Rugby League

Canberra Raider Josh Papalii goes from Queensland Cup to Kangaroos

Josh Papalii has used a stint playing in the Queensland Cup to re-ignite his representative career.  

Papalii will complete a remarkable comeback when he is named in Australia's 24-man Four-Nations squad on Tuesday after being cast aside in May by the Test selectors.

Long haul back: Raiders forward Josh Papalii is back in the national frame.
Long haul back: Raiders forward Josh Papalii is back in the national frame. Photo: Getty Images

The Raiders hard man failed to recapture the form which saw him play a starring role for the Kangaroos at last year's World Cup. He battled with his weight and injuries, which saw him dumped from the Test squad that beat New Zealand 30-18 in May with Boyd Cordner and Matt Gillett taking his back-row spot.

"It was a wake-up call," Papalii said of his Test-axing. "You get one World Cup and you can't afford to fall asleep. You have to keep playing well.

"I chose to go back and play Queensland Cup to get myself to the ground. There were so many [representative] teams that I was in and I took it for granted. I thought the best way to come back to earth was to play lower grade footy which humbled me pretty quick. It was a tough period."

His stint out of the NRL was short-lived with Papalii finishing the season strongly, playing every minute of the Raiders' final seven games.


Australian coach Tim Sheens had been frank with Papalii when he called to tell him of his dumping from the Test side.

"He called me and said a few boys were playing better and I fully understood," Papalii said. "I found my feet again and became more professional off the field. I got into the game more and became more involved. It's a lot of effort off the field to perform on the field.

"I thought I would come back and still be in that World Cup grind but obviously I came back overweight and not in shape and not playing well.

"It was a lesson I needed to learn."

Despite having played the bulk of his NRL career on an edge, the 22-year-old is likely to fill the void left by the likes of Paul Gallen, Matt Scott and James Tamou in the middle of the field for the Kangaroos.

He had a taste of life as a prop playing front-row for the Prime Minister's XIII team against PNG on Sunday. Papalii was strong, along with fellow starting prop Aaron Woods, who will be handed his first Test jumper on Tuesday.

"I realised [Tim was looking at me as a prop] when I got named in the No.10 for the Prime Minister's XIII team," Papalii said. "It's something new. I've played stints there at club, international footy and a lot for Queensland so hopefully it works."