Tapine brilliance steers Raiders upturn

·2-min read

Currently hailed the game's hottest forward, in-form Canberra prop Joe Tapine heads into the NRL finals with a chance to turn his great campaign into an all-time best one.

The Raiders have reached the post-season mainly on the back of Tapine's outstanding form, the 28-year-old consistently proving to be their best player in a 12-4 run to set up an elimination final against Melbourne on Saturday.

Fans, teammates and coaches alike are all too happy to declare Tapine the game's best forward, but the New Zealand international is focused on adding team success to his individual brilliance.

"It's nice getting compliments all the time, but I've just got to keep grinding and keep working," he told AAP.

"I can't really put it down to any one thing.

"I'm just confident in what I can do and that I can do it week in and week out."

The numbers tell the story. Tapine ranks first among NRL forwards in running metres (3449m), first in the entire competition for post-contact metres (1596m) and second for offloads (41).

His teammates have seen enough with star five-eighth Jack Wighton declaring Tapine "easily" the best forward in football.

"He's been unbelievable, stats-wise he's just above everyone," Wighton told AAP.

"His leadership has grown that much this year, he's such a great asset to the team."

Emerging centre and fellow Kiwi Matt Timoko says Tapine's playing style inspires teammates to sacrifice for the team the exact same way he would.

"Joe's not much of a talker, he just leads with actions ... he goes out there and he puts his heart on the line every time for the boys," he told AAP.

"We all just rally around him because we know how much he gives up for us, we have to try and give that for him too."

Saturday's elimination final shapes as a heavyweight forward battle with the Raiders fancying their chances given Josh Papali'i's late-season resurgence, Hudson Young's knack of finding the line and bench brilliance from props Emre Guler and Corey Horsburgh.

But they'll have their work cut out handling Storm behemoth Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and second-rower Felise Kaufusi.

Tapine is more than happy to back his boys.

"We always turn up for the Storm, especially down there," he said.

"I feel we've got a blueprint for how we play against them and when we stick to them and play our own footy, we usually get the win.

"It gets those competitive juices flowing, to play teams with such great players you've got to turn up.

"You relish the challenge when you play in the middle ... me and 'Paps' always talk about it, getting on the front foot, starting the game quickly."