Canberra Raiders NRL star Josh Papalii reported own drink driving to police
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Canberra Raiders NRL star Josh Papalii reported own drink driving to police

Canberra Raiders star Josh Papalii twice called the police to report his own drink-driving, a court has heard, and it could cost him his chance of representing Australia on his home ground.

It's the latest bizarre incident involving the rugby league player, who once threw a one litre bottle of moisturiser at another motorist.

Axed: Canberra Raider Josh Papalii, centre, leaving the ACT Magistrates Court before his sacking from the Kangaroos.

Axed: Canberra Raider Josh Papalii, centre, leaving the ACT Magistrates Court before his sacking from the Kangaroos.Credit:Megan Gorrey

In this latest incident, police discovered the anonymous tip off that led them to the player had come from Papalii's phone. He admitted he twice called triple zero to report his own car driving erratically "to prove a point". The court did not hear what point Papalii was trying to prove.

Papalii, 24, pleaded guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday to level three drink driving after recording a blood-alcohol reading of 0.123 on January 15, hours after he left captain Jarrod Croker's engagement party.

Josh Papalii has been suspended for one NRL game.

Josh Papalii has been suspended for one NRL game.Credit:Karleen Minney

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Prosecutors withdrew charges of driving with a suspended licence and driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle.

The court heard Papalii was sprung after police received an anonymous triple-0 call to report a black Jeep driving on the wrong side of the road in Gungahlin about 2.15am.

Police got a second call to say the same car had pulled over near Hungry Jacks about 20 minutes later.

Officers approached the vehicle on a bike path on Gundaroo Drive soon after and asked Papalii, who was in the driver's seat, to get out of the car.

They noticed he had bloodshot, watery eyes, his speech was slurred and he had the hiccups. He was taken to the sobering up shelter.

Police later discovered the emergency calls had been made from Papalii's phone. They said he told them he'd made the triple zero calls "to make a point".

Magistrate Peter Morrison asked prosecutors and Papalii's defence lawyer what he was supposed to make "of that curious feature of the evidence".

"It seems bizarre behaviour," he said.

Papalii's lawyer, who acknowledged the "extraordinary" chain of events, told the court her client had four standard drinks before his partner drove him to the engagement party about 7pm on Saturday, January 14.

She said the pair returned home about midnight and after the couple had "a discussion" he made "a significant error of judgement" by getting in the car to go and get something to eat.

The lawyer said Papalii made the urgent calls to triple zero because he was "seeking personal assistance" for his condition.

Mr Morrison said he struggled with the logic of that reasoning compared to what Papalii told police, prompting the lawyer to say Papalii believed he made other comments to officers but accepted the statement of facts before the court.

She said Papalii, who had strong family and community connections, was otherwise of good character and "extremely remorseful" for his actions, which he described as "not his usual weekend behaviour".

He also faced tens of thousands of dollars in sanctions and several match suspensions under his contract, she said.

But prosecutors argued the prospect of outside punishment from the club and NRL shouldn't be taken into account in sentencing.

In sentencing Papalii, Mr Morrison noted the blood-alcohol reading was at the upper end of the scale and the "curious circumstances".

He said, in the absence of more evidence, he accepted the emergency calls were "something of a cry for help" for his behaviour.

Mr Morrison acknowledged Papalii's high public profile and position as a role model for young men and said there was a strong need for general deterrence.

He also accepted he would likely face outside punishment from the Raiders and NRL.

Mr Morrison recorded a conviction and disqualified Papalii from driving for eight months. He fined him $1000.

Outside court, Raiders chief executive Don Furner said any decisions on penalties would be made by the NRL and the club's board.

While a final decision on sanctions wasn't expected on Thursday, there's a real chance it could include suspension from the Anzac Test between Australia and New Zealand at Canberra Stadium next Friday, as well as the Raiders' NRL clash against the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

The Raiders and the NRL were waiting on the outcome of Papalii's case before deciding if they would impose further sanctions. Papalii stood down from the club's leadership group after the incident.

NSW Blues prop James Tamou was banned from State of Origin and fined $20,000 after he was caught drink-driving without a licence in 2013. He blew 0.197.

The NRL has taken a hard stance on off-field indiscretions in the past when they ruled Andrew Fifita and Semi Radradra ineligible for last year's Four Nations tour.

Furner said Papalii was very remorseful for what happened.

"We're happy that the matter's over and we'll move on from here," Furner said.

When asked if he should stand down from the Kangaroos squad ahead of the Anzac Test next month, he said: "That won't be his decision."

Papalii was involved in other driving-related incidents in 2014.

There was a bizarre road-rage incident where he threw a one-litre bottle of moisturising cream at another motorist in July that year.

The club agreed to pay for the damage to the other motorist's car and Papalii had counselling but didn't miss any games.

He lost his licence for one month and was fined later that year after he was caught driving with a suspended licence.

The original suspension came after he failed to pay a parking fine from the previous year.

Megan Gorrey is a reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a reporter at The Canberra Times.