ACT News


Canberra Raiders dismissal led to John Papalii's downfall, court hears

The Canberra Raiders dismissal of John Jerome Papalii sparked a downward spiral that ended with the junior footballer robbing two supermarkets in the same drunken night, a court has heard.

John Papalii, brother of Kangaroos and Queensland origin rugby league star Josh Papalii, is currently facing sentencing for the robberies in the ACT Supreme Court.

He was heavily intoxicated when he robbed the FoodWorks supermarket in Pearce twice on the evening of December 13, telling staff he had a gun and asking for money. 

Papalii also attempted to rob the Five Star Supermarket in Spence on the same night.

The offences - described by a psychologist as "ridiculous" and "fairly pathetic" in terms of their sophistication - prompted a response from police, who found Papalii hiding in a backyard.

An officer struggled with him, but was thrown to the ground. 


Papalii was later arrested and brought before court, eventually pleading guilty. 

On Monday, the court heard from Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science director Professor James Ogloff, who spent four hours with Papalii in an attempt to understand the rationale for his strange behaviour. 

Professor Ogloff said Papalii's earlier dismissal from the Raiders, where he played as a junior, had hit the young footballer hard.

He said that event, combined with low mood, stress, and alcohol, reduced Papalii's capacity to make proper judgment.

If Papalii had not been in such a state of mind, Professor Ogloff said the offences were unlikely to have occurred.

In cross-examination, the Crown questioned the psychologist on whether the unusual nature of the offender's actions could simply be attributed to his intoxication.

The prosecution also asked Professor Ogloff about a minor common assault, committed by Papalii years before his dismissal from the Raiders.

Papalii's girlfriend told the court she noticed a significant change in her partner after his dismissal.

"I noticed that his performance levels started to drop, meaning less training, not wanting to do things that he'd usually do," she said.

"He started getting angry a lot over small things."

She said she could tell he was "bottling something up" and started pushing people away.

"It was really odd because I saw him two days before it [the offences] happened and he seemed really upset about something and just really stressed."

The court heard Papalii is now receiving counselling, has good support networks, is playing football again, attending church, and rebuilding his life.

His girlfriend, who said she planned to spend the rest of her life with Papalii, told the court he was now either at church or playing rugby.

Justice Richard Refshauge has delayed sentencing Papalii until mid-next year.

That is designed to allow the court to monitor his progress in turning his life around. 

He will reappear in court on June 17.