CANBERRA back-rower Josh Papalii requested more time to think about his representative future, as the tug-of-war between Queensland and New Zealand for his services intensified on Wednesday.
The 20-year-old was selected in the Kiwis train-on squad ahead of the one-off end-of-season Test match in Townsville against Australia on October 13, strengthening Papalii’s ties to the country of his birth.
But with Maroons coach Mal Meninga remaining defiant about his desire to have Papalii on board for future State of Origin campaigns, the youngster remains genuinely torn over the decision.
Papalii will speak with his parents as well as other people close to him in the coming days before reaching a decision.
When the Auckland-born enforcer was pressed to choose his allegiance 12 months ago, he sided with New Zealand.
It is understood his father, Patrick, is steadfast in his desire that his son represents the Kiwis – but mother Luama is less convinced, and sees Queensland as a viable option as well.
New Zealand Rugby League football manager Tony Kemp expressed full confidence that Papalii, who is picking up a reputation as a defensive menace in the mould of Kiwis great Ruben Wiki, will opt for the black jersey.
“He’s a Kiwi,” he said.
“He’s signed a letter of intent to play for New Zealand. He’s been a Junior Kiwi. All of our indications are that he’s 100 per cent committed to New Zealand.”
Kemp was dismissive of Meninga’s attempts to recruit players like Papalii and Canterbury prop Sam Kasiano, a fellow Junior Kiwi who is also yet to decide his representative allegiance, to the Queensland cause.
“Mal Meninga wants every New Zealander to play for Queensland,” Kemp said.
In the case of Kasiano, the Bulldogs’ continued involvement in the NRL play-offs means he isn’t yet available to be named in a train-on squad.
But Kemp said Kasiano’s situation was “the same thing” as Papalii’s, adding that his mother, Kalala, had indicated her preference that her son represent New Zealand.
Kemp added that the rules for Origin eligibility were under review and Kasiano would not qualify for Queensland if the proposals were adopted.
He said those proposals were based on the time a player had spent in Australia.
Papalii was one of three players added to the Kiwis train-on squad on Wednesday, along with North Queensland Cowboys Jason Taumalolo, another who only recently committed to the Kiwis after being chased by Queensland, and Antonio Winterstein.