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Papalii adds weight to Rivalry Round

Matt Harris, Queensland Correspondent NRL.com Fri, May 02, 2014 - 12:00 PM

Hymel Hunt is just one of Easts' attacking weapons that Norths will have to contain on Sunday. Copyright: SMP Images/QRL Media

Kangaroos World Cup star Josh Papalii will make his Intrust Super Cup debut on Sunday when he turns out for the Souths Logan Magpies against the Ipswich Jets a Davies Park.

While many may have expected Papalii to be part of the Kangaroos' tilt at a 16th consecutive Test win on Friday night against New Zealand, a push to get more game-time under his belt will see him take on the Jets engine room that has been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks.

The appearance of Papalii adds further intrigue to a round of tantalising match-ups dished up for this weekend's XXXX Rivalry Round. 

Since its inception in Queensland's premier rugby league competition in 2012, the Rivalry Round concept has produced some thrilling football by teams looking to gain bragging rights over their local rivals or to seek revenge for past shortcomings. 

Despite the concept still being in its fledgling days, fans, coaches and players alike all look forward to these Rivalry Round matches, circling the date on the calendar months in advance for a match that allows further incentive for teams to win other than just claiming the two competition points that are on offer.

With many mouth-watering clashes on offer – such as the showdown on the Peninsula between Wynnum Manly and Redcliffe, the Gold Coast contest featuring Burleigh and Tweed Heads and the tropical rivalry between Northern Pride and Mackay Cutters – it's hard to single out a match of the round but the meeting between Easts and Norths will arguably have the most impact on the competition table. 

The winner of the clash between the Tigers and Devils will springboard that team into a healthier ladder position and help rectify some lost momentum experienced in recent weeks.

Norths currently sit in fourth position on the ISC ladder with 12 points, only trailing Wynnum Manly by virtue of an inferior points differential. They are only one game behind the Pride and Jets, who are first and second on the ladder respectively. Meanwhile Easts are sitting on nine points in eighth position, but do have a game in hand due to a postponed fixture against the Pride. 

For Norths' coach Mark Gliddon, in his first season at the helm of the Devils' senior side after previously coaching their FOGS team, the Rivalry Round weekend is foreign to him and Sunday's TV game against the Tigers is more about claiming a much-needed win rather than bragging rights.

"I haven't mentioned much around the whole Rivalry Round concept. For us it's about the two competition points," Gliddon said.

"Every game is important and two points would come in very handy because the top five and the teams around that top five are all around the nine, 10 and 11-point mark.

"[The Tigers] are coming off a loss and we're coming off a couple of losses so for us we want to get back on track. We've been a bit poor in our [attacking] execution and that's an area we've worked on hard during this week.

"Our main goal at the start of the season was consistency – last year we were hit and miss. We started this season well with five wins, [then] a loss to the [Northern] Pride, a win over Rocky (Central Capras) and then [two] more losses. So we just need to get that consistency back."

With Gliddon's side bubbling along nicely with six wines from nine games, Sunday's match allows the Devils an opportunity to exact some revenge over Easts who gave them a 70-16 flogging in Round 17 last year. Last season's 54-point capitulation against the Tigers was somewhat of a statistical anomaly between these two sides, as Norths have won six of the past eight clashes. 

Although Gliddon isn't using revenge as a motivating factor, he does understand if last year's result is still lingering amongst the playing group.

"Last year is last year. I haven't mentioned it, but the players might have mentioned it amongst themselves. At the end of the day they are a different team and we are a different team," he said.

"They are a very good attacking side and the type of side where if they get a couple of early tries and start well they usually go on with it and put 30 or 40 points on you. So we've got to be very careful of that.

"They've got [Grant] Giess and [Cody] Walker who are two very good halves. Cody's been arguably the best player in the competition at the moment, so our main focus is to start well."

The Devils will welcome back halfback Sam Foster, who despite being named in recent weeks, has failed to play in just under a month due to injury. He will definitely start this week according to Gliddon after the Devils' coach delayed the 21-year-old's comeback in order for his playmaker to be 100 per cent fit. 

Foster re-joins an impressive Devils' spine that includes fullback Shaun Carney, five-eighth Todd Murphy and hooker Krys Freeman, son of former New Zealand international Gary 'Wiz' Freeman.

They will be tasked with leading around an impressive Norths' forward pack including inspirational skipper Brendon Gibb, former Cowboys' under-20s back-rower Chris Faust and experienced NRL star Todd Lowrie. For Easts, their strength lies in their outside backs, with the likes of ISC veterans Don Malone and Shane Neumann, Walker and Giess in the halves and young Melbourne Storm rookie Hymel Hunt in their ranks.

For previews of all XXXX Rivalry Round matches click here.