In demand ... Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii. Photo: Jay Cronan
Canberra Raiders prop David Shillington believes Mal Meninga could be the club's secret weapon as it ramps up its quest to re-sign in-demand second-rower Josh Papalii.
Papalii is weighing up a reported $1 million offer from Parramatta, which is desperate to secure a high-profile forward after missing out on star Cowboys props James Tamou and Matt Scott.
Three-time premiership captain Meninga came on board as club ambassador before last season. His role includes helping with player retention and recruitment.
Raiders legend Mal Meninga with CEO Don Furner. Photo: Graham Tidy
Auckland-born Papalii pledged his allegiance to Queensland late last year, and Maroons coach Meninga's opinion could help Canberra retain the 20-year-old.
Fairfax Media understands Meninga has spoken to Papalii about his future, and advised him to go where he felt he would play his best football.
New Parramatta coach Ricky Stuart was denied Origin glory by Meninga's Maroons as Blues coach.
Shillington said Meninga could also help thwart Stuart's quest to poach Papalii, as he tries to rebuild last year's wooden spooner.
''Originally we were told that was part of Mal's involvement with the club, to help with recruitment and sponsorship,'' Shillington said.
''Papa obviously would be a prime candidate to talk to.''
Fairfax Media understands Papalii has told his teammates he wants to stay loyal to the club which gave him his first big break.
Papalii is one of a handful of first grade regulars yet to be locked up beyond next season, including Sam Williams, Jarrod Croker, Joel Thompson and Brett White.
Shillington said the playing group had forged a close bond and hoped that would prove too difficult for Papalii to walk away from.
Parramatta is in the rebuilding stage after a lean few seasons, while Canberra is quietly confident of improving on its sixth place last year.
''Obviously the last two years have been unreal for his development, and he owes a lot of that to himself and the Raiders' coaching staff and his teammates,'' Shillington said.
''We're quietly confident, I think he's got a good attachment to the team and is a popular member of the squad.
''It would be tough to leave that setting.
''Parramatta have missed out on a couple of big stars in the forwards, so there's that desperation to sign a marquee player, and really throw some cash at Papa.
''I have no idea what they're offering him and how it compares to the Raiders offer, but hopefully he's made some good teammates, appreciates what the club's done for him and we want him to stay desperately.''
Coach David Furner told Fairfax Media last week the Raiders were looking to sign Papalii until the end of the 2016 season.
While he doesn't come off contract until the end of this year, Canberra has offered to upgrade his contract for the 2013 season.
''We're looking at a third year, which effectively makes it four [including 2013],'' Furner said.
''We're a long way down with him, whereas we haven't started with the others.''