After a five year exile due to a Mormon mission and a brief and regrettable flirtation with rugby union, Jordan Rapana returned to the bright lights of the NRL in 2014 and earned himself a contract extension after impressing at fullback.
Rapana burst onto the scene as an 18 year old in 2008 for the Gold Coast Titans scoring five tries in his five appearances for the season.
He then shocked all and sundry when he announced that he would be leaving the NRL to embark on a two year Mormon mission to the United Kingdom.
Upon returning to Australia, Rapana had brief stints with the Western Force and the ACT Brumbies before returning to the game he loved.
After finding his feet with the Queanbeyan Blues in the TTM Canberra Raiders Cup, Rapana got further up to speed of the 13-a-side game when he represented the Cook Islands at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup alongside Sam Mataora.
On a one year deal, Rapana began the year with Souths Logan in the Intrust Super Cup on the wing. The 25 year old soon proved to be a valuable asset to the Magpies through his dynamic ability as a ball runner and capability under the high ball.
To better utilise Rapana’s skill set and athletic ability, Souths Logan Coach Josh Hannay shifted him closer to the action at centre.
Rapana relished the increased involvement and proved to be a highly consistent performer throughout the first half of the year for the Magpies. It wasn’t until Hannay shifted him to fullback though that the Tugan Sea Sharks junior's season really took off.
With the added room to move in the custodian role, coupled with his growing confidence, Rapana began to cut opposition teams’ defensive lines to shreds in the Intrust Super Cup.
This did not go unnoticed by Raiders Coach Ricky Stuart and the rest of his coaching staff however they were unable to blood Rapana due to second tier salary cap restrictions.
Due to an injury crisis in the outside backs, Canberra was granted salary exemptions for Rapana to make his Raiders debut in Round 22 against the Parramatta Eels.
In all places to make his return to the NRL, Rapana did so at TIO Stadium in Darwin!
Stuart selected Rapana in the number one jersey for his Raiders debut, enabling Anthony Milford to play in the halves.
Despite a few fumbles early on, Rapana was terrific on debut with his enthusiasm, pace and work rate leaving Stuart no choice but to retain him at fullback for the next week’s clash against the St George Illawarra Dragons at GIO Stadium.
Rapana had a try disallowed, ran for 151 metres as well as registering 8 tackle breaks. The only other player to trump Rapana in the metres gained department was the Eels superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne.
During the following week’s game and unbeknownst to him at the time, Rapana sustained a fractured skull early on in the match but battled on bravely to be one of the side’s best against the Dragons, in what was his first home game for the Green Machine.
Along with running for 160 metres (the most of any player on the field) Rapana scored his first NRL try since 2008 and his first in Raiders colours in the 31st minute after brilliantly supporting a Milford line break.
Unfortunately for Rapana, the fracture to his skull would rule him out for the remainder of the year but he did enough in his two appearances for the year for Stuart to re-sign him for the 2015 season.
Rapana averaged the highest amount of metres per game of any Raiders player in 2014 and broke an incredible 23 tackles in just two appearances to emerge as a strong contender to be the Raiders fullback in 2015.
Alas, Rapana’s early finish to the year gave Jack Wighton the chance to showcase his prodigious attacking ability in the number one jersey however if he is again selected at fullback next year, Rapana may still challenge for a spot on the wing given the departures of Reece Robinson and Sami Sauiluma.
Average Minutes: 80
Try Assists: 0
Line Breaks: 0
Line Break Assists: 0
Tackle Breaks: 23
Average Metres: 159.2
Average Tackles: 3.5