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The Kangaroos train at Wests Mayfield on the 3rd of May 2016 as part of the preparation for the Test Match between the Australian Kangaroos Jillaroos and The New Zealand Kiwis. Digital Image: Paul Barkley © NRL Photos

A slightly surprised Josh Papalii wasn't expecting to play for the Kangaroos on Friday night, something not helped by the fact he doesn't currently own a mobile phone.

Papalii would have been one of the last to know about being picked in Mal Meninga's maiden Australian team last week. Rather he was under the impression that other back-rowers had usurped him in the pecking order.

The 23-year-old's focus remained on the Raiders – who he said he hasn't started well for in past seasons – and was only informed of his Kangaroos recall once Raiders media manager Ben Pollack found out.

"To be honest I didn't think I was going to get the call-up. I thought there were some other second-rowers going around that were performing better than me. It was always a goal but it wasn't a concentration of mine," Papalii told

"I haven't started seasons well for the Raiders for the past couple of years so it was a massive goal instead for me to start well. I had to strip a few kilos off me and that's obviously paying off.

"I didn't even get a call from Mal, I actually have no phone so it was a massive surprise. [Pollack] told me so I then had to try and find a phone to call the missus and my parents. At the time I was just chilling outside with a group of boys talking about whatever."

Papalii has been in fine touch this season having steadily increased his metres and tackle break averages per game while maintaining his same try-scoring rate as last year.

The Queensland rep said he hasn't however become a leader at the club, rather he's tried to improve on his 'actions speak louder than words' mantra in 2016. This despite the absence of Jeff Lima, Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Sia Soliola in recent weeks. 

"I think everyone had to lift their games up a bit with our leaders out of the team. They bring a lot to the Raiders and without them everyone has had to pick their game up," Papalii said.

"I don't try and change my role though, I can only be myself and I talk when I have to. Hopefully my actions speak loud enough for our boys. 

"I like playing on that edge now, it's good to run at smaller men. That's where I see myself staying now. The Kiwis always name a big team though so the smaller blokes will be hard to come by on Friday night."

Papalii headlines a list of 10 representative Raiders in their wider first grade squad and said it was a credit to the club's growing stature in the NRL.

"It's always an honour coming into these camps especially for Australia and Queensland in the past," he said. "It shows that Sticky's training is working so I'm happy to represent the club."

This article first appeared on

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.