Resilient Raider Rapana continues late-career surge

Canberra will need another stellar performance from Jordan Rapana to help keep their NRL season alive on Sunday.

But given the resilience the crafty 34-year-old has shown through his rugby league journey, one would be a fool to write off the ageless Kiwi international.

Rapana debuted in 2008 but didn’t make another NRL appearance until 2014 as he served a Mormon mission and flirted with a career in rugby.

But still, he will retire as a 200-game, 100-try player.

Shifting from his customary wing to the fullback role in recent weeks is the latest sacrifice he’s made for his beloved Raiders, joking earlier in the year he’s too old to regularly play No.1.

“Perseverance is probably the biggest attribute I've learned, and then hard work,” Rapana told AAP.

“Leaving for six years … I didn't come back and walk straight in, I had to bide my time in (NSW) Cup ... it's the rewards of persevering and being persistent in finding my opportunity and playing well enough to keep my spot for so many years.”

Some have suggested he’s among the Raiders’ greatest wingers of all-time, although a humble Rapana said he didn’t agree, and would happily trade his personal reputation in for premiership success like the club experienced in the 1990s.

Canberra captain Jarrod Croker, who’s played with Rapana for a decade, summed him up simply saying: “He’s just a freak,” he told AAP.

“At 34 to be doing what he’s doing, he never gives up on a play and busts his arse on every play, he’s an ultimate competitor.

“When he came back from Japanese rugby he was heavy, 106kg or something like that, and all he needed was a ball in his hands.

“That’s Rapa, he won’t change for anyone and I don’t think he ever will.”

Halfback Jamal Fogarty says an unbreakable competitive fire makes Rapana the warrior he is.

“He’s got the worst diet I’ve seen in my entire life, but he’s a competitor - you could be playing marbles or cards he would be trying to win.

“I love what he brings to the team as an individual and how much confidence he gives us.”

Rapana doesn’t agree he’s in career-best touch, but credits his late-career surge to his attitude.

“When you leave the game for so long, I made a promise to myself if I ever get a shot again I vowed to play every game like my last,” he said.

“I'm just grateful the Raiders have given me a second chance and even though I played a handful of games at Titans, I still feel like I'm a one-club man.

“This is home for me.”

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