stephen Crichton.

“I’m just learning little tips from them and trying to get better and add everything I can to my game.

“I want to play Round 1 now and cement my place in 17 for the 2023 season and hopefully continue from there.”

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