Ricky Stuart hopes dropping Test forward Josh Papalii this week will bring back "the old Papa" as the Canberra coach looks to arrest their worrying run of poor form in the NRL.
Less than a day after announcing a host of changes to his side for Thursday night's clash with South Sydney, Stuart says he rested Queensland Origin star Papalii based on his performances in 2021.
Among the most highly-fancied contenders at the start of the season, the Raiders have lost four of their past five games including three straight to Penrith, Parramatta and North Queensland.
Papalii is considered Canberra's best player and Stuart said the 28-year-old needs a mental break to rediscover his devastating best.
"It's important for Papa to use this break wisely and bring the old Papa back because we're really missing him at the moment," Stuart said on Wednesday.
"I had a good chat to Papa this week and he agrees, he's just struggling to find a little bit of form and I think it's more mental than anything else."
It's not the first time Papalii has been dropped from the NRL side to find form, doing so in 2018 and in 2014 as well.
Papalii's omission from the squad named on Tuesday afternoon came as the Raiders prepare to tackle the high-flying Rabbitohs at GIO Stadium.
Skipper Jarrod Croker is unavailable due to a shoulder injury he suffered late in the loss against the Cowboys and is expected to miss just one week.
Given the form of the Raiders, Croker wanted to play hurt but Stuart said he is taking the precaution given the centre has only just returned from off-season shoulder surgery.
"Jarrod wanted to play, which is typically inspirational given the captain he is, but I followed the medical advice because it's more about looking after that shoulder than having to play injured," Stuart said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Test forward Joe Tapine has been named to make his return from the bench against Souths after he was dropped from the team last week.
The 26-year-old was arguably the club's player of the year in 2020 but has struggled for form this campaign.
"Joe Tapine has the ability to be a world-class middle, he's just got to put his mind to it and being consistent with performance," Stuart said.
"I'm very sure that he'll be motivated to do that but all of us have to be motivated to get the result."