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Papalii ready if called up for Maroons

By Tony Webeck, NRL.com

Josh Papalii

While he has begun the 2017 season by setting the tone for the young forwards that surround him, Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii says he does not yet feel comfortable carrying the tag of a leader at the club.

While Queensland’s forward stocks have taken a hit in the opening weeks of the Telstra Premiership, Papalii has been in devastating form for the Raiders, playing all but seven minutes of the season thus far and putting dents in opposition defences with virtually every charge.

Still just 25 years of age and preparing for his 134th game in the NRL this weekend – not to mention nine Tests for Australia and six Origins for Queensland – Papalii's on-field exploits scream leadership, but off the field Papalii remains the shy and retiring type.

“Off field I'm definitely not,” Papalii said when asked whether he had taken on more of a leadership role this year.

“My personality doesn't suit that leadership role, but on field sometimes I think I'm the leader and then sometimes ‘Hodgy’ (Josh Hodgson) and Sia (Soliola) leads. It just depends on how the game's going.

“We've got a young squad which helps and being 25 this year, I'm one of the oldest in the pack so I guess I am a leader.

“Sometimes it's not about what you say, it's about what you do and especially in this team, a team full of superstars.

“Leading can be just a simple carry and I'm just really simplifying my game at the moment.”

The retirement of Corey Parker and season-ending knee injury to Matt Scott has left something of a leadership void within the Queensland forward pack ahead of the 2017 Series and there’s no doubt Papalii will play a more prominent role after missing Game III last year through injury.

Although registering more wins for the Raiders remains his primary focus, Papalii admitted that returning to the Maroons set-up in May is already popping up on his radar.

The likes of Dylan Napa (Roosters), Ethan Lowe (Cowboys), Korbin Sims (Broncos) and Coen Hess (Cowboys) are putting themselves in the frame for an Origin debut this year, which gives Papalii reason to believe they can cover the loss of Scott and Parker.

“Pretty confident [in our depth],” Papalii said.

“I'd be lying if I said I'm not looking forward to that. It's a dream playing for Queensland and that time will come and when that time comes I'll be ready.

“But I'm focusing on the Raiders and the Raiders only at the moment.”

*This first appeared on NRL.com