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'A personal thing for me and my family': Papalii defends flu vaccine refusal

Raiders star Josh Papalii has defended his decision not to receive a flu vaccination by saying: "it’s a personal thing for me and my family".

Papalii spoke on Wednesday for the first time about the issue after the NRL requested all players have the vaccine as part of the biosecurity measures for the Telstra Premiership's return amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For me to explain the reasons I don’t think that would be right," Papalii said.

“I do have my reasons and my family reasons as well, the medical status isn’t the best with my kids as well.

"I just don’t think I have to [get the vaccine], I think it’s a personal thing for me and my family."

Papalii was one of three Raiders players who made headlines for their stance, with Sia Soliola and Joe Tapine also refusing to receive the vaccination.

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All three players have been named for Canberra's round-three clash with Melbourne on Saturday after signing a modified waiver stating the potential risks of playing without the vaccine.

The trip to Melbourne marks a special occasion for Papalii with the forward leader becoming the 12th player in Raiders history to join the double century club.

Papalii joins David Furner on 200 games exactly with notable names in his sights including his current coach Ricky Stuart on 203 appearances.

"I wish I could have done it before the coronavirus hit but it wasn’t meant to be," Papalii said of the personal milestone.

"I’m looking forward to the weekend and being back where my career first started down in Melbourne when I played my first game so going to play 200 is something pretty special.

"It’s just a shame my family can’t make it down, but I’ll have the boys right next to me, so hopefully we can enjoy a good win in Melbourne."

After an arduous 2019 season for Papalii, which included large roles for the Raiders and Queensland, he said the extra time off due to the competition's hiatus had been a blessing in disguise.

"I think I’ve come back fine and the break did me well in that sense the body feels recovered," he said.

"From last year’s season I was really struggling coming back and my body was still recovering from last year’s massive season.

"The COVID stuff wasn’t pleasant to go through but it’s done my body wonders."

The blockbuster clash at AAMI Park also features Curtis Scott facing his former club, with the Canberra centre having played 49 games for Melbourne over the previous four years.

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Co-captain Jarrod Croker said he hadn’t noticed a change in Scott’s preparation but like the rest of the side is ready to simply play anybody again.

"He’s fine and it’s another thing we haven’t really addressed," Croker said.

"I know there’s been a bit of build-up about it but he’s fine, he’s probably as excited as ever but I would say he’d be as excited to play anybody.

"It was going to happen sooner or later and it happens every week with players coming up against their old clubs."

Croker welcomed the challenge of playing the Storm first up after the suspension of the season, saying it was the perfect test for his team.

The Storm were again formidable at home in 2019, winning nine of their 13 games at AAMI Park, with two of their losses coming against Canberra.

However, the Storm’s combined losing margin total for the four games they were defeated at the venue was only eight points.

"It certainly gives you confidence to know you can go down there and get a win in Melbourne, it’s not an easy thing to do even once," Croker said of their recent record against Melbourne.