Origin 2020: How Lionheart boxing champ toughened Papalii
Gruelling training sessions with former world heavyweight boxing contender Alex "Lionheart'' Leapai is the foundation of the success now enjoyed by Queensland State of Origin front rower spearhead Josh Papalii.
In Wednesday's State of Origin decider Papalii will raise his body for one last effort in season 2020 when he leads Queensland forwards into battle with New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium.
And when his tank is running on empty, he will delve into his reserves of will power installed in him during gruelling boxing sessions with his cousin Leapai at Leapai's home made garage gym in Slacks Creek.
Training with Leapai was hot and heavy stuff for Josh and his brother John (former Parramatta NRL centre).
On a Sunday "we went to church and gave thanks to man upstairs'' and then the next day Papalii's would be throw himself into Leapai's gruelling training regimen.
"He would push himself to the next level and a lot of times we sparred, the boys got a blood nose but kept going,'' Leapai said.
"My uncle told them to keep going - no excuses.
"They'd train in the garage and go on road runs with a boxing bag on their heads.
"The bags weigh 60 kgs and they would run 6km, with one end of the boxing back on each shoulder. It was all part of mental training.''
Papalii would spend the off-seasons back in his home community of Woodridge and Slacks Creek and Leapai said it installed the mental toughness in Josh which you see today.
"Now he will run out (on Wednesday) rated best forward in the NRL which goes to show the mental side but also his physical side.
"I am really proud of the way he is going and how he has turned out as a man and a player.
"He is an inspiration to all the other kids that are playing the game, that you can become another Josh Papalii if you put in the hard work and believe in yourself.''
Talent scout Brian Edwards, who recruited Papalii to Canberra as a 15-year-old after he had been spotted by Mark Tookey training at Woodridge SHS, said Papalii's work ethic was second to none as a teenager which reflected kindly on the training he did with Leapai.
"He was one of the best trainers coming through for a young kid,'' Edwards said.
"He was always someone who wanted to train.
"Some kids just don't realise how much is involved and how much you have to do as extras, but Josh had that installed in him.''
Originally published as Origin 2020: How Lionheart boxing champ toughened Papalii