Jarrod Croker says Canberra Raiders need to rise with Josh Papalii

Captain Jarrod Croker has sent a stern message to his teammates as the injury-riddled Canberra Raiders set their sights on a top four showdown: we can't keep relying on our Papa.

Josh Papalii looks set to be one of the first picked when Kevin Walters sits down to select his Queensland Maroons side for June 5's State of Origin series opener.

Josh Papalii has set the standard in Jarrod Croker's eyes. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Josh Papalii has set the standard in Jarrod Croker's eyes. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The Raiders prop has led from the front all season and he will need to do so again when Canberra meet the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Canberra Stadium on Saturday.

Almost one year to the day since Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said "we need more" players like Papalii, Croker is echoing those very words.

The Raiders are searching for more players to join him in setting the tone when they meet a South Sydney pack led by the Burgess trio and crafty rake Damien Cook.

"Papa has been our best player. We've had a lot of good players over the first eight or nine weeks, but Papa has been continuously one of our best," Croker said.

"We can't keep relying on Papa, we need to share the workload a bit. Sia [Soliola] is another one who has worked really hard.

Josh Papalii has fired in the early stages of the season. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Josh Papalii has fired in the early stages of the season. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"Papa was outstanding [against the Sydney Roosters], and I'd say we'll be missing him for a few games through that Origin period."

Papalii is averaging more than 128 run metres per game and is one of the game's premier forwards on the post contact metres front.

He will play a key role in Canberra's bid to stay in the top four as they look to "keep punching" until they welcome their injured stars back into the fold.

First comes a test against South Sydney in what, on the surface, looms as another test of Canberra's top four credentials.

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But the undermanned Raiders will be missing a host of key players with Jordan Rapana likely to join John Bateman, Joey Leilua and Joe Tapine on the sideline.

Rapana's impending absence will likely see Bailey Simonsson shift onto the right wing and could see Stuart draft another of his young forwards onto the bench for a serious test of their mettle.

Croker says a fast start will be vital against the Rabbitohs as Canberra look to avoid the mistakes of their clash with the reigning premiers last weekend.

Canberra captain Jarrod Croker is searching for answers to turn around the Raiders' slow start.

Canberra captain Jarrod Croker is searching for answers to turn around the Raiders' slow start.

"Another big team. We've got a lot to work on after that, we didn't start the game well [against the Roosters]," Croker said.

"We copped a couple of calls early on and didn't respond the way we should have. We spoke all week about starting well and getting away on teams, and they did the exact same thing to us.

"We didn't start the way we would like but we have to work out why."