Melbourne’s Storm coach, Craig Bellamy, has confirmed his intention to slow-play the return of superstar fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, despite the potential implications for their finals prospects. Bellamy’s strategy involves a “patience” approach when it comes to reintegrating the Clive Churchill medallist into the Storm line-up.
Papenhuyzen is set to mark his return after a 13-month hiatus by participating in the Queensland Cup this Saturday. This follows Melbourne’s face-off against current premiers, Penrith, in Sydney Friday evening.
Jahrome Hughes, the key halfback for the Storm and State of Origin winger Xavier Coates are under a cloud for the Panthers rematch, which arrives following a 34-16 defeat at the hands of Penrith at Marvel Stadium just three weeks ago.
Hughes has been battling sickness and was not present at Thursday training. Coates, on the other hand, has been dealing with a hip complaint and had to exit the training session earlier for additional treatment.
Bellamy mentioned a niggling concern with Xavier’s hip, and how his status for the upcoming match remains uncertain. It wasn’t quite the turnout they expected from Coates, therefore a medical evaluation will be instrumental, Bellamy added.
There’s potential for George Jennings, currently among the substitutes, to secure a wing position. In the event Hughes does not recover, either Jonah Pezet or Tyran Wishart could step in to handle the halves.
Despite a recurring injury scenario, Melbourne maintains its foothold in the top four, eyeing the double chance in the finals.
Reintroduction of Papenhuyzen, who went through a tumultuous recovery from a severe knee injury last July, could further strengthen Storm‘s chances in the tail end of the season.
However, Bellamy assured there’s no hurry in reintegrating Papenhuyzen into NRL games, irrespective of him being expected to play about 40 minutes for Sunshine Coast Falcons. Too much effort has been invested in his return to the field and no rush jobs will be tolerated, he added.
It is the Storm‘s priority to ensure Papenhuyzen successfully completes his allotted play time without further injury. His end of year return would be welcomed but won’t be rushed if he’s not up to it, as assured by the coach.
The coach implicitly expressed the club’s interest in star Brisbane forward Payne Haas, who will be out of his contract next season. Bellamy admitted getting Haas will be quite a task, as they’re one of 17 clubs eyeing the player.
He admitted fitting Haas into the club’s budget and luring him away will be a significant challenge but expressed the club’s interest in exploring the possibilities.