I needed to be dropped, admits Papalii
An honest Josh Papalii has admitted his first-grade axing at Canberra earlier this season was needed as he vows to make his biggest impact yet for the Queensland Maroons.
The 26-year-old revealed he was now in his best physical shape in two years as he targets leading a new breed of Queensland forwards and roughing up the NSW Blues pack in the opening clash of the Holden State of Origin series at the MCG on June 6.
Papalii was dropped by Canberra coach Ricky Stuart for round five this year but has since bounced back to rediscover the form that's seen him play nine Origin games for the Maroons since debuting in 2013.
"I've had a rough start to my season," Papalii said.
"Getting dropped to NSW Cup wasn't easy but I think it was needed.
"Our team wasn't going too well at the time and I knew someone had to go back. Sticky thought it should be me. I copped it on the chin, found some form and I'm happy that I've come back and played some decent footy.
"When I look back on the tapes I think I wasn't playing that bad, but I could have added more to the team. With me and [Blake Austin] going back to NSW Cup we had to change something up… and we did. I'm just happy to be here and ready to go next Wednesday."
Papalii is held in high regard by the Maroons hierarchy and has never let Queensland down, but he issued an ominous warning that his best footy in the State of Origin arena was yet to come.
"I still think I haven't found my feet in Origin and the rep arena but I feel good this time around. I am at the best body weight I have been for years now and looking forward to next Wednesday," he said.
"I just think I don't take the opportunity to take that 'moment' enough but I definitely think I will this year."
Papalii blew out with his weight during last year's World Cup campaign with Samoa. He chuckled when he said he exact weight now was "confidential" before making a blunt appraisal of the changes he'd made.
"The World Cup was a bit of a holiday for myself. I wish I didn't take it that way," he said.
"I've lost close to eight kilos since 2016. That was the last time I weighed in good and I am back to that shape. I'm feeling good. I cut the grog out a bit and eat a bit cleaner and it worked. It had to be done."
Papalii issued another warning when asked whether the Maroons pack would ask some serious questions of the new-look Blues.
"I think we have to. As a forward pack we have been very dominant for the last couple of years," Papalii said.
"With the experienced forwards Matty Scott and [Nate] Myles out of the squad it is only the young fellas left.
"It is the start of a new era in this forward pack. It is a fairly young one and hopefully we can do the job.
"[NSW's pack is] fairly young. We've got a young pack as well but they have a lot of aggressive players there.
"Their forward pack is playing real well in club footy and they have good leaders there with [Reagan] Campbell-Gillard and [David] Klemmer.
"Klemmer was born for Origin, but when I go into the Origin arena it doesn't matter who is in the Blue jersey. You just try and do your job for the Maroons. I just need to do what got me here in the first place and that is just me being me. I just have to perform."
Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Bronze tickets available from $49 here