Craig Bellamy, coach of the Melbourne Storm, believes that Ryan Papenhuyzen potentially holds the key to the team’s triumph in the upcoming qualifying final. This comes as players Harry Grant and Jahrome Hughes, despite injuries, are anticipated to compete in the match against an opponent yet to be named.
Papenhuyzen’s absence from the team was felt during the team’s first-round defeat to Canberra Raiders in the 2022 finals, marking the first instance since 2014 where Melbourne Storm did not secure a single victory in the finals.
Papenhuyzen, who recently recovered from a serious knee issue, is expected to be part of the initial team selection for the club’s first finals match. The opposition remains uncertain, with the reigning premiers, Penrith, being potential adversaries dependent on their final round performance against the Cowboys.
On a recent Thursday evening, Papenhuyzen showcased his skill against the Broncos in Brisbane. Although he is still regaining his form, Bellamy is confident the talented player will regain his peak performance conveniently in time for the finals. Papenhuyzen’s track record includes being an instrumental player in Melbourne’s 2020 championship win.
“He brings that much-needed X-factor to the squad,” stated Bellamy about the experienced Papenhuyzen. “We are aware of his capabilities of adding to the team, given his history of being a Clive Churchill medallist.”
Bellamy further emphasised how important the recent game was, allowing Papenhuyzen a full 80 minutes playtime. While he would have preferred Papenhuyzen to be more bold in his manoeuvres, he understands the player’s lack of confidence due to the severity and recovery time of his knee injury. However, Bellamy is optimistic about the progress made over the last two weeks.
Bellamy said, “We gave him varied roles – starting at fullback, playing in the halves, spending time in the ruck. His role for the finals is still undecided, but we’re certain he will be in the final 17 players.”
In order to prepare for the finals, Melbourne Storm rested 11 key players for the game against the Broncos. This included Grant (shoulder injury) and Hughes (knee injury), but Bellamy is confident they’ll be ready for the first final.
“Harry will definitely play. I have no doubts about that and very hopeful about Jahrome as well,” Bellamy confirmed. He revealed that they decided against bringing Hughes to Brisbane due to the fear of his injury swelling up after the flight.