Papalii back for Raiders, Edwards rested

Josh Papalii. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Josh Papalii. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Raiders forward Joel Edwards, on the ground, will not play this weekend after being concussed in the past two rounds.

Raiders forward Joel Edwards, on the ground, will not play this weekend after being concussed in the past two rounds.

Canberra Raiders representative star Josh Papalii has been named to make his comeback from injury in a major boost before Saturday afternoon's crucial home clash with Newcastle Knights.

But the Raiders have opted to play it safe and rest fellow back rower Joel Edwards after he sustained back-to-back concussions in Canberra's past two games.

Edwards wasn't named in Canberra's team announced on Tuesday after leaving the field with heavy head knocks against Souths and Penrith.

Prop Shannon Boyd (illness), back rower Jarrad Kennedy (illness) and winger Bill Tupou (hamstring) also return to the side in place of Kyle O'Donnell, Jake Foster and Sami Sauiluma after they were late omissions in Saturday's loss to Penrith.

Papalii's return means he now has two NRL games to convince Australian selectors and coach Tim Sheens he should retain his place in the Kangaroos line-up for the May 2 Test against New Zealand in Sydney.

The 21-year-old burst onto the representative scene last year for Queensland in State of Origin and Australia in last year's World Cup, but his selection chances were harmed when he suffered an ankle syndesmosis injury at Newcastle in round two.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart believes Papalii has enough time to prove himself after his versatility and aggression were crucial in Australia's World Cup final victory.

"I'd be pretty confident given two [NRL] games he'd be right to play [for Australia], if selected,'' Stuart said.

"I'm confident he'll be OK [to play Newcastle], we'll go through some more testing for him.

"He looked good to play last week and was basically clear to play, he just lacked a bit of confidence in himself.

Sheens, who coached the Raiders to their three premierships, was spotted inside Canberra's dressing sheds along with Papalii after Saturday's loss to Penrith.

"He was there on behalf of his Australian duties, but it's always great having Tim around as an ex-Canberra coach,'' Stuart said.

"Every ex-player or coach is always welcome and invited back to our club.''

The Raiders' decision to rest Edwards is a wise one, given the NRL has adopted a hardline stance on new concussion rules introduced this year.

It sent a clear message on Tuesday that any breaches will be treated seriously after Canterbury was fined $20,000, with $10,000 suspended, after being issued with a breach notice over an incident involving forward Josh Jackson in round two.

The Bulldogs are in danger of further sanctions after their English forward James Graham failed to immediately come from the field, and then did return to play after a head knock against Melbourne in round four.

Newcastle has named an unchanged team from the side that went down 28-2 to North Queensland on Monday night.

Star Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen was tipped to play his first NRL game of the year after badly injuring his hamstring in the Auckland Nines, and could be a late inclusion.


NRL round six: Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights at Canberra Stadium, 3pm

Canberra: 1. Anthony Milford, 2. Reece Robinson, 3. Jarrod Croker, 4. Matt Allwood, 5. Bill Tupou, 6.  Jack Wighton, 7. Terry Campese (c), 8. David Shillington, 9.  Glen Buttriss, 10. Brett White, 11. Josh Papalii, 12. Jarrad Kennedy, 13. Shaun Fensom. Interchange: 14. Josh McCrone, 15. Paul Vaughan, 16. Dane Tilse, 17. Shannon Boyd

Newcastle: 1. Darius Boyd, 2. James McManus, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Michael Dobson, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Kade Snowden, 9. Kurt Gidley, 10. Willie Mason, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Adam Clydsdale, 15. Korbin Sims, 17. Adam Cuthbertson, 18. David Fa’alogo.

This story Papalii back for Raiders, Edwards rested first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.