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Papalii's value unrivalled with new Raiders deal close

Canberra are working to lock down Josh Papalii – one of the best value big men in the game – for life as 20-year-old centre Matt Timoko starts his own NRL career off the bench against Canterbury.

Papalii is already contracted until the end of 2022 but has been in talks around a two-year extension believed to be worth more than $700,000 a season.

Tying the Queensland Origin and Kangaroos prop down until 2024 would keep Papalii in lime green until past his 32nd birthday.

Given his peer-voted status as one of the game's best front-rowers – ranking behind only Manly's Addin Fonua-Blake in's 2020 Players' Poll – Papalii represents serious value for money for Stuart.

Contemporaries including Andrew Fifita, David Klemmer, Jordan McLean and Reagan Campbell-Gillard are understood to earn more than Papalii.

On a value for money basis only the likes of Fonua-Blake, Rooster Siosiua Taukeiaho, who earns around the same $700,000-mark as Papalii, and Brisbane tyro Payne Haas's $3 million-plus, six-year deal, are in the same league as the Raiders enforcer.

Ricky wants Papalii to be a Raider for life

But Papalii is more than content raising his young family in the ACT and being the bedrock of Canberra's premiership tilt, a scenario the club want to set in stone for the rest of his career.

"At the end of his career we want him to be a one-club player," Stuart said on Tuesday, having already dubbed him a Raiders great in waiting after a stunning display against the Gold Coast.

"I talked very glowingly about him after the game on the weekend and I don't take that back.

"He's one of our favourites here and I see him as a big part of our club going forward for a number of years and hopefully being in the community and always being that Raider, that favourite son.

"I'm very fortunate being able to coach a player such as Josh."

Meanwhile, the Raiders will be without recent recruit Corey Harawira-Naera for Sunday's clash with his old Bulldogs side, opening up a spot on Stuart's bench.

Harawira-Naera's release from Canterbury last month included a clause that prevents him from playing against them at GIO Stadium.

Outside back Timoko comes into the 17 as his replacement, becoming the fourth Raiders product to debut this year after Kai O'Donnell, Semi Valemei and Harley Smith-Shields.

Timoko's debut was confirmed to the youngster by captain Jarrod Croker on Tuesday morning, prompting a few tears from the youngster.

The Raiders digital team filmed the moment in Ricky Stuart's office though Timoko picked up on the "covert camera" almost straight away.

Papalii chases down Fogarty and saves certain try

Timoko scored two tries for Canberra during this year's NRL Nines after 13 four-pointers in Jersey Flegg last year.

Speaking before Timoko's debut was publicly confirmed, Stuart paid tribute to Canberra's fringe first graders and their dedication without the chance to get regular game time in the Canterbury Cup.

"I've got some really good young depth there, some young talent in the outside backs, and in the middles, and the Vikings - those are the boys that are on the fringe - have had an enormous job to do for us in scrimmaging, keeping the quality of training up and they're not paying footy," Stuart said.

"It's so hard for them because it's in our DNA - we just want to go and compete on the weekend - and these poor buggers - in every club it's the same - are not getting to play football.

"But the standard around the training facility, around training and preparation has been first class."

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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