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Melbourne Storm flyer Ryan Papenhuyzen has declared he is back to electrifying best after recording his fastest speed in six years.

The fullback was one of the most exciting players in the competition from his debut in 2019 through to 2021 and set the NRL alight with his blistering pace that tore opposition defenders apart.

Papenhuyzen's career, however, took a turn when he was struck down by a string of serious injuries and he has battled physical and mental demons in his bid to return to top speed. 

Back healthy, the 25-year-old is confident he's turned a corner this season and has the numbers to prove he's ready to return to his electrifying best.

Papenhuyzen impresses in return

"In the Bulldogs trial I hit a new top speed since the injury so I know it's coming back," Papenhuyzen told 

"It was 96 per cent of what my top speed was recorded in 2018. That was the highest speed since the injury. I've put a bit more weight on so I feel physically stronger, now it's just streamlining the speed with it. 

"I'll keep working with Adam Basil, our speed coach, but I feel like it's there, I just haven't had too many opportunities to unleash it."

Papenhuyzen's injury ordeal started with a concussion in 2021 before a hamstring injury saw him miss the middle phase of the 2022 season. 

A fractured kneecap suffered in round 18 forced the fullback to spend more than a year on the sidelines and miss the bulk of the Storm's 2023 campaign. The youngster eventually returned in round 26 before fracturing his ankle during the finals. 

Ryan Papenhuyzen suffered a fractured ankle in last year's final series.
Ryan Papenhuyzen suffered a fractured ankle in last year's final series. ©NRL Photos

The mental challenge has been almost as hard to overcome as the physical one and the fullback has been open about the difficulty of playing with the same free-spirited mindset as before. 

Papenhuyzen has steadily built his way into the 2024 season, playing all six games and improving each week. 

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy knows a relaxed Papenhuyzen is key to his team's premiership quest and has watched the youngster slowly rebuild his confidence.

"He's had a lot of bad luck over the last couple of years so it's good to have him back," Bellamy said after last week's win over the Roosters. 

"He's not relying on his pace like he used to, he's relying on his smarts. Every game he plays, he's getting a little bit better, a little bit more confident. If you watch him, he doesn't look as though he's mentally scarred but early on he had a couple of those demons.

"He's found it now, he's right back into it, he's heavily involved and doing a good job for us. He's slowly but surely got over his injuries, slowly but surely got his confidence back and I'm really happy with the way he's progressing at the moment."

Papenhuyzen is optimistic his added muscle will have an unintended flow-on effect, with the versatile player desperately chasing a State of Origin debut. 

The fullback was in the NSW squad in 2020 however an injury hampered his chances of playing during the series. 

He has watched from the sidelines the past three years but is currently in a four-way tussle for the Blues No.1 jumper. 

The position is among the most hotly contested in the competition, with incumbent James Tedesco the current NSW captain. 

Penrith's Dylan Edwards is in top form and has an established combination with halfback Nathan Cleary, while Manly's Tom Trbojevic is finally healthy and a proven performer at Origin level. 

Ryan Papenhuyzen is desperate to return to the NSW State of Origin squad.
Ryan Papenhuyzen is desperate to return to the NSW State of Origin squad. ©NRL Photos

Papenhuyzen recognises he faces a difficult task to fight his way into the Blues team but knows his body is prepared for the intensity of the arena if called upon by new NSW coach Michael Maguire. 

"I'm ready for the physicality of it," Papenhuyzen said. "I've played for a few years now and State of Origin will have a different feel.

"I think of how I grew up playing my footy in NSW, so it's a different motivation to what I have for the Storm and I'm excited if I get the opportunity."

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.