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Three months ago, Josh Papalii and North Queensland’s stars were teammates, helping steer Australia to a dominant World Cup final win over New Zealand.
Now the education and advice provided to 21-year-old Papalii by Cowboys Matt Scott, James Tamou and Johnathan Thurston, could come back to bite them.
Papalii said the World Cup tour had accelerated his development.
”I’ve come back with a lot of confidence and experience, spending a lot of time with the veterans and the great players up there,” Papalii said.
”I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve taken it back to Canberra. Not only are the North Queensland boys crucial for their club but also their country, I was feeding off how they play and train.”
Papalii burst into the Queensland Origin and Kangaroos squads last season, despite playing the first few rounds hindered by issues in both knees he had carried for two years.
He had surgery after round six last year and has not looked back.
”I had a minor operation last year, [but] both knees are going strong and I’m looking forward to the season,” Papalii said.
Papalii was man-of-the-match in the Raiders’ 26-18 win over the Cowboys at Canberra in round 17 last year.
The highlight was a brilliant solo try when he ran over the top of Thurston, but he now has his sights set on the match-up with Cowboys tyro Jason Taumalolo.
”He’s definitely hard to handle, but if we just work together on that right edge we’ll be fine,” he said.
”He’s even a bit bigger and stronger than me, it’s a task I’m looking forward to and hopefully I can do the job.”