Since joining the Parramatta Eels from the Warriors following the 2020 NRL season, Isaiah Papali'i has become one of the NRL's standout figures.
Beginning the year as an impact player in the middle off the bench, concussion issues for second rower Ryan Matterson opened the door for Papali'i to start on the edge and subsequently play his way into a permanent starting role.
Through just nine rounds, the 22-year-old has already put up some career-best numbers, such as tries (five) and tackle breaks (39), and is averaging 34 tackles per game.
The 22-year-old will be just one of several players the Warriors will need to keep in check when the sides meet in Brisbane this afternoon, and it hasn't come as a surprise to Warriors forward Tohu Harris.
"He's still only young, but he's always worked harder than the person next to him, he's intelligent, he has always wanted to improve his game, and he does all the little things to do that," Harris said of Papali'i.
"So, his performances aren't that surprising to me. He's always had it in him and it's just been great to see him get that opportunity. He's one of those players who I knew he could do that, it was just opportunity and time, really. He's been able to get a lot of experience and I think his potential has met the opportunity and now it's coming out in his performance.
"He's going to be hard for us to handle this weekend. He's one of those dangerous players that we need to look out for."
While they're no longer teammates, Harris and Papali'i have remained in weekly communication, and often play several games of chess against one another online each week since the beginning of the season. A game Harris has been playing against fellow NRL players since taking on teammates during his time with the Melbourne Storm - "well before" Netflix show The Queen's Gambit popularised it - he said while Papali'i was showing his improvement on the pitch, it was a different story on the chess board.
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"It's been a bit one-sided. He's still got a lot to learn. He's definitely playing footy a lot better than he plays chess."
While Papali'i is just one of several players the Warriors will need to keep in check today, they face an understrength Parramatta side, who are without first-choice five-eighth Dylan Brown and centre/second rower Marata Niukore, who are both suspended. Regular starting centre Waqa Blake returns from injury to replace Niukore, while rookie half Jakob Arthur has been named to make his NRL debut against the Warriors. The Eels also have the option to run utility Bryce Cartwright in the halves, however his impact off the bench has been an important part of their success in recent weeks.
Despite the changes to the Eels' team, Harris said nothing changed in the Warriors' approach to the match.
"We can't focus all our energy on one player. Right through their 17, every single player is a dangerous player and I'm sure [Jakob Arthur] will be no different.
"Their squad is a quality side so we have to make sure that we're on our game...they have so many different ways they can hurt you. The biggest thing is the intensity they play at; they play fast, they play aggressive, and we have to be able to play at that level for long period of time – or longer than what we have been playing for."