Pauli's City Reward After Horror Moment
From a hospital bed to lining up alongside former Australian internationals Paul Gallen, Matt Moylan and James Tamou in the final Country-City fixture, the comeback to the game for Pauli Pauli is a case of mission complete.
Give it everything you've got because life is too short.
With those words, City Origin and Newcastle Knights prop-forward Pauli Pauli is relishing his second chance in rugby league again and ultimately, his life.
A day after the embattled Knights were rocked with news Jarrod Mullen was facing a four-year suspension for testing positive to an anabolic steroid back in January, the 22-year-old planned a routine trip to Sydney with his family when he was involved in nasty car accident on the M1 motorway that left him with a dislocated hip.
Thankfully for all parties involved, there were no casualties to come out of the seven-car pile up but the incident resulted in eight people being rushed to hospital including the Hills Bulls junior.
There were early fears the former Eel would miss the season but was later cleared of a fracture in his hip and returned to the field via the Knights Intrust Super Premiership side.
"It restored my faith knowing I was protected in that moment and my family too, the accident wasn't an easy thing to go through but faith kept me strong and got me here now," Pauli told NRL.com ahead of Sunday's clash with Country.
"I wasn't supposed to be back until Round 15 but [the hip] healed real fast and I thank God every day that I'm here and have recovered."
While City coach Brad Fittler was scrambling to find players for the final fixture with a large contingent ineligible and injured, Pauli wasn't one called to simply make up the numbers.
"I got a call at about 8pm on Sunday night, heard my phone ring while I was having a little sleep… it was very unexpected," he said.
"After only playing the last four weeks in reserve grade I never thought I would get the opportunity to play for City. To get the chance is a big credit to all the teammates back at the Knights for helping me get here.
"I'm proud of how far I've come and there isn't a whole lot of City representatives at Newcastle so for me and Rossy (Nathan Ross) to take the field together is awesome."
With the unexpected representative call-up, Pauli's return to the NRL Telstra Premiership is unlikely to be too far away as the Knights battle an injury crisis and seven-game losing streak.
"[Nathan] Brown and I talk every now and then about my progress, he just wants to look after my hip and doesn't want me to get injured real quick but hopefully I'm back soon," he said.
"There's more important things in life than football and you don't have to dwell on one game or a loss, there is always a chance to come back the next week.
"I've learnt to just give it everything you've got because life is too short and I know I've got a gift and need to use it to the best of my ability."
This article first appeared on NRL.com