Canberra have backed star prop Josh Papalii to lead them to a drought-breaking NRL premiership after winning his third Mal Meninga medal.
Papalii moved to the front row this season and has led the Raiders resurgence with barnstorming performances as the Green Machine chase their first title since 1994.
Canberra co-captains Jarrod Croker and Josh Hodgson said their Australia and Queensland representative teammate has taken his game to a new level in 2019.
Papalii won the Raiders' best player award on Tuesday night, the third time he's won the Mal Meninga medal in four seasons.
Croker said Papalii would set the bar when the Canberra host their first preliminary final in club history, against South Sydney or Manly, on Friday week.
"He's been great all year for us, he was probably Queensland's best player in the Origin series and has just come on leaps and bounds this year for someone who has already played for Australia," Croker said.
"A couple of years ago Papa would have looked at someone like Sia (Soliola) and now Papa is Sia.
"Corey (Horsburgh) and Hudson (Young) and Emre (Guler) are looking up to Papa.
"It's very satisfying for Papa, he had a bit of a rollercoaster ride early on (after being caught drink-driving in 2017), he's come on leaps and bounds and is the leader of our side now."
Hodgson was joint-winner of the Mal Meninga medal with Papalii in 2016 and said the enforcer has this season eclipsed his efforts from three years ago.
"He's had a fantastic year for us, definitely his best year since I've been here and he's had some pretty good years; so it's a fair feat for him to be that consistent and then take it up another level," Hodgson said.
"I'm really happy for the big fella, he's such a humble man and straight away he said it was down to his teammates.
"He's had a massive year for us and hopefully has another big game in two weeks."
Papalii decided to start off the bench against Melbourne last week which Croker called "a masterstroke", while Hodgson also endorsed the move.
"I think it's a good initiative to have players to decide who's starting each game, it gives ownership and accountability to the boys who say they want to start," Hodgson said.
Australian Associated Press