Ryan Papenhuyzen has declared himself ready to return earlier than expected, according to Melbourne Storm general manager Frank Ponissi.
Papenhuyzen missed most of the 2023 season after he dislocated his kneecap in round 18 of the 2022 season, an injury that saw him out of the NRL for 405 days.
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But after a few reserve grade games, Papenhuyzen returned in round 26 in 2023.
While he didn’t set the world on fire after a long time off the park, Papenhuyzen was firming to be an important part of the Storm’s final’s campaign, likely as a super sub.
Unfortunately, the plan unravelled in the first round of finals when Papenhuyzen broke and dislocated his ankle in an innocuous moment when he tripped over a teammate with just seven minutes left.
It ended his season but Papenhuyzen has been back at training after flying through his rehab, and was expected to be back in the No. 1 jersey by round 1.
However, fans will likely get a glimpse even earlier with Papenhuyzen itching to get back on the field.
While the fullback returned to full contact training over the past few weeks, he was expected to be kept in cotton wool until the second trial match against the Knights in Fiji.
Ponissi revealed that it wasn’t soon enough for Papenhuyzen.
“Ryan Papenhuyzen is a player that everyone asks about,” Ponissi told SEN 1170 Mornings.
“Ryan is training really well and we expect him to play in that first trial next week against the Bulldogs at Belmore.
“Which will be exciting for us and for him more importantly.”
“Craig (Bellamy) actually wanted to hold him for the Fiji trial against the Knights.
“It was actually Paps who went to Craig and said, ‘I want to play in that first game’, I think he’s ready.
“The medical staff are really pleased, they’ve got no issues whatsoever, same as the performance staff.
“It’s definitely been driven by Paps, we’re looking forward to him taking the field next Thursday night.”
Papenhuyzen will be eager to recapture the form that had him in the conversation for a NSW berth at the height of his powers, aiming to once and for all put to bed any rumours he might be shipped away from Victoria.
Rumours erupted last off-season after the stunning arrival of Sua Faa’logo.
The 20-year-old wunderkind burst onto the scene late last season and in the Pacific Championships, where he impressed in the No. 1 jersey despite his side getting thrashed by both Australia and New Zealand.
The Storm shut down the rumours but there’s little doubt Papenhuyzen will be eager to put his best foot forward to show he’s the Storm’s number one No. 1.
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