Josh Papalii could be headed to Parramatta with reports the Eels have offered the second-rower a million-dollar contract. Photo: Jay Cronan
Raiders enforcer Josh Papalii won't be distracted by on-going speculation about his playing future and is primed to step up to the state-of-origin arena.
That's the view of Canberra lock Shaun Fensom as the Raiders face a torrid battle to retain the hard-hitting Queensland prospect in the face of a reported million-dollar move to Parramatta.
The Raiders earmarked Papalii's re-signing as a priority at the end of last season after the 20-year-old rose to prominence with his powerhouse performance against NSW captain Paul Gallen in the first week of the finals.
But they have so far been unable to secure his signature, with the uncertainty over the rise in the salary cap understood to have been a stumbling block in negotiations.
Fensom expected Papalii to remain focused on this season irrespective of where he ends up next year.
''He'll be making the right decision that's for him, but I don't think it'll affect his performance at all,'' Fensom said.
''At the end of the day, you've got to be happy with your own decision and be able to live with that.
''You don't want to go somewhere where you're not going to be happy, because it'll have an adverse affect on your football and start showing on the field.''
Papalii's departure would be a major blow to the Raiders given they first spotted him through their association with the Souths Logan club in Brisbane, and relocated him to Canberra as part of their SG Ball (under-18) squad.
Since making his debut in 2011, Papalii has become an imposing force in the Raiders' second-row and it wasn't long before an international call-up was on the cards.
A tug of war over his eligibility ensued, with Papalii electing to make himself available for the Maroons after previously pledging his allegiance to his country of birth, New Zealand.
The Raiders could come under salary cap pressure to retain all their off-contract stars.
Centre Jarrod Croker, half-back Sam Williams, former Kangaroos prop Brett White and country representative Joel Thompson are among those on the open market.
Papalii would be a perfect fit to an Eels pack severely exposed in last week's 41-4 thumping at the hands of the Wests Tigers.
While little can be read into trial games, the Eels made their intentions clear to add more aggression to their forwards by going after Australian bookends Matt Scott and James Tamou. Both front-rowers turned down enticing offers from the Eels and will stay with North Queensland.
Fensom said Papalii had become a more consistent footballer in the past 12 months and wouldn't look out of place in a Queensland jersey.
''You can see the shots he puts on and the way he glides through the defence,'' Fensom said. ''He's got good ball-playing ability as well.''
Fensom will make his first appearance of the pre-season in Saturday night's trial with the Bulldogs in Goulburn.
An ankle injury kept him out of the Raiders' opening game with the Storm, while a slight bicep strain ruled him out of last weekend.
It was the same bicep Fensom tore last year. ''We didn't want to risk going in there with the muscle I already had surgery on last year being a bit weak,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Canberra's NSW Cup affiliate Mounties has signed former Eels and Panthers front-rower Shane Shackleton.