Rugby League


Tears tell tale of a man made for the Maroons

Josh Papalii used to cry every time Queensland lost a State of Origin match.

That's right, the Canberra Raiders rising star with a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the NRL couldn't stop shedding tears when the Maroons lost to NSW and he was a kid growing up in Queensland.

Now he wants to join the Maroons and help them continue seven years of dominance after pledging his representative commitment to Queensland yesterday.

Unfazed by the ongoing international battle New Zealand is fighting to keep its young players out of State of Origin, Papalii said opting to try to chase a spot in the Maroons was ''the right decision''.

Born in New Zealand and raised in Brisbane, Papalii had to choose who he would prefer to represent.

There's no doubt the financial benefit would have weighed heavily on his mind with State of Origin players set to pocket up to $50,000 a game while New Zealand players are paid $5000 per match.


Papalii admitted rugby league was a business and he wanted to look after his family.

And after spending his junior rugby league days with Souths Logan and rising through the ranks in Queensland, Papalii was at peace with his decision to align with the Maroons.

''As a family, we made a call that I would go with Queensland,'' Papalii said.

''You can't always make everyone happy … I would have loved to do both but you can't have two separate lives.

''I've got the passion to play for Queensland, I've always wanted to play, I always cried if they lost and it's always been a passion of mine to try to get there.

''New Zealand is still in my mind, but I've been in Queensland since I was young.''

Despite being a powerhouse and fearless on the field, Papalii is shy and quiet off it.

At 20 years old, he could still be playing in the under-20s competition with the Raiders in the grand final on Sunday.

But his hard work and powerful defence have cemented his place in Canberra's NRL side.

The second-rower was nonchalant about all the fuss.

Instead of getting caught in the hype, Papalii quietly spoke with his family and influential rugby league figures to make the right choice.

In fact, he said watching his diet to stay at his NRL playing weight was more of a distraction than the off-field saga and tug of war.

''I don't know how I'll feel [if I ever have to play against New Zealand],'' Papalii said.

''I thought it was the right thing to do, play for Queensland. I look at this as a challenge.''

Papalii is close to signing a new deal with the Raiders to keep him beyond the end of next season, saying he was ''almost 100 per cent'' ready for it to be finalised.

The Raiders are also working on contract negotiations with Sandor Earl and Shaun Berrigan.