Ryan Papenhuyzen will make his debut for the Melbourne Storm this afternoon on the wing after Josh Addo-Carr’s omission.
A bright talent who was a Balmain Tigers junior and has been a mainstay in the NSWRL Pathways Program, Papenhuyzen – usually a fullback - was presented his debut jersey from NRL legend Billy Slater at the Storm’s captains run yesterday.
He played for NSW Under-20s Origin fixture last year, and will be the ninth player in the star-studded NSW Under-18s team of 2016 that Cameron Murray described as the best representative team he’s ever played in.
Brad Fittler coached that team, and likened Papenhuyzen to Slater when talking about him on the Sunday Footy Show.
“[He’s] little and fast like Billy, he is a super player,” Fittler said.
“He’s a Balmain junior and a Balmain favourite, but they pluck them pretty well in Melbourne.
“I was really surprised he left Balmain because he was the player that was going to come through he played in all the NSW teams coming through; he’s a super player.”
Ironically, the man Papenhuyzen is replacing - Josh Addo-Carr - was also recruited to the Storm from the Wests Tigers.
Widely regarded as one of the best sporting systems in the country, the move from Sydney to Melbourne has brought out the best in the rising star.
Given Storm’s two feeder clubs play in Queensland’s second-tier competition, Papenhuyzen’s life has revolved around jumping on a two hour flight on a weekly basis to try as he tried to crack first grade.
He will do that at 4pm today, and he credits Melbourne for that.
"When you go down to Melbourne, you go with that mentality that you’re going to somewhere special,” Papenhuyzen said during Under-20s Origin camp last year.
“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.”