Raiders the focus for rep star Papalii
Barnstorming Canberra Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii has all but assured that he'll go around this weekend against the Newcastle Knights at GIO Stadium.
Spending the last three weeks out with a syndesmosis injury to his ankle, the 21-year-old Papalii will return, coincidentally, against the side he suffered the injury against after already passing fitness tests during the week.
With Representative Round beckoning, Papalii – who last year was a member of the World Cup-winning Australian Test team and the Queensland State of Origin side that took its eighth consecutive series win – notes that his only focus right now is to play good footy for the Raiders.
"At this point, the only focus for me is the Raiders at the moment. Just trying to get back on the paddock and hopefully play some good footy," Papalii said.
"Hopefully we can play some good footy and we'll see where it takes me."
The quietly-spoken Papalii has reason to be confident of representative call-ups if his form in the first two rounds of the season is anything to go by, the back-rower producing a line-break, a line-break assist, eight tackle-breaks and a try before averaging 23 tackles and 89.7 metres.
Although representative football is probably inevitable, Papalii is determined to build a right-side dynasty with the likes of captain Terry Campese and young-gun centre Matthew Allwood.
"Hopefully I can slowly come back into the team and start building my partnership with Campo [Campese] there and hopefully do some damage and win some games," Papalii said.
"Matthew Allwood's been going pretty good too. Defensively he's really strong. No-one's seen him do anything in attack yet. I can't wait 'til he realises how good he is with the ball."
Heading into this weekend, Papalii believes that his side have improved on last year's performances already.
"It's not always good coming off a loss and preparing for the next game. I can't wait to get out there and help the boys out," Papalii said.
"It's been off-and-on. We've definitely improved from last year – definitely more consistent. We just got a game plan there that we're definitely sticking to this year and it just shows what we can do further on."
Papalii will be in for a tough return going up against the likes of former internationals Willie Mason and Jeremy Smith – giving the back-rower a chance to flex his muscles against two classy veterans.
Even though he's not thinking about it – Papalii's performance this weekend may see him sign himself up for another Test appearance come May.