Papalii's response bodes well for Raiders and Maroons: Walters
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Papalii's response bodes well for Raiders and Maroons: Walters

Queensland coach Kevin Walters says the way Josh Papalii's responded to being dropped is not only great for the Canberra Raiders, but the Maroons' State of Origin hopes as well.

Papalii continues his renaissance with a move to the Raiders middle against the Gold Coast Titans at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

Having won the battle of the beasts against North Queensland's Jason Taumalolo last week, Papalii now faces his potential rival for the Maroons lock position when he takes on Titans No.13 Jai Arrow.

Are the Sharks circling off-contract Josh Papalii?

Are the Sharks circling off-contract Josh Papalii?

While Papalii might be wearing a lime green jersey on Saturday, the off-contract star's future after this season is less clear.

The Raiders have offered him a three-year deal, but there's been a big money offer of $750,000 per season in potentially a four-year deal.

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Both South Sydney and the Cronulla Sharks have been linked as the NRL club interested in the 25-year-old international.

The Rabbitohs seem a logical fit, with second-rowers Angus Crichton off to the Sydney Roosters and John Sutton potentially retiring.

But the Sharks could also need a replacement for Luke Lewis if the veteran decides to hang up the boots.

It could mean the Green Machine lose Papalii and props Junior Paulo and Shannon Boyd.

Paulo's believed to be returning to Parramatta on a four-year deal worth almost $3 million, while Boyd's believed to have rejected the Raiders' offer.

With Jarrod Wallace potentially off to Brisbane, the Titans are rumoured to have offered Boyd a $650,000-a-season deal, while the Newcastle Knights are also interested.

Although there was some feeling Boyd might decide to remain in Canberra.

The Knights have also been linked with Raiders spiritual leader Sia Soliola, which would see him join up with Newcastle coach Nathan Brown again - the pair won the Super League title together at St Helens before Soliola came to Canberra.

While the Raiders have tabled offers to their off-contract stars, they've also put deals to 22-year-old Wigan prop Ryan Sutton and his teammate, versatile forward John Bateman.

The Green Machine's opened contract talks with Dunamis Lui, Luke Bateman's close to re-signing for two years and they're interested in Tim Glasby and Leeson Ah Mau.

While Walters won't be at the Raiders-Titans game, he'll be watching closely.

The Maroons coach has been impressed with how Papalii's responded to his demotion to Mounties in the NSW Cup a few weeks ago.

He's returned to the NRL and switched to the middle from his usual spot on the edge.

Walters said he was shaping as an important cog in the Maroons' bid to continue their Origin reign.

But he'll leave it to Raiders coach Ricky Stuart to decide where Papalii's best position was going forward.

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"It's how players respond to certain disappointments when they get dropped out of the side - you want them to work hard and get better," Walters said on Thursday.

"Josh has been a big part of the Maroons for a few years and last year we used him on the edge and in the middle.

"He's one of those players that's pretty versatile and handles those positions. Right now he's playing in the middle and that's great for the Raiders and equally good for the Maroons as well.

"He's really showing what he can do, his skills in there with the ball and without the ball."

Arrow's led the way for the Titans so far this season, playing himself into Origin contention - especially given the injuries to Josh McGuire (ankle), Matt Gillett (neck) and Glasby (thumb).

He's run for 1224 metres and has 12 offloads - the most of any Titan in both statistics - and has scored two tries.

Given the Maroons' mounting injury toll, both Papalii and Arrow could find themselves packing down together against the NSW Blues in the Origin opener at the MCG in a month.

"Jai has had a great start to the year for the Titans, he's probably been one of their better forwards over the opening rounds," Walters said.

"It's hard for the 13s to come up against each other, but no doubt they're aware of each other's abilities and it's good to play against quality players."

NRL ROUND NINE

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans at Canberra Stadium, 3pm. Tickets from Ticketek.

Raiders squad: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Sia Soliola, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Josh Papalii. Interchange from: 14. Ata Hingano, 15. Shannon Boyd, 16. Luke Bateman, 17. Dunamis Lui, 18. Liam Knight, 19. Michael Oldfield, 20. Brad Abbey, 21. Jack Murchie.

Titans squad: 1. Michael Gordon, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Brendan Elliot, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Bryce Cartwright, 7. Ash Taylor, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Ryan James (c), 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Will Matthews, 13. Jai Arrow. Interchange from: 14. Max King, 15. Jack Stockwell, 16. Keegan Hipgrave, 17. Ryan Simpkins, 18. Leilani Latu, 19. Moeaki Fotuaika, 20. Brenko Lee, 21. Kane Elgey.

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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