Leaner Papalii hungry for more

Some hard-to-hear home truths from his partner Sepasalesa and Raiders coach Ricky Stuart have helped to propel Josh Papalii back into the Maroons team for the massive Game Three Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday night.

 

An Achilles injury suffered by Broncos incumbent Josh McGuire last Friday night left Queensland selectors with a decision to make with Papalii's previous Origin experience earning him the nod over Dylan Napa.

As his voracious appetite went somewhat unchecked off the field, Papalii said a shift to the middle third to start the season impacted his hunger for the game as his heavy frame struggled with the additional demands playing at prop.

But a shift back to the edge - and an honest assessment from Sepasalesa - saw him amend his diet of "carbonara pasta with pizza" and shed three kilograms.

"To be honest I think I know why I wasn't picked for the other teams, mainly for being overweight and playing poor," said Papalii, whose daughter Khalani-Rose is now nine months old.

"There's no secret to it, I wasn't playing the best of footy and if I was one of the selectors I would have dropped myself as well.

"Most players would know that I don't eat the cleanest and I had to change a few things around to do more on the field and it's definitely paying off.

"I was struggling to keep my spot at Canberra and talking to my family I even had my missus tipping me up on it.

"I don't want to go anywhere else, so to keep my spot I had to knuckle down a bit and try to start playing good footy."

Having handed Papalii his Origin debut as a 21-year-old in Game Two, 2013, Maroons coach Mal Meninga left him out of the final two games of the 2014 Series and the first two games this year.

Although he was incredulous at the suggestion he had been keeping tabs on Papalii's weight fluctuations, Meninga said it was no coincidence his form improved as his body shape changed.

"They are so professional these days, they are always checking on weight, that's normal," Meninga said. "Josh has got it now, he understands he has to be at a particular level to play well. That's why he has played well, that's why he is back in this team.

"I talk to Ricky often because he is a mate of mine. Josh has lost three kilograms in the last few months and because of that he is playing pretty good footy for them.

"He is a big unit, he has a great physical presence and he is pretty aggressive; he will be an asset for us."

Seen by many as a counter to the explosiveness David Klemmer gave New South Wales off the bench in Game Two, Papalii said he would do whatever was required by his team without going beyond legal boundaries.

A noted hitman who came to prominence with some brutal exchanges with Blues skipper Paul Gallen early in his career, Papalii said any individual confrontations must not jeopardise the team's ultimate goal: Origin supremacy.

"I haven't spoken to Mal yet but I guess the way people are blowing it up it's pretty obvious. I'm here to do a job and give my 100 per cent and nothing less," he said of what is expected of him.

"Sometimes you try to make a big shot for a big play and then it doesn't come off and in Origin that's pretty costly.

"Some people play like that and it definitely works for Origin but even though you know it's going to happen you can't get too carried away.

"You've got a job to do and you don't want to wreck it for the team."

Video courtesy of qrl.com.au