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Raiders prop Josh Papalii expects his good mate Junior Paulo to make it personal when they clash in week two of the finals on Friday night, and he can't wait.  

After three seasons spent as teammates at the Raiders between 2016-2018, in addition to playing together for Samoa at the 2017 World Cup, the pair enjoy a close bond and know each other's game, and personality, well. 

With that in mind, Papalii said he and fellow Raiders prop Joseph Tapine are preparing to be targeted by Paulo, who will want to take it upon himself to try and dominate them at CommBank Stadium. 

"No doubt 'Junz' is going to take this personal. I know him like the back of my hand and he’s really important to how they like to play," Papalii said.

"He’ll take this challenge head-on, being the captain of the Eels and against myself and Joe [Tapine], who is the best front-rower in the comp.

He’ll take it personal and try and make it his own game, but that’s our job to disrupt his plan

Josh Papalii

"It’s always good to come up against him" 

Papalii and Paulo after clashing in the State of Origin arena back in 2020. ©NRL Photos
Papalii and Paulo after clashing in the State of Origin arena back in 2020. ©NRL Photos

Following his side's late collapse against the Panthers in week one, which ended in a 27-8 loss, Paulo spoke of the importance of winning the battle in the middle of the park, which will help to reduce the amount of second-phase play the Raiders are able to generate.

Heading into the match, which will see the winner face the Cowboys in the preliminary final, the Eels lead the competition in offloads at an average of 13.2 per game, followed closely by the Raiders who average 11.7.

Paulo also spoke of the development of Tapine, who arrived at the Raiders at the same time as him back in 2016.

The in-form Kiwi was arguably Canberra's best player as they upset the Storm last week, powering through for a game-high 216 metres and setting up three line breaks. 

“We always knew how good of a player he was and he’s really found that consistency,” Paulo said when asked about Tapine. 

“For us, we have got to be able to stop him because they certainly have been playing some good football off the back of the platform that he’s been laying.  

“He’s being a real leader, and you could see that from the time when I was down there with the traits that he has got away from the footy field.  

Whitehead gets in on the act

“It’s a battle of the middles and both teams love attacking through that middle."

While they'll be sworn enemies this week, Papalii and Paulo will be teammates again in a month's time when they play for Samoa at the World Cup, heading up what shapes as a strong squad featuring several players with Origin experience.

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