There’s nothing better than sealing a win and going home to sleep in your own bed.
Ryan Papenhuyzen didn’t know that feeling for 321 days until Thursday night – that’s how long most Storm fans have been starved of footy.
Melbourne has played just seven matches at AAMI in the past two years and the superstar fullback says the opportunity to play a full season’s worth of home games – and make the most of all the creature comforts that come with it – could be the tonic to knocking Penrith off their perch in 2022.
“I think it will only help. I was talking to someone the other day and out of my 57 or 58 games I’ve played, I probably would have only played 12 or 13 here at AAMI Park (he has 16 played from 58 games),” Papenhuyzen said after icing his side's 15-14 win on Thursday night.
“You’ve got a different energy, you know the crowd is behind you and I think it’s only a good thing.”
Papenhuyzen wins it
Being able to go home after training, rather than living out of a suitcase, had the feeling of a novelty — let alone doing so after a sweet victory.
“Oh man, those are the things you just take for granted," Papenhuyzen said, after spending well over half an hour signing autographs for dozens of relieved supporters.
"Even just going back after training or (Thursday) morning waking up knowing I didn’t have to get on a flight, I’m pretty grateful for that and at the same time being able to play footy in front of our fans again,”
“The AAMI Park crowd is different like no other. I don’t know if they’re louder, just everyone in the stadium is cheering and running out through the banner again, seeing the banner and seeing all the purple Storm fans out there, it’s an amazing feeling, it is.
Slater and Smith on hand to celebrate with Bellamy
“It’s one of a kind and it’s just good to be back," he said. "I think we’ve got a few games together now so it will be good to see a better turnout next time, and Thursday night was tough but I think we have a few weekend games coming up and it will be good to have a normal crowd in again and hopefully get a few wins off the back of that.”
Papenhuyzen was laid up more than he would like in pre-season due to a serious injury to his right ankle. Storm coach Craig Bellamy revealed post-game his star fullback didn’t run for eight weeks – making his match-winning field goal heroics all the more extraordinary.
“We basically knew he was going to take the kick. I must say I didn’t like his kick to be quite honest. I thought it was going left of the posts,” Bellamy said.
“It didn’t look as good as Latrell’s I must say.
Match Highlights: Storm v Rabbitohs
“(Papenhuyzen) hasn’t been doing any kicking at all with that ankle. It was a bad injury. I don’t think he actually ran for eight weeks and he’s only done a little bit of kicking this week – and we didn’t want him doing much goal-kicking.
“Last week the physio said: ‘We don’t want him kicking because there’s a chance of him stirring it up’.”
Thankfully for Storm fans, the only thing Papenhuyzen stirred up was that familiar feeling of success, despite the sticky situation of being down to 12-men with the reigning grand finalists looking to spoil Bellyache’s party.
“We got lucky at the end of the day,” Bellamy said.
“But sometimes you deserve your luck.”