Maroons have plans for adopted son Papalii
Josh Papalii is in the Emerging Queensland squad. Photo: Jay Cronan
Canberra Raiders enforcer Josh Papalii is firmly on Queensland's State of Origin radar, three months after the New Zealand-born second-rower switched international allegiances.
Papalii and Canberra teammate, hard-running outside back Edrick Lee, were on Friday included in a 14-player Queensland Academy of Sport Emerging Origin squad, featuring Dally M medallist Ben Barba and Manly's premiership-winning halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, while John Folau, the younger brother of code-hopper Israel, has been chosen in a junior Maroons squad.
But it's the selection of Papalii that will cause most conjecture both in NSW and across the Tasman.
Edrick Lee is in the Emerging Queensland squad. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
A former Junior Kiwi representative, the 20-year-old was on the verge of breaking into the New Zealand Test team when he announced in September he wanted to play for Queensland.
Papalii was born in Auckland, but moved to the Brisbane suburb of Logan when he was six.
Queensland chairman of selectors Des Morris told The Canberra Times that Papalii's eligibility shouldn't be an issue given that's where he grew up.
''To be honest, I'm a bit confused about what makes New Zealand and Australian guys these days,'' Morris said.
''But he has come through the junior ranks, so you think that's where he's learnt all his football.
''If they've done most of their training in Queensland, I don't see what the argument is.
''If he'd come over two years ago or last year, then it's a different matter, but he's been here for quite a while.''
Papalii has played 40 NRL games for the Raiders and cemented his spot in first-grade last season, featuring in every match.
But it was his blockbusting performance in Canberra's semi-final win against the Cronulla Sharks, where he did a demolition job on NSW captain Paul Gallen, that he made his mark.
''That obviously sticks out because it was no mean feat,'' Morris said.
''But he was judged on his performances of the tailend of the season where that wasn't his only good game and he was playing pretty consistent football.
''We think he'll be a prospective Origin player in the next couple of years.''
The Emerging Origin squad will work with QAS rugby league director Wayne Bennett and Maroons coach Mal Meninga from January 25-27.
Raiders young guns Anthony Milford, Patrick Mago and Brenko Lee will train with the inaugural Queensland Junior Emerging Origin Squad from January 17-20.
John Folau has also been included in the squad.