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Raiders prop Josh Papalii.

Ricky Stuart and Josh Papalii have had robust conversations in the past but the Raiders head coach attributes "Papa's" brilliant form to someone else.

The saying goes that behind every good man is an even better woman and Stuart believes Masepa Papalii is that someone.

The pair were sweethearts for several years before tying the knot in late 2018. Season 2019 not only saw Papalii shift from lock to front row, it gave the 27-year-old a third Mal Meninga Medal (for the Raiders' best player) in four years.

Papalii scored six tries, made 61 tackle busts, 31 off-loads, ran for 3830 metres at an average just shy of 150 in each of his 26 games.

And he's not stopping there. Papalii has had a thorough and comprehensive pre-season.

"It's the best body weight and head space I've seen Josh in since I've been at the club," Stuart told NRL.com.

"And every year he just keeps improving.

"I honestly believe his marriage to Sepa has put him in a better place. I've never seen Josh so comfortable.

"I give his wife all the credit and compliments. She's been a solid soldier and a strong soldier for Josh."

Raiders prop Josh Papalii.
Raiders prop Josh Papalii. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

And he's needed it. The drink-driving charges in April 2017, the blow-out in weight after the World Cup with Samoa in October that same year, and being dropped to NSW Cup in early 2018.

That is one of the many tough, toe-to-toe conversations between Stuart and Papalii … only they didn't have it until after he was sent back to Mounties to clean up his act.

"I got dropped in 2018 at the start (round five) for not performing," Papalii told NRL.com.

"Everything else off-field just wasn't up to scratch. I trained with Mounties the whole week, practised on the edge.

"The Mounties coach on game day came up to me and said 'Stick wants you to play in the middle'. I was a bit thrown off but I was told I had to play the full 80 minutes at lock – Sticky's instructions.

"I was pretty buggered afterwards but I felt like I found myself again by being put in the middle. I get my hands on the ball more, I get more involved, and I can show more with the footy."

So lock is where he played the majority of 2018 and prop is where he played all of 2019.

"Having an honest chat with Josh is very easy because he's an honest and genuine guy," Stuart said.

"He's one of our favourite sons here, Josh Papalii.

"All it ever is between me and Josh is that I want the best for him."

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Papalii has faced the music with Stuart a few times but emerges with no scars.

"There's no hard feelings between me and Stick. I've always wanted to play under Ricky," Papalii said.

"I was going to leave the club at one time to go and play under him at Parramatta (2013) but he came here in 2014 anyway.

"Our relationship is pretty up front. We talk to each other honestly."

And the pair will be celebrating together in round three at GIO Stadium when the Raiders host the Dragons – for Papalii's 200th NRL game, all with the Green Machine.

"I came down as a 17-year-old from Logan (Brisbane's south side). It was hard to move away but I had a great host family and I still see them," Papalii said.

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"It's crazy to think this will be my 10th season … seems like yesterday."

But can he produce another season like last year?

"It just comes with how you play your footy. And it's the kind of pressure I want. It drives me to become a better player.

"I don't feel the pressure on my shoulders. I've worked pretty hard this off-season – feel like I've come back in some decent shape.

"I've only got one mindset and that is to play good football."

Good news for both Canberra and Queensland. Papalii is still smarting that he lost both the Origin series and grand final in the same year.