CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Josh Papalii has been banned for one National Rugby League match by his Canberra club on top of being dropped from Australia's squad for this week's test against New Zealand after pleading guilty to a drink-driving charge.
The Canberra Raiders announced Monday that Papalii would be ruled out for the Round 10 match against Newcastle. The 24-year-old forward was fined and banned from driving for eight months after appearing in a Canberra court last week and was subsequently dropped from Mal Meninga's Australian squad.
"The board believes Josh has endured a hefty punishment from both the court process and by his omission from the Kangaroos team and believed a further one-match suspension was the correct punishment," Raiders chief executive Don Furner said in a statement.
Australia could also be missing key playmaker Johnathan Thurston for Friday's test in Canberra.
Thurston is recovering from a leg injury and missed the North Queensland's Cowboys weekend loss to Parramatta, but said he did a high intensity training session on Monday morning and was feeling OK.
"If it keeps going the way it's going I'll be fit to play," he said. "Every time there's an opportunity to represent my country I want to play in the game but the team comes first," Thurston said. "I need to be selfless in this instance in making sure that I make the best decision for the team."
In other international rugby league selections, the NRL's leading tryscorer Suliasi Vunivalu has been picked to make his international debut for Fiji against Tonga.
Under rugby league's international rules, playing for Fiji would not the rule the 21-year-old Melbourne Storm winger out of playing for a Tier One team — Australia, New Zealand or England — at the World Cup. Vunivalu was born in Fiji but also qualifies for selection for both Australia and New Zealand.
He was one of 16 players with NRL experience picked in Fiji's 19-man squad.