Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Raiders enforcer Josh Papalii says his contract extension with the club is not yet a done deal, admitting the decision is proving to be as tough as his controversial choice of representative eligibility.
Encouraged by negotiations before Christmas, Raiders management had been extremely confident of returning in the new year to quickly announce an extended deal with Papalii until the end of 2015.
But as the Raiders prepared to return to pre-season training on Thursday morning, Papalii said he was in no rush to decide his future beyond this year.
Papalii was the focus of a representative tug-of-war between Queensland and New Zealand last year, the 20-year-old torn in his decision to eventually pledge allegiance to Queensland.
Asked how the decision to re-sign with the Raiders compared with that, Papalii said: ''With Queensland and New Zealand, that was tough not only for myself but for the people I asked for advice.
''It was pretty tough at the end. I can't split which one is harder.''
While Papalii admitted the offer from the Raiders was ''looking pretty good'', he is in no rush to finalise it.
Papalii said his priority was to look after his family - his parents, sisters and brother - who moved to Canberra last year.
''It's pretty awesome to have us all united again. They love the quiet life here in Canberra,'' he said.
''I love Canberra so much, this is where I started my senior footy at the highest level, it's hard to leave where you started.
''I'm looking to stay but the main thing is if the club can look after my family.
''I've still got a bit of time so I might as well use it … we've got a whole year to figure out what I'm going to do.''
Canberra's offer to Papalii includes representative incentives; the Logan Brothers junior was recently added to Queensland's emerging Origin squad.
Papalii ironically spent the holidays at a family reunion in Auckland, where he was born.
But recent changes to Origin eligibility, which require players to have lived in their state before the age of 13, would not have affected Papalii's final decision to side with Queensland. He moved to Brisbane at the age of five.
''I played all my junior footy in Brisbane, so I thought the right thing to do for myself was to try and achieve a Queensland jersey,'' the utility forward said.
''I haven't made it yet … to be honest I don't see myself in the next three to four years [making it], you've just got to work hard and see what happens. I have just got to be patient.''
Papalii finished last season at 112 kilograms and has dropped 4kg in the off-season to improve his endurance this year.
Voted by his NRL peers as one of the five hardest hitters in the game last season, Papalii said he may not even be the hardest hitman in the Raiders pack this season.
Papalii has praised the arrival of recruit Joel Edwards from Newcastle, claiming he will add to Canberra's back-row talent.
''A lot of the boys don't want to run in his corridor, he's actually an undercover hitman,'' Papalii said.
''I just close my eyes and hope for the best, but with Edwards, how he does it, it's just normal for him just to whack people. He's all natural.
''I do believe we're taking the momentum we had towards the end of last season into the trial matches and first round. I can't wait until we start.''