Ryan Papenhuyzen’s signature would have delighted everyone at the Melbourne Storm last year, but now it’s the young fullback who is showing delight towards his new club in just his first season.
A Balmain junior, Papenhuyzen has been a stand out as he rose through the ranks with junior Origin and Australian Schoolboy caps to his name. Since then, he packed his bags, moved out of home, and has resided in Victoria in the hope of becoming the best player he can possibly be in the ultra-professional Melbourne system.
Whilst an independent person before moving south, the move has seen Papenhuyzen mature before even touching a ball given the extra responsibilities, but it’s more so what he’s learning from the Storm that has seen him grow.
“When you go down to Melbourne, you go with that mentality that you’re going to somewhere special,” Papenhuyzen says to NSWRL.com.au.
“You put your best into whatever they throw up for you, the big thing that gets thrown around is that it’s not just the players, you have to put in all the work for the staff, the fans and members, they’re all really passionate.
“I think if you have that help behind you then it feeds down to the players and that’s all you can really do just play for your fans and the people that actually work for the company.”
“I was pretty independent at home anyway, so I didn’t really have to rely on mum or dad but in saying that I’ve sort of matured a little bit too.
“I think it’s a good thing for my footy to be down there and just focus on that.”
As a member of their NRL squad, he trains with the Storm every week, then jumps on a two-hour flight from Melbourne to Brisbane to play for one of the Storm’s feeder teams in the Intrust Super Cup – the Sunshine Coast Falcons. Scintillating form - despite an injury-interrupted season - has seen him picked at fullback for the NSW Under-20s team.
When you go down to Melbourne, you go with that mentality that you’re going to somewhere special.Ryan Papenhuyzen
This is now life for Ryan Papenhuyzen as he aims to develop as a player in one of the most highly rated systems in a bid to one day play in the NRL, and he loves it.
“Training has been tough but definitely rewarding, it’s good to have put in a few games now playing up in the [Intrust Super] Cup,” Papenhuyzen says.
“I don’t mind the travel, the hardest bit of probably the 4am wake-up if you travel at 6.
“I’ll usually throw a movie on Netflix and by the time I land I get off and enjoy the sunlight up in the Sunny Coast; two different weather types but I enjoy it.”
The Wests Tigers were no doubt unlucky not to retain the services of the boom Balmain junior, but the opportunity to learn under the game’s greatest fullback was one too good to not take.
With Billy Slater nearing the end of his career a door is potentially open for Papenhuyzen in the future, but for now he will soak up as much information as he can from Slater and the entire squad of players who won the 2017 NRL Premiership.
“He is unreal, he is really helpful with all of the little things that you wouldn’t think of,” Papenhuyzen says.
“We’ll go out before training and play little novelty games and he’ll give you tips here and there.
“The whole squad has been unreal, it’s not just him, but he’s someone I will listen to because he’s been there and done it all.
“I’m happy to learn behind Billy and even ‘Hughsey’ [Jahrome Hughes] who is playing fullback at the moment and killing it, I was happy to learn the tricks of the trade for a couple of years, develop my game and see how it goes from there.”
The next job for Papenhuyzen is doing a job for the NSW Under-20s side, who play as the curtain-raiser for State of Origin III at Suncorp Stadium this Wednesday.
It’s hardly unfamiliar territory for him, as he played fullback for the NSW Under-18s at Suncorp two years ago and had an integral role in their 26-0 thumping of Queensland – setting up a try before a tackle was made in the game.
“That was a good win up there at Suncorp,” Papenhuyzen says.
“The crowd is right on you, they’re right on the sideline so to do it again I’d be pretty stoked to be able to come up and do it at Suncorp again.
“The last time we were there it was a pretty impressive effort so hopefully we can replicate that one.”
In that 2016 squad were current NSW Under-20 teammates Josh Curran, Emre Guler, Reece Robson and Brendan O’Hagan.
Papenhuyzen has not played with a majority of this team, but he says that is one of the most exciting things about entering a representative camp.
“It’s a pretty different group to last time I was here so it’s always good meeting new people and learning a few things off how they play and how they go about things,” he says.
“I also like to be a leader in the group and help out people if they need a hand and share with them my experiences, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.
“I think that’s what everyone looks forward to when they come into camp, just meeting new people and sharing experiences, and then ripping in on game day.”
The NSW Under-20 game against Queensland will be live streamed on NSWRL.com.au on Wednesday, 11 June with a 5.15pm kick-off.