Rugby League


McCrone urges Papalii to use Test dumping as spur

Canberra Raiders utility Josh McCrone has urged teammate Josh Papalii  to use his dumping from Australia's Test team as the spur to return to his explosive best.

The back-rower was dropped from the team which beat New Zealand in last year's World Cup final for Friday's re-match in Sydney.

Despite Sunday's embarrassing 54-18 loss at Manly, McCrone retained his spot for the third straight year on the Country bench to play City in Dubbo on Sunday.

Jack Wighton also kept his right centre position, having played five-eighth under Ricky Stuart at Canberra this year, while in-form prop Paul Vaughan won a maiden Country jersey. 

Papalii has been quiet since returning from a three-week layoff with an ankle injury three weeks ago, and joined Cronulla's Andrew Fifita as the major casualties. 

"We know he's got the ability and he does too, he's just a little off at the moment,'' McCrone said. 


"If he's honest with himself, he realises it too.

"I"m sure he'll  bounce back and he'll be in the [Australia] squad at the end of the year somewhere. 

"I don't think the injury is an issue."

Vaughan's Country selection follows a starring role for Italy at the World Cup, but he was  in no mood for celebration.

It should have been one of his proudest days since bursting onto the NRL scene last year,  but the Manly meltdown took the gloss off.

Vaughan, 23, was one of few shining lights for Canberra, finishing with 107 metres and 26 tackles. 

"It [selection] was a shock. We didn't have the best day against Manly, it's a pretty bittersweet feeling at the moment after a loss like that,'' Vaughan said.

"I just wanted to play well today and unfortunately that didn't happen. There's no good news to come out of a day like that.'' 

A year ago Vaughan was an anonymous toiler plying his trade in the NSW Cup.

But after just 26 NRL games,  the Gungahlin Bulls junior is the new representative player in the Canberra Raiders' star-studded front row. 

The agile forward has already scored three tries this season, the highlight his skillful match-winner in the dying stages of last week's 24-22 win over Melbourne. 

Wighton was a shock Country selection last year, and his effort in containing City and NSW Origin star Michael Jennings earned rave reviews from coach Trent Barrett after the 18-12 win at Coffs Harbour. 

He said he is welcoming the chance to go into camp to clear his head after the Manly loss. 

"It's a weird feeling. I'm obviously happy with the selection but it's bitter with the game we played today,'' Wighton said.

"It's going to be great to get away with the boys, the change of scenery will help. ''

Despite his strong start to the season, workaholic Raiders lock Shaun Fensom was again overlooked for a maiden Country jersey, as was centre Jarrod Croker who is in the best form of his career.

Croker was a victim of Wighton's retention as they both play on Canberra's left side, while Penrith's Adam Docker was picked at lock ahead of Fensom.