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Pugilistic Papalii's focus returns to Raiders

Raiders prop Josh Papalii has welcomed a chance to put 100% of his focus back onto the football field after making a winning debut in the boxing ring at the recent rugby league fight night.

Papalii won a unanimous points decision over retired fellow Maroon Ben Hannant on February 12 and is now readying to take on a near full strength Roosters in Saturday's Queanbeyan trial.

"After the boxing fight I'm pretty keen just to focus on footy for now and looking forward to it," Papalii said.

"Pretty excited. Feeling good, feeling positive about my return.

"It was hard doing the boxing then the footy training but now it's all 100% on footy and I'm loving being back. The younger boys are making me feel old. I'm loving being back with the boys and training hard."

Papalii returns to one of the strongest middle rotations in the NRL with his club boosted by the recruitment of Ryan James from the Titans following breakout seasons to the likes of Hudson Young, Corey Horsburgh and Emre Guler, with a number of NRL-calibre middles set to miss round-one selection against Wests Tigers on Sunday March 14.

Tackle of the Year - Josh Papalii

"That's the kind of headache you want your coach to have. I'm pretty confident going into the season if boys are missing out, other boys are filling those spots. I'm confident of a positive year ahead and hopefully pushing for a top-four spot.

"That's what the trial matches are for, to see how combinations are, chuck those younger and newer players in and see how they handle it. They've been handling training pretty good.

"All of them have impressed me heaps. These young boys are just getting bigger and stronger and more athletic. The boys that debuted last game are the ones pushing for spots as well."

Papalii also welcomed news that co-captain Josh Hodgson would be in action after overcoming another ACL tear, having taken on a role as a virtual extra coach last season while sidelined.

"It's always nice to see boys come back from major injuries. Especially with Hodgy, I think he's ahead of schedule and that's the type of person he is, he's one not to go down without a fight," Papalii said.

"I knew he would be back for round one and I can't wait to run behind Hodgy. He brings that competitive nature.

"He's a bit like a head coach, always saying things, doing video sessions for the boys as well, running meetings like he is a coach. He loves that side of things and brings a lot of knowledge to our team as well."

Raiders in 2021

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