Josh Papalii's decision to finally commit to a COVID vaccination before the start of the 2022 season has far wider-reaching advantages than simply guaranteeing his availability for every NRL match henceforth.
The 29-year-old has informed Canberra officials he will be getting jabbed, after a long-term stance against the vaccination.
It will unlock his daily freedom, removing him from the strict NRL Apollo protocols which still apply to its dwindling minority of players who remain steadfast in their unwillingness to be vaccinated.
That means no more enforced wearing of face masks, and the permission to dine at restaurants, go out for coffee and play a round of golf.
But there are more important off-field repercussions at play here.
Papalii, who is in Queensland with family and set to return to preseason training on Monday, carries significant influence as one of the NRL's most recognisable players - not just in rugby league circles but throughout the Canberra community.
His penchant for charity work, hospital visits and school calls are not as publicly heralded as his rampaging feats on the field, but were still very much an important part of Papalii's schedule before the COVID pandemic.
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Were he to remain unvaccinated, Papalii would not have been allowed to continue visiting sick children, or participating in school clinics.
Furthermore, his decision to join Canberra's world-leading majority in being vaccinated against the virus sends a crucial message to the thousands of kids aged 12 and under who idolise Papalii, but who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was always confident Papalii would eventually decide to be vaccinated. Now he knows it's going to happen, he can plan for 2022 knowing his most influential player will be available for every match day.
For Papalii, it also ensures he'll be able to represent Queensland in State of Origin next season, and Australia at next year's rescheduled Rugby League World Cup in England.
With Papalii committed to a vaccine, it is believed the Raiders have just two members of their NRL squad still unvaccinated against COVID-19 including hard man Joe Tapine, who arrived to day one of preseason training last week wearing a facemask.
"It's an individual choice, I know a few of the boys here aren't comfortable having the vaccine, and that's their choice," Raiders co-captain Elliott Whitehead said.
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