Rugby League


Josh Papalii plays down rivalry with Paul Gallen after Origin hit

Raiders enforcer Josh Papalii has shot down any personal vendetta against Paul Gallen, claiming he treats the NSW captain just like any other opponent.

Papalii hammered Gallen in the back after he had released the ball during the second half of NSW's 12-8 win against Queensland in a fiery State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.

The incident was described in the Sydney media as a ''dog shot'' and linked back to the Raiders' semi-final win against the Sharks in 2012.

On that occasion, Papalii targeted Gallen with a series of legal hits to nullify his influence and helped the Raiders conquer the Sharks.

Papalii didn't realise Gallen had released the ball when he made the thunderous tackle, the pair shaking hands at full-time as they were happy to leave it on the field.

"I don't buy into [the media]; I thought he still had the ball,'' Papalii said.


"I do late hits on everyone, but no-one mentions that, they only mention the ones on Gallen.

"It's not a rivalry between us; we both just play hard.''

Raiders teammate Jarrod Croker dismissed suggestions Papalii was a dirty player, citing a similar late hit on Maroons fullback Billy Slater that went unnoticed.

"No, I don't think so. I think you'll find the same thing happened to Billy Slater up the other end,'' Croker said.

"I don't think there was much in it. It was more coincidence it was [Papalii] on [Gallen].

"There wouldn't have been much talked about if it was a different player.''

Papalii said he would be right to back up for the Raiders in Saturday night's match against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.

He is eager to prove he deserves to retain his spot in the Queensland team after making just 25 metres in three carries in the game one defeat.

Papalii is under pressure to keep his place with the imminent return of Broncos forward Sam Thaiday, who missed the series opener with a calf injury.

The Maroons are likely to go in with four forwards on the bench if Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans can recover from a hip injury in time for the ANZ Stadium clash on June 18.

Cherry-Evans, who will replace the injured Cooper Cronk in the No. 7 jersey, also provided cover in the second-row for the Maroons as champion hooker Cameron Smith is considered an 80-minute player.

Papalii admitted before the match he was fortunate to be selected as Maroons coach Mal Meninga kept his faith in him after last year's series.

Papalii was a part of Australia's triumphant World Cup winning team at the end of last year, but reported to Raiders' pre-season training out of shape.

He was left out of the Kangaroos' team for last month's Test against New Zealand and made the decision to play in the Queensland Cup when the Raiders had the bye to improve his fitness.

"I was very grateful to Mal for picking me in the first place,'' Papalii said.

"I was definitely honoured to take part in the 100th Origin game.

"I just have to go hard the next two weeks and show I deserve to be picked.''