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Canberra Today 8°/15° | Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Papali’i reassures Raiders youngsters over capitulation

Veteran Josh Papalii (r) had reassuring advice for the Raiders at training on Wednesday. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

By Alex Mitchell in Canberra

Canberra are ready to ride the bumps of an NRL season and get back to winning ways against Parramatta on Sunday, veteran enforcer Josh Papali’i says.

After a calamitous loss to Cronulla last time out where the Raiders threw away an 18-0 lead to lose 36-22 against a side missing a stack of forwards, a promising 2-0 start has been replaced with a more mediocre 2-2 season record.

It’s nothing 286-gamer Papali’i hasn’t seen before, with his Raiders keen to avoid slumping further when they host the Eels.

But while his confidence remains intact, Papali’i said ensuring the side’s younger brigade don’t drop their heads will be key to getting back on track.

“I’ve been in this position many times before in my playing career, but I think the biggest thing is just being there for the young boys that haven’t experienced back-to-back losses like this or a slow start to the season,” he said.

“We started 2-0 and now we could be facing three losses in a row … you’ve got to be there for the young boys and just be that senior player they need and we’ll be doing that this week.

“Those boys have come in today, trained well, and hopefully can take it out on Sunday.”

Particularly alarming were the 11 errors the Raiders made, despite showing early in the campaign they need a high completion rate to win matches.

They completed at 87 and 90 per cent in wins against Newcastle and Wests Tigers, but dipped down to 81 and 75 per cent in their back-to-back losses.

“That was one of our main focuses, completing sets, getting to our kicks and obviously just turning their big boys away,” Papali’i said.

“Our fight is always gonna be there as a team, but execution, errors, that’s stuff we get questioned on … that’s something we can fix as a team.

“(Coach Ricky Stuart) has obviously stuck with the same team, and we just have to repay him and play well on Sunday.”

One Raider with plenty of room for improvement is Queensland State of Origin prop Corey Horsburgh, who made two errors and ran for a below-average 62m in his first hit-out for the season.

“He’s an Origin player and Origin is around the corner, so I’m pretty sure he’s in for a big one,” Papali’i said.

“He was a bit disappointed after that game, but I think we all were.

“The good thing about playing bad as a team is we can only go up from here, so hopefully we can do that as a team.”

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