Papalii reveals his Origin dream
It is a measure of Papalii's maturation that the one-time quietly-spoken kid from Logan will be the most-capped player in the current Queensland side in the return bout against NSW at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
The 113kg hardman will chalk up his 17th Origin appearance and, if he stays fit next year, Papalii will become the 13th Maroons forward to receive the prestigious Dick 'Tosser' Turner Medal for reaching the 20-match milestone.
Watch The State of Origin II Full & Mini REPLAY on Kayo with no ad-breaks during play and Fox League Commentary. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Now Papalii is ready for more responsibility. The Raiders hit man lauded the leadership of current skipper Daly Cherry-Evans but at 28, Papalii is four years younger than 'DCE', who turns 32 this February.
When the time comes for Cherry-Evans to walk away, Papalii will come into serious contention for the captaincy and he would relish the prospect of joining icons such as Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga and Darren Lockyer in Queensland's leadership club.
"I'll never shy away from being captain of Queensland," Papalii said.
"I personally think 'Chez' (Cherry-Evans) is the right choice now and he has been a great captain since getting the job last year.
"At the moment, I'm really enjoying my place in the side.
"I'm really happy with the role I play helping out our younger forwards and I would love nothing more than to help Chez hold that Origin shield up, but if it (the captaincy) comes up down the track, I would love to lead this team."
Once renowned for stealing headlines with his ferocious hitting power as a rookie, Papalii got the job done without fanfare in Queensland's 18-14 upset in Origin I.
He amassed 112 metres from 14 runs and completed 23 tackles without a single miss to ram home his reliability for the Maroons in midfield.
The tangible evidence of Papalii's status at Camp Maroon can be seen in his position on the Queensland team bus.
"I'm old and boring now," he says with a laugh. "I sit at the back of the bus with Wayne (Bennett, coach) … all the young card players are at the front."
The veteran of 219 NRL games admits he now understands the professionalism required to succeed in the Origin arena after being handed his debut by former Maroons coach Mal Meninga in Game Two of the 2013 series.
MORE ORIGIN NEWS
"In the past I didn't do a lot, I just wore the Queensland jersey and came out behind the senior guys," he said.
"I came into the team not knowing what was going to happen and how things worked.
"My first Origin game at Suncorp was an eye opener. It's everything you see on TV, all the hype and pressure, it just lives up to it.
"It's a bit different now being one of the older heads. I'm keen to work with the younger guys and lead the way for them … I still feel I can get better in this arena."
Bennett said Papalii's presence in the Queensland pack is crucial.
"There's a real calmness about him," he said.
"He is a good pro, he knows what he's got to do. There is no fanfare or fuss.
"I don't spend a lot of time worrying about him because you know he will get the job done for you.
"That's what you want in all the players, to know they'll get the job done without any fuss."
Originally published as Papalii reveals his Origin dream