9:00pm, 22 June 2022
Josh Papalii will soak up every minute of State of Origin II knowing there could only be 20 available to him after the veteran’s cameo role in their series-opening win.
The Canberra statesman was substituted after just 15 minutes and didn’t return until the final five of their 16-10 win over NSW in Sydney.
Reuben Cotter’s 80-minute effort and terrific bench output from Pat Carrigan and Lindsay Collins meant the veteran could sit back and admire the next crop in his 21st Origin appearance.
Coach Billy Slater’s tactics may change with Jai Arrow replacing the injured Cotter and Papalii admits he expects more from himself in Perth on Sunday.
But if he is asked to bookend the contest again he’ll do so happily.
“Bill just said ‘go as hard as I can for as long as I can,” Papalii told AAP.
“I did that for 15 and the last five or so; if that’s my role, that’s my role and I am happy to sit on the bench the whole game if I have to.
“Those boys came on, took it to another level. It doesn’t bother me, the main thing is we win.”
Papalii, 30, doesn’t mind being referred to as a father figure of a Maroons forward pack headed by 22-year-old Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.
“It felt like yesterday that it was Matt Scott, Nate Myles doing it to me,” he said.
“Those memories last for a long time and it felt like that in Sydney … to sit around (in the dressing room after fulltime) and embrace it, cherish that moment.
“You never know when it’s your last camp, so I’m just soaking it all in. I just hope I play a bit better in Perth.”
Papalii acknowledged NSW’s mass changes as a sign they’ll explode from kick-off, heightening the importance of his role in the opening exchanges.
“They’ll be desperate; they’ve picked that team for a reason, a must-win game for them,” he said.
“They’ll want to stamp some authority and lock it up … they’ll come out pretty fiery and it’s a massive task to start well and hopefully we can do that.
“(With Cotter injured) we’ve got to bite down on the mouthguard, chip in and help each other out.”
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