With two swift laps of a bush town swimming pool, Ryan Papenhuyzen created a special sporting moment in Melbourne Storm history no one could have anticipated.
Papenhuyzen, Dale Finucane, Tui Kamikamica and Aaron Pene were in the Bega Valley in New South Wales, continuing Storm’s Bushfire Relief efforts with a weekend of activities.
Word got out to a couple of locals and soon an invitation arrived for the boys to come to Cobargo, among the towns worst affected by the summer bushfires, to join the local swimming club’s Business House Relay fundraising event.
Dominated by smiling young faces who love their swimming, it’s a small get-together of a few dozen townsfolk and nearby residents at a four-lane 25-metre pool which is one of the lifebloods of the local community.
A gap in the Storm quartet’s schedule was soon found – only an hour but enough to make a lifetime of memories for those who were there, especially the Storm players.
Just a couple of hours after completing 1km of fencing on a nearby dairy property, the Storm group hit the pool, first as a team in the relay qualifiers, and then as individuals in the annual Splash for Cash, a 50-metre sprint with a $50 first prize.
Swimming in different heats, Finucane was competitive as ever, turning in a speedy 33.08 only to be bettered by Papenhuyzen’s 31.23, earning the two Storm players places in the final.
Kamikamica (36.87) and Pene (35.24) missed out, although not by much.
Papenhuyzen wins Noa Jessop Memorial Trophy
In the showdown for the main prize, the Storm fullback ended up in a two-man duel with the defending champion, local Mick Lay, over the final 25 metres.
At the wall, the hand-timing gave Paps a 0.1 of a second victory and a well-earned place on the Noa Jessop Memorial perpetual trophy.
Noa, just 10 when he passed away after being hit by a vehicle as he got off the school bus in 2016, was a Storm fan – a big one – and it was on show at his funeral.
His favourite position, fullback, just like Papenhuyzen.
And his club, the Bega Roosters, the former home of Finucane.
"He loved being outside, kicking his footy around, riding his bike or getting around the farm on a tractor with me," his father Brett Jessop said.
"Noa just had a gentle nature, he was a really easygoing kid who got along with everyone."
Melbourne Storm would like to thank the Cobargo Amateur Swimming Club for giving our boys the invitation to join their special day which raised $525 for local firies, including Papenhuyzen’s $50 first prize.