Mateship driving red-hot Raider props

·2-min read

Canberra's electric one-two punch of Joe Tapine and Josh Papalii might just be the best front row combination in the NRL, and the duo think it's their tight friendship that's driving them forward.

As the Raiders prepare for their semi-final trip to Parramatta on Friday night, Tapine won Canberra's Meninga Medal as player of the year on Monday by a wide margin, joining four-timer Papalii on the illustrious list of winners.

While Papalii boasts more prominence, perhaps due to his State of Origin exploits with Queensland, Tapine is quickly building a legacy that could see him and his mate go down as two of the club's best forwards of all-time.

"Me and Joe go back to 2016, our friendship (is) pretty close ... I was very happy for Joseph and I sort of had a few words to him after, welcoming him to the Mal Meninga Medal club," Papalii said with a smile.

"We have that bond, it's deeper than footy, our wives are pretty good friends and we consider Joseph and Kirsten family members.

"And I'm pretty sure if we need a babysitter they'd be the first to put their hand up."

The duo were simply unstoppable in their elimination final win against Melbourne, pumping out a combined 363m and 16 tackle busts to wreck the Storm through the middle.

Neither are too concerned about which of them is the better player, although Tapine's extraordinary campaign has brought him highs in metres per game, tackle busts, offloads and line-break assists which Papalii has yet to achieve.

That seems fine with Papalii, who warned rivals his younger teammate would rise to still greater heights.

"No doubt he's got his best football still to come, this is only the start for Joseph," he told reporters.

"After a few years being at the Raiders, now getting the captaincy, and then the Meninga Medal - and no doubt he'll be one of the Dally M props of the year.

"Hopefully together we can carry that good form into Parramatta on Friday and hopefully go all the way."

If you ask Tapine what long-time teammate means to him, the word "family" comes to his mind far more quickly than "football".

"People don't see him off-field, he's a great mate," he said of Papalii.

"That's one of my mates for life and he's always there if you need someone to chat to.

"I love big Papi."