The Sunshine Coast was buzzing with excitement on Saturday as Ryan Papenhuyzen returned to the footy field with the Sunshine Coast Falcons against the Ipswich Jets.
Joined by Storm alumni Sua Fa’alogo, Justin Olam, Grant Anderson, Jayden Nikorima, Aaron Pene, Jack Howarth, Bronson Garlick, Chris Lewis and Lazarus Vaalepu, the Falcons soared to a 14-point win over the visitors in front of a loud and proud crowd.
With Storm and NRL fans flocking to Sunshine Coast Stadium to witness the fullback’s comeback Captain Luke Polselli shared it acted as a nice lift for the home side.
"The crowd were all screaming out 'Papenhuyzen'. That was good... it just shows how much it means to the community. How much a player like Paps means to a small community like this. It's just incredible." Polselli said after kids swarmed Papenhuyzen post-match.
"He's unreal... just his experience and he really got around the boys, which is good, especially at captain's run, and before we warmed up for this game, he was really good.
"You can see what kind of player he is... how much of a difference he makes. Hopefully he's back with us next week."
The highlights from Papenhuyzen's return
Alongside Papenhuyzen’s two opening conversions in the first half, Fa’alogo continued his ever reliable point-collecting duties securing two tries, a conversion and a penalty goal, alongside topping the charts with 183 run metres and two line-breaks.
Saturday night also saw the Brisbane Tigers get a 26-24 win over ladder leaders South Logan Magpies.
Storm development player Tristan Powell opened the scoring going over the line after only two minutes of play, kicking off a ping-pong match of tries and conversions between the two sides.
Alec MacDonald was once again a top-performing player making 40 tackles, while Reimis Smith begun his return from injury sustained in Round 21 with both a try assist and line-break assist.
The Falcons will next take to the field next Saturday to take on the Norths Devils in Brisbane, while the Tigers will enjoy a well-deserved bye.