Josh Papalii takes on the Warriors on Saturday.
Regaining his prized Queensland State of Origin jersey is the furthest thing from Josh Papalii’s mind as the Raiders forward seeks to regain his blockbusting form.
Papalii was demoted to the bench for Saturday night’s 54-12 flogging at the hands of the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland.
The 21-year-old hard hitting second-rower was a regular in the Raiders’ starting line-up last season, forcing his way into the Maroons side and also the Kangaroos for their triumphant World Cup campaign.
However, after a short preparation going into this season after the World Cup, Papalii returned to the Raiders overweight and unable to live up to his high standards.
His form was inconsistent through the opening eight rounds – while he also missed a couple of games with an ankle injury – before Raiders coach Ricky Stuart dropped Papalii and prop David Shillington to the bench after the 54-18 loss to Manly a fortnight ago.
“I was all right with it,’’ Papalii said of his benching.
‘’Obviously I’m not playing the best footy and not in the best shape, yeah I guess those things can happen.
‘’Other boys are playing better than me and I took it on the chin.
‘’I’ll move forward and try and play some good footy.’’
Papalii left the field late in the second half of the loss to the Warriors after re-aggravating his ankle injury, but is expected to be fit for Sunday’s match with the Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium.
The Raiders could badly do with him adding his trademark aggression and punch on the edges after that was an area the Warriors badly exploited.
His attacking game, ability to bust the line and provide offloads to the outside backs has fallen away as Papalii’s ability to play 80 minutes has diminished.
Papalii is in his fourth season in the NRL and is contracted to the Raiders until the end of 2016.
He signed with Parramatta last year, only to change his mind and negotiate a new three-year deal with the Raiders.
After being overlooked for the Kangaroos side for the recent Test with New Zealand, Papalii spoke with both Australian coach Tim Sheens and his Queensland coach Mal Meninga to get advice on how to get back to his best.
Papalii isn’t worrying whether he keeps his spot in the Maroons team, using last week’s representative bye to gain match fitness in the Queensland Cup with Souths Logan.
He played all 80 minutes for the Raiders' feeder club and had a hand in two tries.
“I’m not even thinking about it to be honest, just thinking about getting my ankle right,’’ Papalii said.
“It was always the Raiders first.
‘’That’s the reason I went to Souths Logan and try to get some fitness under my belt and play good for the club.’’