CANBERRA giant Josh Papalii will play for Samoa in the World Cup as a tribute to his fallen childhood friend, Alex Elisala.
In A-List, Papalii speaks of living down the street from the tragic North Queensland star in Brisbane when they were both in primary school and calls on the NRL to do more to help young players forced to move interstate and overseas to further they careers.
Papalii watched with his father from the hill when Elisala played for Samoa against Tonga on April 20 at Centrebet Stadium. The loss of his friend has convinced him to follow in his footsteps.
“Seeing him play for Samoa determined what I was going to do, hopefully, come October,” Papalii, 20, says
“I was actually there. I took my old man and stood in a dark corner somewhere under a hoodie. It was awesome. It’s the pride of where you’re from, where your parents are from. It was emotional as well.
“When the anthem was sung by the choir, it touched my heart. I could see myself in that blue jersey.
“Then my close mate Alex passed away and it just determined it. If a close mate of mine could make Samoa then I could too.”
Papalii says Elisala’s plight highlights the emotional challenges young NRL players face.
“I actually think the NRL can do a bit better, just for the youngsters around (Holden Cup ) level.
“When disappointment comes from girls or alcohol or whatever, (they should know) there’s always someone who can help. We need more help with welfare, people visiting the boys away from the club itself and actually getting to know the boys on a personal level and seeing how they’re going.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK