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Josh Papalii and Mal Meninga.

Tough home truths and the love from his family have been the catalyst for a turning point for Josh Papalii, who recaptured his career-best form on the way to winning the Mal Meninga Medal.

After the Raiders' sluggish start to the season, coach Ricky Stuart made the sensational decision to drop the Kangaroos and Queensland back-rower.

Papalii said the honest talk from Stuart made him look at himself and consider whether he was truly committed to the cause.

"Every time I took the field this year after I got dropped I was pretty emotional," Papalii said.

"I took it pretty personal every time I took the field and obviously I think that's the reason why I played a lot harder than I usually do.

"Obviously with the rocky start I had to the season I'm pretty happy with how I finished the season, but still disappointed with how the team finished."

It's the second time Papalii has won the Raiders' most prestigious award, having earned the honour in 2016 alongside Josh Hodgson.

Papalii (25 votes) finished well ahead of Joe Tapine and Elliott Whitehead on 17 votes, with Jack Wighton (13), Nick Cotric and Jordan Rapana (11) making up the top six for Canberra's season.

"I went to Elliott after the awards were done and I said, 'this was your award' and that's who I had my money on," Papalii said.

"I'll take this award on behalf of the team.

"It (winning a second Meninga Medal) is right up there to be honest, it's not every day you play for your state or your country but to be with the players every week, the players you love... I wish we could have done some special this year."

His time away from the field was also more rewarding for Papalii as he readies himself for his upcoming wedding, with the 26-year-old saying his fiancé is a big reason for his second Meninga Medal.

"I think I was more happy off the field than what I usually am and a lot of credit goes to my partner which she doesn't get a lot of credit for," he said.

"She kept me happy off field and I kept the on-field form going.

"The real sacrifices come from my partner, going up a few days early just to watch an Origin game, but that's who I do this for, my kids."

Despite rating the Meninga Medal as one of his career highlights, Papalii said an elusive premiership - not necessarily another rep jersey - would spur him on this off-season.

"I think it's pretty obvious it's a premiership with the team and the boys I love so much," he said.

"I'm not really striving to get any jersey back to be honest, I think just keeping myself motivated and doing a fully motivated, that's the top thing on my list, besides my wedding as well."

Other award winners on the night included Rookie of the Year Emre Guler, Nick Cotric for the Coach's Award, Michael Oldfield as a very popular Clubman of the Year and Jack Murchie as the Junior Representative Player of the Year. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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