Rapana: I don't want to be a one-hit wonder
The desire to prove that last year's breakout season was no fluke is driving Raiders winger Jordan Rapana to even greater heights in 2017, the 26-year-old jumping to the top of the NRL try-scorers' list with a hat-trick against the Titans on Saturday night.
Coming into the game with four tries from his first five games this season, Rapana had racked up a hat-trick inside 25 minutes as more than 20 friends and family watched on from the stands as he tormented the club where he made his NRL debut way back in 2008.
Forming a lethal partnership with centre Joey Leilua on the Raiders' right edge the past two seasons, Rapana went from a semi-regular first-grader to try-scoring sensation in 2016, scoring 23 tries in 27 appearances, equal with Melbourne's Suliasi Vunivalu for the most tries scored in the NRL last year.
A New Zealand Test representative in the off-season, Rapana told NRL.com that his experience in the Four Nations and willingness to back up last year's effort is motivating him to deliver on his potential.
"Just trying to be consistent. I don't want to be a guy that's just a one-hit wonder," said Rapana, who ran for 232 metres and had an astonishing 18 tackle breaks against the Titans.
"I want to try and play well week in and week out and it's a role of mine that I try and set to try and improve every week.
"With a lot of the international players they're very consistent players and that's something that I'm aiming to achieve."
A prodigy coming through the famed Palm Beach Currumbin school on the Gold Coast, Rapana made his NRL debut in the same year he played his first under-20s game for the Titans in 2008 before walking away from the game to undertake a two-year Mormon mission.
Upon completion of his mission he signed to play rugby with the Western Force in 2011, moved to Canberra in 2013 to trial for a contract with the ACT Brumbies before finishing the year playing for Mounties in the NSW Cup.
Six years after his debut he returned to the NRL with the Raiders in 2014 which is why he is so eager to go looking for the ball and extra work rather than stay stationed on his right wing.
"I try and play every game like it's my last," Rapana said.
"I left the game for quite some time and I know what the lifestyle is like without this career.
"I really try to thrive in the moment and make the most of it.
"It's just energy and attitude. It's getting in there and helping out our mates. There are a lot of yardage carries that we aim to try and get and just want to help the brothers out."
Concerned that he might in fact try too hard returning to his former home and playing in front of so many family members, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart credits Rapana's rich vein of form with the decisions he has made in his life away from the football field.
"Sometimes you can come home and try too hard but it's the way Jordan's been playing each week," Stuart said.
"It didn't start this year, it was last year. Consistency is a big thing in any type of business and when you look at individuals who are consistent in their performance they keep getting picked in first grade.
"It would be very hard to think five years ago when it all eventuated at Canberra for him that Jordan was going to reach the heights that he has hit now.
"The reason he has is because he's made some really wise choices and committed to rugby league, committed to his preparation and his lifestyle.
"He's really settled and the culture that the players are creating, everyone's happy. Everyone works hard, everyone's happy and we have a very strong brotherhood."