Melbourne Storm’s rising star, Ryan Papenhuyzen, credits former NRL player Billy Slater for his support during his recovery from a long-term injury. While many would assume that Slater’s expertise in the fullback position had the greatest impact on Papenhuyzen, it was actually their conversations that took place outside of football that made the biggest difference.
Papenhuyzen reveals that Slater, who himself experienced a significant injury during his career, understood the mental toll of rehabilitation. Alongside Slater’s wife Nicole, they would invite Papenhuyzen to their home, encouraging him to take a break from football-related discussions. This understanding of the importance of switching off and enjoying the company of others was instrumental in Papenhuyzen’s recovery.
Grateful for the support he received, Papenhuyzen highlights the meaningful time spent with Slater’s family on their farm. They would share meals, relax, and even play tennis together. The opportunity to reset his mind and escape the pressures of rehabilitation played a crucial role in his progress.
Papenhuyzen acknowledges that hard work was still necessary for his recovery, but the time spent with Slater and his family provided the essential mental respite that allowed him to fully heal. Slater’s empathy and understanding of the challenges faced during rehabilitation gave Papenhuyzen the support he needed to overcome his injury.