Papalii was right to put future first, says Kemp
The Eel deal … Josh Papalii. Photo: Colleen Petch
JOSH PAPALII turned his back on the Kiwis to commit to Queensland, but New Zealand high-performance manager Tony Kemp says Parramatta should be more outraged if the Raiders star reneges on his Eels deal.
The second-rower signed a letter of intent in August to play for New Zealand, but later switched allegiance to the Maroons.
At the time, Kemp accused Queensland of ''romancing'' young New Zealanders with the prestige and riches of Origin.
The 20-year-old signed a contract more than two weeks ago with Parramatta, the club only officially announcing it on Friday night.
Canberra have until round 13 to change his mind, and have made it clear they will do everything possible to stop his defection to Parramatta.
Already Canberra businesses have put their hands up to provide third party sponsorship to keep Papalii in lime green. But Kemp said Parramatta will have every right to be angry if he has another change of heart.
''There was no contract signed with us, if Parramatta's said he's signed a contract then he's going to Parramatta,'' he said. ''A contract's a contract. If he's signed a three-year deal, that's where he'll be playing for the next three years.
''It sounds like he's got a decent contract out of Parramatta, but it's about getting a career out of it not just a two or three-year deal.''
Kemp said the fact Papalii will play this season with Canberra, despite signing with the Eels, isn't ideal.
''It's a bad look. When you've got a kid that's meant to be giving his all to the club, but he knows he's going to be at another club for the next three years,'' Kemp said. ''It's always in the back of their mind they're moving on, and in that context it's not a good thing. Apart from putting in a draft system which would never work in the NRL, there's not too much you can do about it.''
Nathan Hindmarsh's retirement, plus his rich $500,000-a-year deal, means Papalii will already be expected to be a forward leader at the Eels.
Having watched his development through Kiwi representative systems, Kemp insists he is up to the task.
''He matured last year, I think some of his performances were a step above his years,'' Kemp said.
''If you're looking at someone with the potential to be a very good leader, he's one of them.
''Parramatta aren't at fault here, Canberra obviously thought they had Josh wrapped up and this kid was loyal, and he's moved on.
''You can't blame Josh for looking after his career, I back him 100 per cent. You don't get phone calls from clubs when they cut blokes.''
Despite his siding with Queensland, Kemp said New Zealand would welcome the former Junior Kiwi back if he has second thoughts.
''No doubt I think his heart lies with New Zealand and we've never ever pushed Josh to play for the country,'' Kemp said. ''He's always said he wanted to emulate Ruben Wiki and wear the black jersey, but I've always said when you get Origin shoved in your face every day, you do have second thoughts.''