Ricky Stuart has hailed Josh Papalii and Dunamis Lui as among the best team-first players he’s coach at Canberra amid the NRL club’s injury crisis.
The Raiders were gutsy again in Saturday night’s 18-12 win over South Sydney, after losing yet another star in Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to the casualty ward.
The Canberra fullback will sweat on how his left pinky finger recovers from a suspected compound dislocation, which is likely to sideline him for at least a fortnight.
He is now the fourth member of the team’s backline out, but their forwards have been similarly depleted.
The club have five forwards out, with the majority of them gone long-term and unlikely to return this season.
That has left Papalii and Lui to carry the load in the middle, with the pair the club’s best in their last two wins over the Sydney Roosters and Souths.
Lui was particularly impressive on Saturday night in one of the best games of his career, causing errors in defence and pulling off a one-on-one strip late to seal the game.
“It comes back to the guy’s personality and character,” Stuart said.
“His character is brilliant. He is like Sia (Soliola) and Papa.
“The three of them are the greatest team-first players I have coached at the Raiders. They are a coach’s delight.”
Lui has spent time at four NRL clubs, but has truly found a home at the Raiders since arriving in 2017 as one of their unsung heroes.
Papalii meanwhile was again powerful up front.
He ran 161 metres and busted three tackles, a week after topping the charts again for the Raiders against the Roosters and scoring the match-winning try.
“Josh has been an amazing individual for us over the past month,” Stuart said.
“Supported closely by Taps (Jospeh Tapine), Sutto (Ryan Sutton) and Nams (Lui).
“Those guys are leading the way for the others to follow the lead.
“That’s why Papa is where he is in the game. You need your representative players to stand up and be part of the game.”
Meanwhile the Raiders remain hopeful they will be able to have Papalii and Tapine for next week’s trip to Townsville, as they attempt to gain medical exemptions to play without receiving the flu jab.