Lee Gaskin July 27, 2012
Josh Papalii at Raiders training on Wednesday. Photo: Colleen Petch
DON'T let the pink shirt fool you, young Raiders back-rower Josh Papalii has already become one of the most feared hitmen in the NRL.
Papalii trained in a pink T-shirt on Wednesday, highlighting restrictive training duties because of a knee injury that will require surgery at the end of the season and an injured neck.
But neither of the injuries has restricted Papalii and second-row partner Joel Thompson from following instructions of coach David Furner, to rip in and give the Raiders more aggression.
Papalii is fast building an impressive resume of devastating hits.
He delivered several bone crunchers in last week's 36-4 upset of the Cronulla Sharks, but was equally as effective in attack, fending off opponents with ease in creating second-phase play.
And this from a kid who's still only 20.
The 108kilogram Junior Kiwi international has caught the eye of those that know him the best - his peers.
Papalii was voted in the top five of the hardest hitters in the competition in a player poll conducted by Rugby League Week, which asked a range of questions to a cross-section of 100 players.
South Sydney's English star Sam Burgess topped the tally with 16 per cent of the vote, followed by the Warriors' Ben Matulino (12 per cent), Penrith's Nigel Plum (11 per cent), Sydney Roosters hardman Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (10 per cent) and Papalii (nine per cent).
Impressive company indeed, with Thompson pleased he doesn't have to bare the brunt of Papalii's raw power.
''The way he hits is pretty inspirational,'' Thompson said.
''I stay away from him in defensive drills.
''If I see him going for something I try and turn the other way.''
Papalii has played every game this season in the starting side after making 16 appearances in the top grade last year.
He's battled with a knee injury for the whole year, which he said will require surgery at the end of the season.
He also has pain in his neck, but has opted against pain-killing injections.
He is determined not to let the Raiders down as they aim to continue their late-season surge to the finals.
The Raiders have won four of their past six games after bunkering down at a mid-season camp in Swansea before their match with the Knights in Newcastle.
Papalii said Furner had instructed himself and Thompson to make more of an impact, both with and without the ball.
''He noticed we had to be more aggressive in our D (defence), but in our carries as well,'' Papalii said.
''Me and Joelly have got to make a name for ourselves. I felt after the Newcastle game the group becoming tighter.
''We've got the team to win the grand final, we've just got to put it together.''