Josh Papalii is preparing to play his 200th NRL game on Saturday night against the Melbourne Storm.
Josh doesn’t say much. He doesn’t need to really, given his job is to effectively destroy the opposition. He’d run through a brick wall for his team.
I well remember interviewing him, or least attempting to, in his NRL debut season in 2011. In that year he came on from the bench in Round 10 against the Melbourne Storm. He had been signed by the Raiders from Logan in Brisbane and arrived in Canberra as a 17-year-old.
To undertake a media interview with Josh at that time was a challenging task – it wasn’t something he enjoyed. And it was a difficult task. He didn’t want to be there. In fact, it was clear that the whole experience was extremely painful for him.
Josh improved his interviewee skills over the years skills but at a glacial pace. Most of the questions at the start of the season related to his weight, before the focus moved to other issues through the year.
And there have been issues over the years, including his decision to sign with Parramatta for the 2014 season only to renege and sign a contract extension with the Raiders. There was also a time when he was dropped to reserve grade in 2018 only to go on to win the prestigious Mal Meninga Medal for the Player of year eight months later. It was an award he was to win three times in four years.
His feats on the field have endeared him to Raiders fans who rise every time he gets the ball or when he physically monsters an opposition player.
In the lead up to last year’s Grand Final, a most interesting story in The Australian newspaper was about Papalii.
The story quoted a doctor of biomechanics who calculated that every hit by the 118 kg Papalii was akin to jumping off a three-storey building.
He went on to say that Cooper Cronk would suffer the equivalent of a nine-metre fall every time he attempted to tackle Papalii. Or that he puts 9,000 joules of energy into every full-speed collision.
It added a new dimension to watching Papalii take on the Roosters.
And now we see a resumption of Season 2020 and Papalii will be ready to take on the Melbourne Storm.
Among those watching from the confines of their lounge rooms this weekend will be his family. They are central to his life. On rare occasions he does open up and become animated during interviews – is when he talks about his family.
Most recently there was a story about a contract with his wife dictating what he needed to achieve during the COVID-19 lockdown in order to play golf.
The contract included an edict that he must eat clean meals six days a week and train four times a week. Hopefully this has added to his preparedness for this weekend’s game.
So as he readies himself to play his 200th game on Saturday night it’s the image of his imposing presence on the field that will have Raiders fans rising again, this time from their lounge chairs.
Let’s be thankful that he is there with the Raiders and spare a thought for those who play opposite him during the season as they contemplate the game and the pain ahead.