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Raiders young gun Cotric missed his Papa

When you're young and away from friends and family, it's only natural you miss your Papa.

Which is why when Canberra Raiders young gun Nick Cotric saw him for the first time in a week he had to say 'G'day'.

Even though they were walking down the MCG race to the sheds at half-time of State of Origin I and they were on opposite sides.

When he was in Origin camp, Raiders young gun Nick Cotric missed his Papa.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

It was a special moment caught on the Origin I coverage – NSW Blues 19th man Cotric sporting one of the biggest smiles you'll ever see excitedly chatting to Queensland warrior Josh Papalii after the opening 40 minutes.

But Cotric wasn't sure whether he should he even say hello to his good mate from the Green Machine – given they were now Origin enemies for the night.

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"I was just saying, 'How you going man, I missed you, haven't seen you.' Papa's a good fella," Cotric laughed.

"I wasn't sure if I could say hey to him or not because it was half-time so it was a bit funny there. Papa's a good bloke, so we were just having a bit of a chat, just catching up."

Cotric then got a glimpse of what Origin players go through when they back up a few days later for their NRL club.

He was on the sideline when Papalii was one of the Maroons' best last Wednesday night and then played with him two days later when he was the Raiders' best.

Papalii churned out 134 metres, had a line break and a try assist for the Green Machine on Friday, having run for 94m and made 25 tackles for the Maroons earlier in the week.

He was exhausted in the sheds after the Raiders game, with bags of ice strapped to his aching body.

"He's such a talented player, to back up Origin like that and come back and play like that on Friday is outstanding for our team. Just the little efforts he did … a big player for our team," Cotric said.

"He's definitely very tough, it's a very physical game, and to back up like he did on Friday is a big effort for him, a credit to him."

Raiders hooker Siliva Havili said it wasn't just the fact Papalii backed up his Origin effort with an 80-minute performance, it was also that he had to shift positions due to injury.

Papalii was named at lock, but after the Raiders lost Joey Leilua (concussion) and Jordan Rapana (hamstring) he was moved to form a make-shift right edge.

"Big effort from Paps to play half the game Wednesday night and back up for a full 80-minute performance two days later after Origin," Havili said.

"It's something he's probably used to over the years, but with him playing … as a middle now and having to shift over to the edge too."

While Cotric didn't get to make his Origin debut, his first experience of Origin camp has made the 19-year-old hungry for more.

With the Blues winning game one, it's unlikely coach Brad Fittler will make too many changes, but one injury to the NSW back five and Cotric could come in.

Cotric said Fittler told him just to keep doing what he was doing and working to improve his game every week.

Blues and Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco, who was best on ground in the opener, was someone Cotric has looked up to since he was a kid.

So it was only natural he kept a close eye on his idol to help improve his own game.

"I looked up to half those boys in the Origin team, like James Tedesco. I looked up to him as a kid when I was in the younger grades," Cotric said.

"Just seeing what he was doing, the way he prepares for a game and the way he performed, he's just such a great player. But everyone helped me out."

NRL ROUND 15

Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium, 4.10pm.

David Polkinghorne

David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.

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