Canberra Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii.

Fitness not reason for Raiders' fade-outs: Papalii

There has been plenty of talk about his own fitness in recent months but Josh Papalii believes a late lapse of concentration, not a lack of fitness, was the catalyst for the Canberra Raiders' dramatic late fade-out against the New Zealand Warriors last Saturday.

Shaun Johnson's heroics at GIO Stadium consigned the Raiders to an 0-3 start to the Telstra Premiership.

Papalii insisted late-game fitness is not the issue for the Raiders as prepare to take on the Manly Sea Eagles at Lottoland on Saturday night.  

Manly and Canberra and no strangers when it comes to tight finishes. Twice last season the side from Sydney's northern beaches secured the two competition points in extra time, including in round 13 when halfback and captain Daly Cherry-Evans slotted a match-winning field-goal on home soil.

Papalii said his teammates are well aware they need to aim up in defence in the dying stages of all their matches.

"It's definitely not fitness, I just think there is lapses where we fall asleep towards the end,'' Papalii said when reflecting on last weekend's loss.

"Shaun Johnson [was] standing at the back [last week] and we just didn't pay attention.

"I think we're in the game until the 75th minute and then we are just not holding on. There's positive signs we can close out games, we just need to fix those last three minutes.

"We've been chipped on a few things this week, but the biggest focus isn't on other teams, it's on ourselves. We're pretty focused so hopefully we can change it around this week."

The Raiders could receive a significant boost with Joe Tapine in the frame to return from the finger injury he suffered in round one against the Gold Coast Titans.

The 23-year-old looked impressive on the edge for the Raiders, and his return would provide a welcome boost for a side looking for any form of good news.  

"I think he was well-missed the last two weeks with his aggressive running game and defence as well, so it will be good to have Joe back," Papalii said.  

Helping Canberra's chances of earning their first win of the season is the absence of Manly winger Jorge Taufua, with a broken collarbone to sideline him for eight weeks.

But the Raiders pack will have their hands full. Props Martin Taupau (159m) and Addin Fonua-Blake (128m) put in the hard yards in last weekend's defeat at the hands of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

"They've been going really well but the biggest focus for us is not concentrating on other teams and looking at what we are doing wrong and hopefully fixing it pretty quickly," Papalii said.