Origin rookie Papalii no pushover for Gallen

PHIL LUTTON
Last updated 20:30 18/06/2013

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Queensland has played down Josh Papalii's role as a 'Gallen stopper' in State of Origin II, but the thunderous Maroons rookie says he won't take a backward step if things heat up at Suncorp Stadium.

Papalii was one of two changes to the Queensland bench when the side was announced on Tuesday, with Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans also earning a place in the 17-man squad.

It didn't take long for attention to turn to Papalii's run-in with Gallen late last season, when Raiders coach David Furner sent him out on a seek-and-destroy mission against the Cronulla and NSW captain.

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It led to a brutal and enthralling series of exchanges between the pair, who went hammer and tongs at each other before the Raiders - and possibly Papalii - took a points victory.

Papalii's inclusion for Queensland will undoubtedly be viewed as a counter-measure against Gallen, who was the catalyst for the NSW forward domination in the 14-6 Bues win in game one.

But both Meninga and Papalii have played down that talk, although Papalii said he's not about to be intimidated in his first Origin encounter if Gallen tries to exact his revenge.

''I'm just out there to play rugby league. But if anything happens, I'm there to look after myself as well,'' Papalii said.

Queensland coach Mal Meninga said he wasn't sending Papalii out to eliminate the threat of Gallen and the Raiders-Sharks game was the furthest thing from his mind when making the selection call.

''I know they've talked about it a million times. And I guess you guys are going to beat it up a million times over the next seven days. But that's last of our instructions,'' Meninga said.

''We're going to try and take the pressure off him. It's important that he's relaxed and gets a good preparation.''

The 'Gallen game' has become Papalii's signature appearance and he rates that fiery afternoon in Canberra as a watershed moment in his fledgling NRL career.

''I was very nervous when Furnsy told me to go up against Gallen. I kept second-guessing myself,'' Papalii said.

''I took a little bit of confidence out of that. I found out I could do things I thought I couldn't do.''

Papalii's Queensland eligibility will undoubtedly be raised by NSW. He was born in New Zealand but moved to Logan with his family when he was six.

He is now 21 and grew up in and around Woodridge.
He had the opportunity to play for the Kiwis but after speaking with Meninga and consulting his friends, family and teammates at the Raiders, opted to hitch his wagon to the Maroons.

''I never really tried to convince him. I said I'd love for you to be part of it and it's his decision,'' Meninga said. 
''He sat down with his parents and his manager more than me. He wanted to play for Queensland.

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The only shame for Papalii is that Jamie Buhrer hasn't added to his seven-minute Origin career. The Manly utility was on the wrong end of the hit of the year last month, in which Papalii launched him into orbit with a frightening shot.

''I actually thought I mistimed it. I ran to the wrong shoulder, my head position wasn't right. I'm pretty thankful I got an image there on Fox,'' Papalii said.

- Brisbane Times

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