Josh Papalii has taken his game to a new level in 2016, and Canberra are hoping to cash in on it this NRL season.
The Queensland enforcer terrorised NSW in Wednesday night’s 26-16 win at Suncorp Stadium in arguably his best State of Origin appearance yet.
He ran 12 times for 126m off the bench, following his 105m and 11-run effort in Origin I.
“He’s been playing like that all year for us, so it was no surprise to see him play so well,” Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker said on Thursday.
“I thought he was one of the best on the field and I’m sure he’ll bring that form back to Canberra.”
Papalii’s stats in the NRL aren’t too different, averaging 109m and just under 12 runs a game.
Croker agreed the 24-year-old wrecking ball has found a new gear this year after a big pre-season.
“He really trimmed down and got stuck into it,” he said.
“I think it’s showed in the first 15 or so weeks of the season. He’s been one of the standout forwards in the competition.
“He changed a few off-field habits and it’s working wonders for him.”
Papalii drove back from Sydney straight after the Origin opener to train with the team and play in their win over Manly 48 hours later.
The Raiders, though, aren’t sure if he’ll play against the Gold Coast on Sunday.
The match will be star halfback Aiden Sezer’s first at Cbus Super Stadium since he left the Titans at the end of last season and Croker is expecting him to lift.
“He’s been pretty quiet and kept a lid on things this week, he’s a pretty calm sort of bloke, but I’m hoping for a big game out of him,” he said.