Don’t let their accents fool you. While Justin Horo and Josh Papalii might’ve been raised in Australia, both are Auckland-born Polynesians, Horo a proud Maori and Papalii Samoan by heritage. And both are vital cogs in their respective engine rooms.
Since leaving Parramatta, Horo has become a mainstay in the Sea Eagles’ back row, playing 27 of 28 games in 2013 and every game this season. Injury plagued the 27-year old’s time in the west, but at the Sea Eagles he is fast becoming Mr. Reliable.
Overall this year, Horo’s key stats are increasing and even in defeat he is tireless: in round five against the Tigers, he was Manly’s highest metre-gaining forward (84) despite the heavy loss.
As the Sea Eagles’ first two tries against North Queensland demonstrate, Horo is often the decoy for Steve Matai and Jorge Taufua to pile on the points. The danger for opposition is that he may instead receive a short ball close to the tryline. From there Horo will rarely be stopped, as his nine tries in 2013 – the most for Manly forwards – will attest.
For Papalii, this is a chance to recapture some form with the ANZAC Test and Origin selection looming. While his attack was down on average against the Storm (7 runs for 56m), his defence was impeccable (31 tackles, 0 missed), including an unbelievable try-saver on a rampaging Sisa Waqa. The play was a turning point, propelling the Raiders to an unlikely victory.
If Papalii is to prevent the Green Machine’s fourth consecutive loss at Brookvale, he will need to lift immensely. Buoyed by last week’s thriller, this shouldn’t be difficult. But perhaps Manly has already found the key to shutting down the 21-year old’s lethal running game, as in the previous match between the sides he was restricted to his lowest attacking figures of 2013.