Rugby League


Raiders forward Josh Papalii to make the most of Origin selection

For all the money in the world, Raiders forward Josh Papalii believed he would be running out on to Canberra Stadium for Sunday's match against the Cowboys.

Perhaps the only one to think otherwise was Maroons coach Mal Meninga.

Fortunately for Papalii, Meninga's vote - and that of the Queensland selectors - are the only ones that matter.

The Maroons are renowned for sticking with players, showing loyalty even when they're going through a lean patch.

It's a formula that's worked for them over the years in stark contrast to NSW's policy of chopping and changing at the first sign of bad news.

Papalii is the first to admit he's lucky to have gotten the nod for Wednesday night's State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium.


His form has been well down on his best, a combination of coming back from last year's World Cup overweight and having one eye on the plight of his younger brother John.

John Papalii on Thursday pleaded guilty to robbing and attempting to rob two Canberra supermarkets in December.

A hearing on a further three charges of assault and obstructing police has been adjourned until July for further negotiation.

Josh Papalii spoke to his brother on Thursday from the Queensland team camp at the Gold Coast, but wanted to keep the matter private.

Papalii credited a heart-to-heart chat with Meninga a couple of weeks ago with helping him to stay positive and realise his best form wasn't far away.

"I just talked to him about some off-field stuff and that's helped me on the field as well,'' Papalii said.

"To be honest, I ruled myself out, I'm just thankful he stuck by me and gave me the chance to prove myself.

"I'm indebted not only to Mal, but also the boys who are here and my state.

"Hopefully I can do the job next Wednesday.''

Papalii is peaking at the right time.

His 133 metres gained from 16 carries in last week's 26-20 loss to Penrith was the first time he had broken the 100m barrier this season for the Raiders.

Papalii benefitted from having Josh McCrone back in the halves as the pair created havoc out wide for the Panthers' defenders.

However, there is every chance Papalii will be deployed in the middle of the field for Queensland once he comes off the bench.

With fellow second-rowers Ben Te'o and Aidan Guerra the other interchange forward replacements, Papalii is likely to take on the Blues' big men in his third Origin game.

''Origin is a lot quicker and a lot more physical - you've just got to be prepared for it and put your body on the line,'' he said.

''Everyone goes through that stage where they realise Origin is the real thing.

''Playing Origin for the first time last year you realise there's a big difference between that and club footy.''