Papalii cleans up act in bid to land Raiders contract
Canberra Raiders big man Josh Papalii has vowed to clean up his drinking and diet, after treating Samoa's World Cup campaign "as a holiday" and fearing he had jeopardised his contract negotiations with coach Ricky Stuart.
Papalii was hauled into Stuart's office along with teammates Joey Leilua and Junior Paulo after they piled on the pounds while in camp with the island nation, earning themselves unwanted starts in the Raiders pre-season ''fat club'' and the 5am cardio sessions that came with it.
Having shed over a dozen kilos to now sit just one off of his ideal playing weight of 115kg, Papalii will keep his alcohol intake to a minimum in 2018 as he plays for a new Canberra contract.
The Raiders are in no rush to lock in a host of off-contract big names after missing last year's finals, preferring to use early-season form across March to guide their roster management.
Papalii plans to hit the ground running after having initially hoped that a new deal could be done before Canberra's round one clash with the Gold Coast Titans. He concedes he did himself no favours by returning to Raiders HQ overweight.
"I think my manager has spoken to [Stuart] once or twice but that was before the World Cup," Papalii told NRL.com of his contract status.
"Obviously I didn’t have a strong World Cup, so I think that's still up in the air. It'd be nice to get it done before the season starts, but these things can drag on."
At 25, Papalii has already spent nine years in the Raiders system, and is settled in the nation's capital with his young family, whose "security is the first and main thing when it comes to a contract".
The Warriors have been mentioned as a possible suitor for the rep footy regular given that veteran skipper Simon Mannering is off-contract.
But Stuart also holds serious sway with Papalii after giving him his blessing to back out of a move to Parramatta in 2013 when he was coaching the Eels, and then getting the best out of him once becoming his coach at Canberra.
All of which added extra weight to that early December meeting concerning Papalii's waistline.
"Sticky and I sat down and we had a chat about my future and how I played at the World Cup," Papalii said.
"It wasn't a spray. He doesn't give you a spray until you're in front of the whole team. But it does get scary when you've got to go to Ricky's office and it's not for the right reasons.
"He chatted to me about being happy and what he can do to help me. But it was on me, I didn't care about what I was doing at the time and that had to change.
"I went into Samoa camp pretty unhealthy. I was a bit overweight and I sort of treated that camp as a holiday, and I didn't make the best decisions on that camp.
"Obviously, it's going to take a toll when you're drinking heaps and eating pretty s--- food as well. It just all caught up at the World Cup."
As far as his own rep future is concerned, Papalii has not discussed his demotion from Australian Test duty with Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga because he doesn't feel the need to.
Papalii was stood down from last year's mid-year Test against New Zealand after he had pleaded guilty to drink-driving four months earlier.
Despite playing all three Origins for Queensland in another series win, Papalii was unable to reclaim his Kangaroos spot. That resulted in him joining Samoa's ill-fated campaign in honour of his late grandfather.
"I've seen Mal a couple of times, I saw him last week on the Sunshine Coast, we had a legends dinner up there and there's no hard feelings," Papalii said.
"He's the Aussie coach and he picks the players in his team. If I don't fall under that banner, so be it, it's his team."