Raiders form trumps Origin audition for Papalii
It was billed as a showdown between the potential locks for Queensland in the upcoming Holden State of Origin series, but to Josh Papalii it was simply win number four for the Canberra Raiders this season.
The battle between Papalii and Titans enforcer and Jai Arrow was set to be a highlight of the round nine clash in the nation's capital before Arrow was taken from the field midway through the first half - after a solid tackle from Junior Paulo.
In spite of that, Papalii said getting Canberra into the top eight after their poor 0-4 start to the season was the only thing on his mind. The Raiders have now won four of their past five with the 32-18 victory over the Titans.
"I'm just focussing on getting used to this lock role and doing what I can to play well for these boys before anything else," Papalii said.
"I've played middle before so it didn't really faze me when Sticky put me in the middle, but I don't care what number I wear, I am happy to do a job for the boys."
Stuart gave a strong endorsement for Papalii to add to his nine Origin caps, saying he has shown his maturity since being dropped to NSW Cup earlier this season.
"I told him before the game 'go and show everybody you're an Origin player' and he was wonderful, especially his first half to set up that 20-0 lead."
Papalii is one of several big names for the Raiders off contract at the end of the season, with Junior Paulo and Shannon Boyd linked with rich deals at the Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans respectively.
Stuart said he hoped to keep the core of the side together but conceded the club cannot compete with the size of the deals being offered to some of his players.
"Papa's off contract and we've offered him a very good deal and fingers crossed I hope we get an answer on Josh very soon and a number of the other boys," he said.
The Raiders forwards showed in their 14-point win over the Titans why they can be one of the most feared packs in the Telstra Premiership on their day.
Five of the Canberra forwards ran for 100 metres or more including 142 by Boyd off the bench and a game-high 170 metres from Sia Sioliola.
"It's good to see the younger boys play well, being one of the oldest in the pack it's good to see the likes of Junior (Paulo) working hard and the veteran Sia (Soliola) playing like he's 21," Papalii said.
Canberra now faces a stern test to their current good form, as they host the Cronulla Sharks and travel to play competition leader St-George Illawarra in the next two weeks.