I don't think anyone is surprised at how Melbourne Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen is performing in this early season - currently leading the NRL's Dally M voting.

The only debate going on at the moment surrounding his form is whether it's good enough to secure him a spot in the New South Wales Blues Origin squad.

The coach of the Blues, Brad Fittler, has had Ryan Papenhuyzen in his sights to debut for the NSW team for a few years now, having had the dynamic fullback listed on his extended squad in 2020 and omitted in 2021 due to injury.

But with his form in the first seven rounds - leading the league in tries with ten - Fittler will be salivating at the opportunity to include the speedster when his side trots out to face the Maroons at Stadium Australia on June 8.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 05: Blues coach Brad Fittler looks on during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at NSWRL Centre of Excellence Field on July 5, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Fittler will be pressed to make a decision come selection day as to where he places Papenhuyzen in, as the Storm's favoured position is currently taken by Blues mainstay and former Dally M Player of the Year James Tedesco.

Papenhuyzen's coach, Craig Bellamy, has come out and declared his fullback is ready for the big stage, however, the decision between Tedesco and his number one is a headache he's glad he doesn't have.

“It’s a pretty tough one for me to answer as I’d love to see (Papenhuyzen) in there and I think he deserves to be there,” Bellamy said after the Storm downed the Warriors 70-10 this past Monday.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 08: Coach Craig Bellamy looks on during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Gosch's Paddock on September 8, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

“You have a look at the incumbent in Tedesco – and again I haven’t watched closely how he’s been going – but he’s been one hell of a player for NSW because he is one hell of a player.

“Last year we were really made aware of how many great fullbacks we have eligible to play for NSW. And I thought ‘Paps’ would be a chance last year to perhaps go in on the bench.

“It’s up to the selectors and you can see both sides.

“But one thing I will say is that he can’t do any more than what he’s been doing to keep knocking on the door. Hopefully he’ll get a start there at some stage.”

If Tedesco is able to maintain his position as the starting fullback, Papenhuyzen will likely look to lock in the number 14 - typically the utility of the side who can be plugged in all across the field.

NRL Rd 2 - Sharks v Eels
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Nicholas Hynes of the Sharks runs with the ball during the round two NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Parramatta Eels at PointsBet Stadium, on March 19, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

However, the Storm playmaker would still need to stave off strong claims from Cronulla Sharks Nicho Hynes, who's shaping up to be one of the best buys of the off-season, and 2021 NSW Blues utility Jack Wighton.

1 COMMENT

  1. If you look at the number of Queensland players who have played in 25 or more SOO matches, you will find that there are fifteen of them. If you look at the number of NSW players who have played 25 or more, you will find that there are just two (Brad Fittler and Andrew Ettingshausen).

    I believe that it is no co-incidence that Queensland has won more matches (63-54) and more series (22-16).

    I think that using the same players more frequently has given the Queensland side more chance to develop as a TEAM. The team members get familiar with the way each other plays. Pre-match training by the coach is more about reminding the guys how the team plays, rather than having to instruct them from scratch.

    Do you remember the old motto “A champion team will always beat a team of champions”? NSW may have had a bigger pool to pick from, and may have had the best INDIVIDUALS available, but their performance as a TEAM did not reflect that advantage. That is because they picked the best individuals available for each match and discounted/ignored the benefits of having previously played as a team.

    So, Brad Fittler should continue to pick James Tedesco – because the NSW side is a better TEAM with him in it – and Ryan Pappehausen should reflect that it is unfortunate that he was born either a few years too early or a few years too late.

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