Storm star Ryan Papenhuyzen says he is hungry for more minutes as coach Craig Bellamy wrestles with how to best use the explosive fullback as part of his side's finals assault.
Papenhuyzen played his first NRL game in 13 months at AAMI Park on Saturday after recovering from a horrific shattered kneecap during last year’s Magic Round.
The Clive Churchill Medallist received a standing ovation and an enormous reception from Storm fans when he stepped onto the field with just over 20 minutes remaining against the Gold Coast Titans.
He said the nerves were there on Saturday, but nothing like what he experienced in his Queensland Cup return three weeks ago.
Welcome back Paps!
“The few games in the Queensland Cup helped, just knowing that the body was going to hold up,” Papenhuyzen said following the Storm's Round 26 victory.
“I felt really good and really comfortable today.
“The nerves playing my first Falcons game were probably more for that than this game.
“My job was simple today, I just had to get through and I didn’t know when I was going to come on.
It was probably one of those things where I’ll never forget that moment when I came on the field.Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen
“It was unbelievable the noise and the support the crowd gave me.”
The big question for Storm coach Craig Bellamy is now whether Papenhuyzen forces Nick Meaney out of the No.1 jersey heading into September.
Papenhuyzen said he would play any role as he chases the dream of winning a second premiership at Melbourne this year.
Match: Storm v Titans
Round 26 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
“It’s just nice to be in contention for selection in the 17,” he said.
“We’re a special side and Means (Nick Meaney) has been doing a really good job…I just think whatever fits best for the side.
“Obviously I’d love to play longer minutes and that’s what the Queensland Cup games are for, just knowing I could get through it.
“You see some of the guys playing Queensland Cup at the moment that could easily play first grade, so I guess it’s whatever match ups work for the week.
“If Craig decides I’m good for that he’ll put me in the team, and if not that’s the way it goes and I just need to be a good teammate.
“It’s always great being back for the Storm and I’d love to play more minutes, but at the same time premierships are what you want and I’d be happy to be in team wherever.”
Bellamy said there is a “heap of options” for how he could use Papenhuyzen over the next month.
Storm: Round 26
“He played through the ruck today and we obviously know he can play fullback and I think he’d do a fair job on the wing and in the centres if he’d have to,” Bellamy said on Saturday.
“You could probably play him in the halves as well.
Bellamy said he was thrilled with Papenhuyzen’s return on Saturday and stressed he was “not expecting any miracles out of him”.
“All the supporters, I didn’t really expect that sort of reception for him but it was great and I thought he did a real good job,” Bellamy said.
“He didn’t sort of overplay his hand but he didn’t underplay it either.
“We didn’t have a plan for him.
“It was just to get him on the bench and to get him on at some stage.
“We weren’t quite sure what the role was going to be as there were a couple of options there, but I think he’s come through OK so we just have to work out what his best role is for us and go from there.”
Match: Broncos v Storm
Round 27 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane