Canberra Raiders star Josh Papalii said he’s happy with his fitness despite still being forced to go through gruelling early morning workouts just over a month out from the start of the season.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart confronted Papalii along Samoan teammates Joey Leilua and Junior Paulo about their weight after returning from World Cup duties.
Papalii said a gruelling regimen of cardio work on the treadmill and rowing machine has him ready for round one.
“We’ve still got the early [training] group for boys who haven’t made skin-fold targets, so we’ve been getting up at 5am for that,” Papalii said.
“Obviously I had to work pretty hard coming back from the World Cup with Samoa, I didn’t come back in too good a shape and I was told by Stick [Ricky Stuart] to work my butt off in pre-season and I have done that.”
Papalii’s diet has also come under the spotlight in the pre-season, with 25-year-old saying he’s happy to cut back on bad habits as round one closes in.
“I’m not too bad [with my diet] when I’m at training, it’s when I’m away and with family,” Papalii said.
“Having two kids now, you sort of get a bit carried away going to the canteen when your little one wants a lolly or a chocolate there. I’m pretty healthy at the moment.
“My bodyweight is down and my body fat is getting there, and I am just trying to get back to 2016 form.”
After the World Cup campaign, Papalii admitted he wondered if the pre-season would ever come to a close.
The Kangaroos star does not have much longer to wait, with the Raiders heading to Queensland next week for a training camp ahead of their trial match against the Canterbury Bulldogs at Sunshine Coast Stadium on February 17.
The club is expected to trial several news players including new signings Siliva Havili and Craig Garvey.
Both will be fighting for the number nine jersey left vacant by the ACL injury to Josh Hodgson while playing for England in last year’s World Cup.
Papalii said he has been impressed with the skill and enthusiasm of Havili and Garvey during the pre-season.
“We’ve got a lot of young fellas come up to first grade and obviously with Hodgey (Josh Hodgson) being out to start the season you’ve got the young fellas, Siliva (Havili) who played for Tonga in the World Cup and (Craig) Garvey from the Bulldogs, so I’m pretty excited to play alongside those guys,” he said.
“They’re been good so far but they’re both still young players and they still have got a lot to learn but Hodgey is still around the place and teaching them a thing or two.”
Papalii said the playing group received a lift when Hodgson took to the training field for the first time last week.
“A lot of boys joke around and ask him if he even did his ACL because he’s ahead of schedule, but he’s very professional off the field so no doubt he will be back as soon as possible.”