Papalii chooses Queensland in league tug-of-war
Josh Papalii playing for the Queensland under 18s in 2010. Photo: Supplied
Josh Papalii admits there’s some risk in turning his back on New Zealand to pledge his commitment to Queensland, but the Canberra Raiders forward says he ‘‘had to go with my heart’’.
Papalii ended months of uncertainty when he announced today that his representative allegiance was with Queensland, not his country of birth New Zealand.
Stuck in the middle of a tug of war between state and country, Papalii spoke with league legends Mal Meninga and Ruben Wiki as well as David Shillington, Bronson Harrison and his parents before finally deciding this morning that he wanted to play State of Origin for the Maroons.
‘‘But I didn’t feel any pressure on the decision, Mal didn’t put pressure on me,’’ Papalii said.
‘‘I had to do what’s best for my family, Queensland is where I was brought up and I thought [choosing them] was the right thing to do.
‘‘I had to go with my heart ... it was a tough choice. I wish I never had to make it. If I could do both I would, but I can’t live two separate lives.’’
Papalii had to make a decision after being selected in New Zealand’s squad for next month’s Test against Australia in Townsville.
Meninga first went public about his hopes of luring Papalii into the State of Origin arena earlier this year.
But Papalii said the issue was never a distraction.
He had signed a letter of intent in August last year to play for New Zealand.
However, Papalii said ‘‘I didn’t know what I was signing’’.
‘‘It was the urge for wearing the black jersey and a few of us mates wanted to wear the New Zealand jersey.
‘‘But Queensland gave me my rugby league opportunities and that’s where I want to play now.’’
Papalii was born in Auckland, but moved to Australia when he was six and play junior rugby league with Souths Logan in Queensland.
When he arrived in Queensland, he originally wanted to play rugby union.
But Souths Logan gave him his rugby league start and that convinced Papalii that committing to Queensland was the right decision.
Papalii’s decision could have been influenced by the huge financial discrepancies between playing for the Maroons or the Kiwis.
State of Origin player payments could rise to $50,000 per game while New Zealand representatives get $5000 for each international Test.