Team comes first for committed Papalii
For 41 minutes he threw himself into the New South Wales forward pack in rugby league's toughest arena with little regard for his own welfare but Queensland prop Josh Papalii's bravest act of the night came back at the team hotel.
As Wednesday became Thursday in the early hours of the morning, Papalii made the decision to drive back to Canberra so that he could participate in the Raiders' captain's run on Thursday morning ahead of their Round 13 Friday night clash with Manly.
But more than simply chucking his footy kit into the boot and pointing his car southward, Papalii had to inform his partner Sepasalesa that they would be packing up their young daughter and driving the three hours back to the nation's capital.
It was a decision he made prior to Game One of the Holden State of Origin Series but said it still didn't go down well with the family back at the hotel in Sydney.
"I can't sleep too well after games so I told my missus – my missus wasn't a fan of it too. She was pretty off me," said Papalii, who listened to a mix of country, R'n'B and reggae on the trip home.
"To be honest, after the game I was pretty knackered and my missus had the little one all day and I got back to the hotel and said, 'We’re going to go for a drive now'.
"I literally got back to the hotel, said bye to the boys and made our way down to Canberra.
"There was me and my missus, my little one and my brother and his missus. They didn't agree at first but they all slept and I listened to my music and drove back."
It's a commitment to the cause that you can't imagine Papalii making when he made his NRL debut back in 2011 the day after his 19th birthday.
A rampaging hitman who seemed intent on making minced meat out of the biggest bloke the opposition could throw at him, Papalii has now matured into an impactful forward also capable of playing big minutes.
Having busted through the 100-game milestone in the NRL late last season, Papalii's 41-minute performance in Game One where he ran for 111 metres was the most significant contribution of his fledgling Origin career for Queensland.
Forty-eight hours later he played 58 minutes for the Raiders where he ran for 114 metres, had a try assist and made two line breaks in a display that exhibits a greater sense of maturity and responsibility to his team's success.
"I'm still happy to be here but being here you are required to do a job," Papalii said of how his attitude in the Origin arena had changed since his debut in 2013.
"There is a bit of nerves and a bit of responsibility falls back on you. A lot of people in Queensland and New South Wales are watching the game so it brings a lot of pressure but paying next to [Johnathan] Thurston and 'Coops' (Cooper Cronk) makes it a lot easier."
Like most young tearaway forwards Papalii has had to learn how to best channel the raw aggression that makes him such a ferocious runner of the ball and feared hitman in defence.
He is conscious of not adding fuel to any pre-Origin fire with ill-chosen words about opposition players but insists his aggressive style is how he will continue to play the game.
"I try to play aggressive, it's just the way I play and the way I've been brought up," said Papalii, who played in the middle and on the edge in Origin I.
"Sometimes it shows and sometimes it doesn't when I'm in the middle and it's just continuous stuff.
"Identifying what time it is in the game and where we are as a team, if we're on the back foot or if we're on the front foot. If we're on the back foot you've got to hold your line and not be too aggressive but when we're down on their line you obviously put the hand brake down and go for a good shot."
This article first appeared on NRL.com