Sterling declares Eels machine buy of the season

1 month ago 18
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Rugby league icon Peter Sterling says he has "no doubt" Parramatta forward Isaiah Papali'i is the buy of the season, lauding his impact on the Eels following their crucial win over the Cowboys.

Papali'i has transformed into a highly effective second-rower since moving from the Warriors to the Eels ahead of this season, running dangerous lines and crossing for seven tries.

Reagan Campbell-Gillard's groin injury gave Papali'i a chance to play in the front row in the Cowboys clash, and the 22-year-old also thrived in that role, as Parramatta clinched a 32-16 win over North Queensland on the Gold Coast.

Rugby league great Brad Fittler suggested during Nine's post-match show that young Wests Tigers fullback Daine Laurie was among the buys of the season.

Boom Eels recruit Isaiah Papali'i takes on two Roosters defenders. (Getty)

But Sterling saved his praise for Papali'i.

"This guy has come in and he's forced his way into the run-on side and then he's forced the coach [Brad Arthur] to play him 80 minutes pretty much every week," Sterling said.

"Now, moving into the middle he hasn't done that the last couple of weeks, and that's covering for Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

"But he's forced the coach into playing him in the position that he wants to play [and for] as many minutes as he can.

"And I think he's scored seven tries this year; he's shown a real propensity to be able to get the ball over the line.

"Shaun Lane was the starting [second-rower on Papali'i's preferred side], and Papali'i – he was the guy that was left [on the bench]. His form has forced the coach to play him in the run-on side in his preferred position. I reckon he's played more minutes than just about any other forward in that Parramatta side."

Papali'i averaged 149.5 metres over his first 21 games of this season.

Captain Clint Gutherson and veteran winger Blake Ferguson are the only Eels players leading the New Zealander in that statistical category.

Eels second-rower Isaiah Papali'i celebrates scoring a try against the Raiders. (Getty)

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