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The late blooming, unheralded heroes keeping the Sydney Roosters improbable NRL finals run alive

Until a few weeks ago, only the keenest rugby league trainspotter could have picked Junior Pauga and Terrell May out of a line-up.

If you were one of those people who knows an inordinate amount about what’s happening in the reserve grade wilderness, you might have known a little bit about them.

Or maybe if you worked alongside Pauga at the container company in Brisbane where he used to load and unload things before he headed off to training, or if you spotted May working at NADO Disability Services in St Mary’s you might have guessed they were footballers.

But now, with the two late-bloomers helping to keep the Roosters improbable finals run alive, everybody is fast learning all about Pauga and May who will once again form a crucial part of Trent Robinson’s side for this weeks’ sudden-death clash with Melbourne.

With Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii and Joseph Manu joining the casualty ward, the Roosters will be scrambling to get a team out there on Friday night. They’re one more dodgy hamstring away from pulling punters out of the Bat and Ball Hotel and sitting them on the bench.

But after what’s happened over the last few weeks, they’ll know they can rely on May and Pauga. There’s no need to worry about those two. They’ve got the good stuff.

May is one of the most improved players in the NRL this season. (Getty Images: Mark Metcalfe )

May’s transformation has been the more dramatic. The 24-year old prop made his NRL debut last season after years wandering through reserve grade at Penrith, Manly and the Wests Tigers.

“It was tough, hopping from club to club. I always wanted to be a one-club man but the way things happened and the way I wasn’t giving footy 100 per cent, I had to hop around,” May said.

“I wasn’t training hard, I wasn’t eating right off the field. I didn’t want to train and I was carrying a few extra kilos. I wasn’t playing with the passion I have now.”

May earned his first grade debut in the middle of last season and seemed to settle into life as a solid but unremarkable bench prop until, just a few weeks ago, he transformed into a wrecking machine.

Now, when May comes on the field the game bends his team’s way. Bigger name players can’t get a hold of him.

In the final round clash with South Sydney he churned through 173 metres – more than any other forward on the field apart from New South Wales and Australian lock Cam Murray.

In the narrow win over the Sharks he clocked 122 metres, including 93 in the torrid second half that has quickly passed into Roosters legend, and the Tricolours, for all the stars they’ve bought and made over the years, probably don’t win either game without May.

“When I first came here I didn’t feel comfortable playing first grade and doing the things I do with my play style, but the boys and the coaching staff knew what I had,” May said.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-09-12/sydney-roosters-terrell-may-junior-pauga-nrl-finals/102845342 The late blooming, unheralded heroes keeping the Sydney Roosters improbable NRL finals run alive

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