Former Maroons stalwart Shaun Berrigan has called for Josh Papalii to start for Queensland in Origin III, insisting they’re missing a trick by allowing him to cool his heels on the bench.
Berrigan says the aggression of his Raiders teammate is made for the brutal opening minutes of Origin, as Queensland search for an eighth straight series win at ANZ Stadium next Wednesday.
The 34-year-old has played 15 Origins and watched in awe as Papalii tore North Queensland apart in Canberra’s 26-18 win on Sunday afternoon.
Papalii played just 11 minutes off the bench on debut in Queensland’s 26-6 Origin II win, coming on late in the piece when the result was virtually sealed.
But Berrigan is convinced the 21-year-old deserves more responsibility in one of the most anticipated interstate games in memory.
Queensland is expected to announce an unchanged 17-man squad from Rockhampton on Tuesday.
”I can’t believe Papa’s not starting, he’s one of the best back-rowers in the competition at the moment,” Berrigan said.
”I think Papa really deserves to start there, so it will be interesting to see what side they name.” Papalii was outstanding against the Cowboys, scoring a brilliant solo try and racking up 158 metres and 38 tackles.
Berrigan said Papalii wouldn’t be overwhelmed by starting on the game’s biggest stage, and he has developed into an 80-minute player for Canberra this year.
”I can see what [coach] Mal [Meninga] was doing in his first Origin game, he’s still a baby in rugby league terms and wanted to give him a taste,” Berrigan said.
”But he’s got a good head on his shoulders and is very mature for his age, he was devastating the few minutes he played last Origin.
”I think he’s ready, but it’s up to Mal, isn’t it?”
Papalii, a right-edge back-rower, is likely to remain on the bench given Sam Thaiday’s huge performance in that role for Queensland in Origin II.
But Berrigan feels he would be capable of starting on the left and forge a dangerous edge partnership with centre Greg Inglis.
”He’s got a maturity for his age not many guys have, I think that’s the big thing,” Berrigan said.
”He can step off both feet, I don’t think it would be a problem at all if Papa was on the left.”
Raiders coach David Furner believes Papalii should stay on Queensland’s bench, but should get more time following the early foundation set by starting back-rower Corey Parker.
”I thought they lost a bit of go-forward [when Parker went off], Papalii would be nice and handy backing up what he laid,” Furner said. ”I still would keep him on the bench, but look at using him in that type of role.”
As a proud New South Welshman, Canberra and former Blues prop Brett White hopes Papalii keeps warming the pine.
”How good is it? That’s all I’m going to say,” he quipped. ”It’s a good thing, the longer he’s on the bench, the better for NSW.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.