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'That just drains you': The advice from two All Black captains fuelling NRL back rower

(Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

As Parramatta’s season intensifies, second-rower Isaiah Papali’i is using some advice from two former All Blacks captains to ensure he is at his destructive best during the Eels’ NRL finals campaign.


As an avid rugby union fan, Auckland-born Papali’i relished the chance to hear from Kieran Read and Sam Cane when the pair dropped into training during his days at the Warriors.

Read and Cane detailed the importance of taking a professional approach to preparation and gave Papali’i another pearl of wisdom he has brought with him to the Eels.

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“They talked about being able to step away from the field and have that ‘off’ switch,” Papali’i told AAP.

“It can’t always be footy because that just drains you.

“They were both captains so they’re not bad people to have talking to you.”

The Eels’ finals hoodoo has been well-documented.


Before defeating Canberra in the semi-finals, Parramatta were running the risk of dropping out in the second week of the finals for a fourth consecutive season and keeping the NRL’s longest preliminary final drought intact.

Most significantly, the Eels are in the midst of the longest active premiership dry spell.

As Parramatta strive to finally get the mental game right in finals, Papali’i has drawn strength from the All Blacks’ advice to give himself permission to switch off.

He hopes it will hold him in good stead against North Queensland in Friday’s grand final qualifier.


“It’s very important because the pressure can get to you if you’re thinking about it too much,” Papali’i said.

“If you can relax away from the field, it’s only going to be positive when you do come to game time.”

For Papali’i, relaxation is rounding up some of the other Kiwi-born Eels and hitting the golf course.

“We’re try-hard golfers. Well, I’m a try-hard and the rest of the boys are pretty natural at it,” he said.

“A bit of trash talk gets involved but it’s good fun at the end of the day.

“I suck at it so I don’t want to get too competitive because I always find myself losing bets against them.”

Papali’i’s days coughing up cash to his Parramatta teammates will soon be over, given he is one of six Eels set to leave the club at the season’s end.

When pressed about reports he is having second thoughts about moving to the struggling Wests Tigers, Papali’i has repeatedly said he won’t make any hard decisions about his future until the off-season.

Nevertheless, the 23-year-old seemed more definite about the move when asked on Monday.

“(Last Friday’s semi-final) could almost be my last game at (Eels home ground) CommBank Stadium,” Papali’i said.

“I’m sure I’ll keep up with a lot of the boys and stay in contact.

“I’ll see them around in the off-season so it’s not really a farewell.”


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