Rugby League

Canberra Raiders re-sign Josh Papalii until end of 2018 NRL season

Canberra Raiders forward Josh Papalii wants to make the capital - and the back row - his permanent home.

Re-signing Josh Papalii to a long deal is a big coup for the Raiders.
Re-signing Josh Papalii to a long deal is a big coup for the Raiders. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Both wishes have the blessing of Raiders coach Ricky Stuart who is keen to fulfil the Queensland Origin forward's dream of being a "Raider for life" after he resigned until the end of 2018 on Friday.

After returning to the last pre-season a little overweight, Papalii spent the first few weeks of the 2015 campaign at prop.

Papalii has returned to pre-season training fitter and more committed.
Papalii has returned to pre-season training fitter and more committed.  Photo: Graham Tidy

He was far more effective out wider once he regained his fitness, and his strong form was rewarded by a Maroon recall for Origin III.

Stuart has been rapt by Papalii's discipline in returning in top nick this summer after he completed extras during the player's break.


Although the Raiders have far more depth in the back row than prop, Stuart said he would resist moving the 23-year-old from the right edge.

"[While} Papa turns up in good health and is training hard he plays back row, because that's his best position," Stuart said.

"He's really pleased me with how he's returned to training. He started training earlier and did a lot of work just after the season in making sure he was fit."

The last time Papalii put pen to paper on a Canberra Raiders contract it made big headlines and Ricky Stuart was less than pleased.

The tables have turned and Papalii is determined to realise his dream of being a one club player.

Papalii turned down Stuart's advances three years ago when Stuart was Parramatta coach, using the now-defunct round 13 rule to remain at the Raiders.

This time around it was a no-brainer.

Now with one-year-old daughter Khalani-Rose to care for, the Queensland Origin forward wants to spend the rest of his career with the Raiders.

Not even his parents moving back home to Brisbane last year impacted his decision to join the likes of Blake Austin, Jack Wighton, Shannon Boyd and Joey Leilua in re-committing to Canberra.

He has already put part of his new deal to good use by buying his parents a house, and he believes he's found a permanent home of his own.

"I loved Canberra ever since I moved down, I didn't want to be in any other place," Papalii said. "The decision came pretty easy talking to my missus. I love the lifestyle and the boys and the coaching staff.

"Obviously my parents are in Queensland now but it doesn't take anything away from being here. Having my little one there and trying to provide for her, and also my parents is pretty massive."

"I was lucky enough to buy my parents a house, it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. It just wasn't in Canberra, though. I'm very happy to re-sign and hopefully I can hang around for a few years to come."

The Raiders haven't made finals for three years but the recent influx of player re-signing shows they have belief success is just around the corner.

"We haven't made finals for a couple of years now and the belief of cracking the top eight or the top four next year is pretty high at the moment," Papalii said.

"It's good to get a few other boys re-signed as well. Hopefully we can do something special over the coming years."

Stuart said the commitment of Papalii sends a strong vote of confidence to the rest of the playing group.

"These boys all wouldn't be re-signing if they weren't happy, I don't know if people understand the powerful message he keeps sending out, that he wants to be a Raider for life," Stuart said.

"It's wonderful for the club to have such a great person but also a great football player and current Origin player wants to be here for life.

"It's the best I've seen him return from an off-season in how physically fit he is, and he's hungry for success.

Papalii is Canberra's only incumbent Origin player, but expects that number to grow with the likes of Austin, Wighton and Paul Vaughan regarded as potential future Blues.

"I believe we have more representative and Origin players here who will achieve that goal if they keep committing the way they are at the moment," Stuart said.

"In the next few years we will have a number of Origin players.

"We wanted to create stability in the club. We know we're all on tack in regards to the big picture. Stability and happiness is a very important factor in achieving that."