Ryan Papenhuyzen has been welcomed back to the NRL with a roaring ovation after spending 405 days away from the game rehabilitating from a shattered kneecap. The cheers from the crowd were so loud that Melbourne’s Cameron Munster said he thought “it was Elton John or something” walking onto the field.
A Rollercoaster of a Year for Papenhuyzen
Papenhuyzen played a part in Melbourne Storm’s 37-16 triumph over the Titans. The final quarter appearance may have had a small effect on the result but the no strapping and protection cameo was enough to encourage fans that the star fullback will soon be able to work his magic on the field as he used to.
Papenhuyzen said that he felt “elation” as he stepped onto the field to such a reception from the crowd. The player told ABC Sport that he would cherish the moment forever, especially after being out of the game for so long.
The 25-year-old said the last year was a rollercoaster, but that the last 3 or 4 months were the toughest. Papenhuyzen claimed that as he saw the return becoming more realistic and drawing “a bit closer,” he would get knocked back.
The player said that was the hardest period of rehabilitation, but having people close to him who told him all of that pain would be worth it in the end helped him. Papenhuyzen reserved special praise for Melbourne’s physio Liam Robinson, who helped him through “some really dark days.”
Hughes’ Injury Could Push Papenhuyzen to the Starting Lineup
However, despite the player making his NRL comeback, the Melbourne Storm want to ease him back into action. Melbourne’s plan for Papenhuyzen has always been to slowly reintroduce him to the gruelling physicality of match days. Nick Meaney’s superb form meant there was no need for the Storm to rush Papenhuyzen too.
However, those plans might have to be changed after Jahrome Hughes left the field early with a ligament injury. If the halfback is injured, Meaney might have to be moved into the halves and Papenhuyzen may be called into the starting lineup sooner than expected.