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Kicking on: Papenhuyzen sets sights sky high

Ryan Papenhuyzen has put the rest of the competition on notice by declaring he is still on the improve and ready to show how good he can actually be.

And this could be very bad news for opponents as Papenhuyzen is the reigning Clive Churchill Medallist and already regarded as one of the most electrifying players in the Telstra Premiership.

The Melbourne flyer burst onto the scene with a number of eye-catching performances for the Storm in 2019, but only really started to make a name for himself last year when he finished the season with a best-on-ground performance in the premiership decider against the Panthers.

But that’s not enough for the confident 22-year-old NSW squad member, with the young fullback declaring he wants to become even better and turn into an even more rounded player in Craig Bellamy's side.

"I was stoked with last year, but I am still not the player I want to be yet," Papenhuyzen said.

Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen.
Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen. ©Simon Dallinger /NRL Photos

"I am trying to strengthen all my weapons and try and improve everywhere.

"I improved from 2019 to 2020, but now from 2021 onwards I see myself as more of a leader and want to take more responsibility by calling a few more plays and trusting my game."

With champion hooker Cameron Smith now gone, Papenhuyzen knows more is expected of him on and off the field and that starts by being more vocal during matches.

Match Highlights: Storm v Knights

But that's not where it ends with Papenhuyzen following in the footsteps of Smith and taking over the important goalkicking duties on a full-time basis for the Storm.

Rather than shy away from the added responsibility, Papenhuyzen is embracing the extra pressure and doing two extra sessions a week with well renowned kicking coach Peter Breen from Rugby Bricks to ensure he can contribute in different ways.

"I have always done it [goal kicking], but I have never done it too seriously and I was always just a kicker if someone else went down," Papenhuyzen noted.

"Suddenly it has gone from something I practise at end of every session to actually blocking it up in an hour or two-hour session where we are getting through a lot of reps and working on the process of goal kicking.

"We do a lot of stuff without the tee actually and probably only 12 kicks off the tee at the end of the session and a lot of stuff out of the hand and getting the ball connection, trying to stay tall and those posture sorts of things.

"It's quite funny as you think to improve your goalkicking you would do a lot more off the tee, but it’s just breaking it down with all of those little movements."

Breen isn't the only skilful coach Papenhuyzen is continually trying to extract important information, with the explosive back also still in constant contact with rugby league great Billy Slater.

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Slater made an art of standing up to more physical opponents on the last line of defence and Papenhuyzen is using every bit of information he can from the former Storm champion to emulate his predecessor.

"He comes in [to the club] a fair bit and always has a fair bit to say about how I can improve my game and what I need to work on and if I am going well or not," Papenhuyzen said.

"He was a genius and the main thing is trying to use footy smarts when fatigued.

"It is very easy going into a game knowing what you want to do, but when you have back-to-back sets defending on your line, that set after you need to be switched on so you can start to pick their defence apart.

"That was what Bill was really good at because he had learnt for so long and he had studied the game so much that he was able to flick a switch and know where to run, or tell someone else where to run because it was better for the team."

What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?

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