Josh Papalii's family in Canberra - (clockwise from left) Patrick, John, Luama, Etina and Crystal - can't wait for Sunday's World Cup final. Photo: Graham Tidy
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It was Josh Papalii's father, Patrick, who urged him to choose Australia over New Zealand. But Patrick Papalii couldn't convince Anthony Milford to remain at the Raiders long term.
A year after agonising over the decision to commit to Australia or New Zealand, Papalii has continued his rapid rise by being named in the 19-man Kangaroos squad to contest the rugby league World Cup final against the Kiwis on Sunday morning (AEDT).
Josh Papalii scored a try during his international debut against Fiji on November 2. Photo: Anna Gowthorpe
Born in Auckland, raised in Brisbane, but with parents of Samoan heritage, Josh Papalii's most important priority is representing his family.
But it was his father, a deeply religious man, who convinced his eldest son, just 21, to commit to Queensland and Australia.
''I tell the truth, the first time I heard I got a tear,'' Patrick Papalii said of his son's selection for the World Cup. ''I said thank you Lord, it's God who brought him here. Joshua is a Christian man. There's a lot of good players in Australia, the only thing I said to him was to thank the Lord.
''I told Josh I will never think about going to New Zealand. Joshua has been in Australia since five years old.
''I told Josh I would like you to stay with Australia and play for Queensland. Ever since under sixes, he would watch State of Origin and tell me he would like to play for Queensland and Australia.''
The Papalii family, including mother Luama, siblings Etina, nine, Crystal, 12, and John, 20, moved from Brisbane to Canberra last year to help Papalii overcome homesickness. The support of his family is a major reason why he reneged on a deal with Parramatta to recommit to the Raiders for another three years. ''Josh doesn't want to leave Canberra, because he always thinks about his young sisters and his family,'' Luama said. ''He knew we were settled in Canberra and his sisters at school.''
The Papaliis have also become family to Milford in Canberra. Papalii is very close to Milford, the pair describing each other as brothers rather than friends.
And so there was an understanding that Milford, 19, had signed to return to his own family in Brisbane from 2015. ''Josh tried hard for Milford to stay in Canberra, and I did, too,'' Patrick said.
''My advice to him was if you stay in Canberra you can get to the top, just like Josh.
''The island boys come here with no family but I say to them if Joshua can do this, you can, too.''
Luama added: ''Josh always talks to the other boys to focus on why they're here, to forget homesickness and remember why you left your parents all the way from Queensland or New Zealand.
''They come over and drink kava and play ping pong.''
The Papaliis are praying for a happier ending to Josh's tour, after he was robbed while withdrawing money from an ATM on the first day in Manchester.
''It was very hard; when I heard I couldn't sleep well,'' Patrick said. ''If I was there and someone tried to do something to him, I'd try hard to find them. If you love your son or daughter you try hard to protect them. I prayed to God to please look after him.''
Papalii's remarkable rise is helped by a strong work ethic ingrained into him by his father.
On his days off training at the Raiders, Patrick says it is ''his turn'' to take over. ''If the club has a rest day, it's my turn to get him into the boxing and things. I don't like the boys wasting time watching TV or playing games, it's lazy.''
Should Papalii run onto Old Trafford on Sunday morning, his family will watch from the other side of the world with pride. But they're counting down the days until they're reunited with him.
''Just one week is long enough, I feel the need for him to be in my place,'' Patrick said. ''I can't wait for my son to come home, I miss him.''