Papenhuyzen ready to reclaim Storm fullback jersey

Melissa Woods |

Ryan Papenhuyzen is keen to re-establish himself as the Storm’s first-choice No.1.
Ryan Papenhuyzen is keen to re-establish himself as the Storm’s first-choice No.1.

Ryan Papenhuyzen is set to make the Melbourne No.1 jersey his own as the fullback returns from injury to reclaim his favoured spot in the line-up.

The 25-year-old has managed only 15 games over the past two NRL seasons after horrific knee and ankle injuries.

But Papenhuyzen is fighting fit as the 2024 campaign looms into view, and said he was ready to assume his first-choice position, with Nick Meaney moving to the centres after standing in at fullback.

The departure of Justin Olam to Wests Tigers has allowed coach Craig Bellamy room to accommodate both players.

Papenhuyzen said he and 20-year-old Sua Faalogo had been training through the pre-season at the back.

The exciting youngster made a dazzling debut late last season, coming off the bench against Brisbane to score two tries and steer Melbourne to a round-27 win over the grand finalists.

“I’d say it’s looking pretty good,” Papenhuyzen said when asked his chances of starting at fullback for Melbourne’s round-one clash with champions Penrith.

“Means (Meaney) has been training in the centres so it’s between me and Sua at the moment.

“The way Sua goes about it, he deserves a rap as it’s easy for him to be filthy and sit out and not want to contribute.

“But he speaks in our meetings, he’s been running around on the wing.

“He’s asking me for help, he’s asking Billy (Slater) for help and those sort of actions make me want to get better.

“It’s a healthy competition and if he gets his go I’m sure he’ll thrive in that environment. 

“But at the moment I want to be that No.1.” 

Ryan Papenhuyzen nurses his damaged right ankle.
A right-ankle injury brought a premature end to Papenhuyzen’s NRL comeback in 2023. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Papenhuyzen expected to get some game time in the Storm’s trials against Canterbury on February 15 and Newcastle on February 24 in Fiji.

He had more than a year out when his right kneecap was shattered in a tackle, followed by a projected five months on the sidelines after he fractured and dislocated his right ankle in just his third game back last season.

“It’s good, it’s been a breeze compared to the knee,” he said.

“I’m ready to go – I will probably get a trial game in and round one is looking good at this stage.”