Canberra Raiders stars have anointed the world’s best prop – Josh Papalii – as the man to rip holes through Cronulla’s middle in Saturday’s elimination final.
Fresh off winning the Mal Meninga Medal as the Raiders’ best player alongside five-eighth Jack Wighton, teammates believe Papalii is ready to wreak havoc in the finals.
The Maroons and Kangaroos bookend dominated last year’s finals series to steer Canberra to the grand final before losing to the Roosters.
Now Papalii is primed to repeat his post-season heroics, starting with Saturday’s do-or-die clash against Cronulla.
“We’ve got Big Paps – so we will roll off the back of him,” lock Joseph Tapine said.
“We are just going to try and attack their (the Sharks) middle, tire them out so they can’t attack as fluently.”
Canberra prop Josh Papalii is the man to lead the way for Canberra. Picture. Phil HillyardSource:News Corp Australia
Canberra captain Jarrod Croker is also expecting big things from Papalii and Wighton after they collected the club’s player of the year award during the week.
Croker knows the Raiders need both stars to fire to have any chance of winning the premiership.
“They are two of the best,” Croker said.
“I couldn’t be happier for those two boys, and I’m very proud that they got to share it with each other as well.
“When I look back on my career and think of two of the best players and mates, those two are at the top.”
Croker feels like Canberra are more confident heading into the finals after last year’s surge to the grand final.
“It’s certainly less daunting,” he said.
“We’ve been there and played a lot of big games.
“We know how to prepare and that is the big thing, preparation.
“I think we have prepared really well so far, and we had a finals series last year to fall back on and use.
“I think the boys have prepared well – it is just about executing now.”
Cronulla welcome back the likes of Josh Dugan, Jessie Ramien and Chad Townsend for Saturday’s game against Canberra.
Croker won’t be taking the eighth-placed Sharks for granted.
“Those Sharks guys are hard to tackle, so we need to start fast,” he said.
“But the freshen-up over the weekend for a lot of the boys was good, so the boys are ready.
“I feel fresher and revitalised and I have a lot more energy this week.”
Croker expects the Raiders to receive a huge boost from playing at home in front of their passionate fans.
“Once we get there with 10,000 fans, as opposed to having 3000 fans at home – it will feel like 50,000 there,” he said.
“Once we get there and get among it all, I’m sure the boys will feel it.”
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