Papali'i backs Kearney's call to arms
Stephen Kearney called out his players for taking "short-cuts" in the one-point loss to Canterbury on Sunday. Isaiah Papali'i calls it another justified call-to-arms from the coach that the habitually inconsistent Warriors must heed against the Panthers on Friday night.
The second-rower might is a month shy of his 20th birthday and only just establishing himself as a starter but that hasn't stopped him heaping a hearty dollop of responsibility for the 27-26 Bulldogs loss on his own young shoulders.
"I was quite disappointed with the defence I put up at the weekend so that's something I'll be focused on this coming Friday," said Papali'i who was mowed down by lock Adam Elliott and then bumped aside, along with Simon Mannering, by winger Reimis Smith in the first two of Canterbury's three first-half tries.
Papali'i did dish up a delightful offload in the tackle of Bulldogs halfback Matt Frawley to send Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck over for his third try shortly after the Smith miss.
He also carried for 135 metres in 15 runs (well above his 86m average), third behind Tuivasa-Sheck (273) and Mannering (163) in the go-forward stakes.
There were also 33 tackles but it was the five misses and five more ineffectual attempts that grated on Papali'i - he was the only forward to dip below 80% tackle efficiency.
"It's just staying solid whether I'm in the middle or on the edge, just making my tackles and doing my part for the team on defence," he said.
The Warriors bounced back with an impressive win at St George Illawarra after Kearney labelled them "soft" following a 36-12 thrashing at the Titans in round 20.
Papali'i is confident they can rebound again after the coach's latest public berating and they clearly need to do so after dropping five of their last nine starts, right at the wrong time when momentum going into the finals will be critical.
"We take it as a challenge," said Papali'i who has started the last 11 rounds straight and 17 of the Warriors' 22 matches.
"It's our own job to do what we need to do for the team. So take it as feedback, look back on the tape, review on where each individual took a short-cut and I guess just expect better from each individual.
"It's just the energy that we play with. Usually we come with a bit more energy and I guess that's our main focus this week, just starting off strong and holding that throughout the whole 80 [against the Panthers]."
The head-scratcher is how the Warriors keep their energy tap - free-flowing one minute, leaky the next - on full bore from one half to the next, let alone from one match to another. The inconsistency is part of the club's DNA but Papali'i insists the remedy comes down to individual responsibility in a collective cause.
"It takes a whole 17-man effort so if one man is not bringing that energy, I guess it infects the whole team. So it's just doing your role with purpose... energy is something we value our game on and expect each player to come with.
"They're quite an energetic team as well and like to play footy so we've just got to be on our toes throughout the whole 80 against the Panthers. We've got two more games to come and a big opportunity this week so that's all we can look forward to, Friday night. I can't wait."