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Parramatta forward Isaiah Papali'i

With his tireless playing style and easily recognisable mop of black hair, Eels recruit Isaiah Papali'i has all the trappings of becoming a Bankwest Stadium cult hero.

But before the Eels faithful add him to the likes of Maika Sivo and Clint Gutherson at the top of the popularity list, the former Warrior is first looking forward to experiencing the venue as a home player.

His only previous trip to the new western Sydney venue ended in a grandstand 24-22 defeat in round 19 of 2019, with a raucous home crowd carrying their team over the line.

Now the 22-year-old says he can't wait to run out onto the Bankwest pitch with blue and gold on his back against the Storm – a team he has never beaten in five starts in his four years at the Warriors.

"They're always tough competition, I never managed to beat them while I was at the Warriors so I'm excited to go up against them this Thursday," Papali'i told NRL.com.

Eels forward Isaiah Papali'i.
Eels forward Isaiah Papali'i. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"We're at home as well in front of the Bankwest Parra fans. I played there once against Parra, it was definitely a memorable experience and I can't wait to be there on Parra's side.

"It feels like they're right next to you, similar to Suncorp because it's so steep, they're right on top of you. Being at home's going to be good."

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Last Friday at Suncorp Stadium, Papali'i produced arguably the best Eels club debut since Manu Ma'u tore the Warriors to shreds in round one of 2014.

He was injected off the bench in the 24th minute with his team well behind the eight ball, playing out the rest of the contest and churning through 200 metres with three busts and making 29 tackles.

He laughs off comparisons to his fellow Aucklander, but could soon be as popular with the Bankwest faithful as Ma'u was, or as the likes of Gutherson and Sivo currently are.

"Manu Ma'u? Nah he was a beast eh, scary fella!" Papali'i laughed.

"It wasn't really a plan [for me to play such big minutes], it just panned out that way.

"It was a lot of stop-start in that second half with the injuries the Broncos were pulling up with. Every time they checked on me they said "are you right?" and I was feeling all right so kept on pushing through but the last 10 was definitely hard.

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"As the game went on I think all the pre-season work we put in, at the back end of that game we felt like we came over the top of them and managed to score the points later on in the game."

With the Storm set to provide a much sterner test than the Broncos, five-eighth Dylan Brown admitted the team probably didn't show their opponents as much respect as they should have in the season opener.

"It was round one, we flew up from Sydney and I think it showed on the field we were just a bit casual," Brown said.

"It's not even respect for them, it's respect for ourselves, you don't want to go out there and show your fans and yourself that that's what you're capable of, you want to show your very best."

 

NRL Magic Round Brisbane 1-Day Passes are now on sale with eight massive games across round 10 at Suncorp Stadium this May. With the league's best players all heading to Brisbane, you'd hate to miss it! Tickets at NRL.com/Tickets