BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Ryan Papenhuyzen of the Storm runs the ball during the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Melbourne Storm and the Penrith Panthers at Suncorp Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images, Image supplied by Kayo)

Reports surfaced shortly after 4pm on Wednesday afternoon that Melbourne Storm Ryan Papenhuyzen could be back on the park in three or four weeks, whipping fans into an excited frenzy over the return of a star.

Papenhuyzen hasn't played since August last year when he shattered his knee against the Canberra Raiders.

A long, painstaking recovery is ongoing since, with Papenhuyzen believed to be back running in recent weeks following a visit to the United States of America for specialist work earlier this year.

The star fullback, who after the injury was originally due back at the start of the season, and then again in Round 8 under a delayed timeline, is still yet to play as the competition rumbles through the State of Origin window.

So when News Corp's Dean Ritchie reported Papenhuyzen could be back in three or four weeks, it gave fans of the club - who sit fifth on the table with seven wins from their twelve games to date - a reason to smile.

For all of 76 minutes anyway.

The star fullback took to Twitter before 5:30pm to squash the rumour, writing "yeah look, not quite."

The report from News Corp was reportedly obtained through a friend of Papenhuzyen, with a return through the QLD Cup revealed as "likely" in the next three to four weeks.

Papenhuyzen has been open in suggesting that his return will take as long as it needs to in a bid to stay healthy once he gets back onto the park.

His return to the park has been complicated by Papenhuyzen's own admission, and in the most recent updates, both he and the club have refused to put a likely timeline on when he might play his first game for 2023.

On Wednesday morning, Papenhuyzen spoke on SEN Radio to give a further update on his recovery.

“I think a couple weeks ago I was at 30% deficiency between my quads, which is the measurement we're going off and at the moment I'm about 17% so I am lowering that number which is a positive,” the fullback said.

“Now I'm getting back into running so however long that's going to take to get some [kilometres] in the legs and changing direction they're all that stuff I still need to do.

“Once I've got a good block of training in then I'll probably have to come back through reserve grades.

“I think we're only nearly halfway through now, so hopefully I can come in through the backend and be fresh for the finals.”

He revealed he had been going well recently before encountering a set back.

“I was going really well and got to a point where I was starting to do some change of direction, but I pulled up a little bit sore in my quad tendons so we had to strip it right back and do some more testing,” Papenhuyzen explained.

“From that testing we figured out there's still a pretty big deficiency which meant I'll be landing a bit stiff legged on my injured leg and that puts a bit of pressure on the tendon.”

There has been no rush from the club's end either, with a desire to look after the star before his eventual return to the park.

Papenhuyzen, who is signed with the Storm until the end of 2025 on a deal of around $900,000 per season, is believed to still be in line for a return at some point this season, although the purpose of any such return will start to grow in question the longer the season drags on.

Nick Meaney has performed strongly at fullback in Papenhuyzen's absence, and coach Craig Bellamy may be hesitant to make such a large swap to his spine in the weeks leading into the finals if that is in fact when the Storm fullback makes his return.

The tight nature of the NRL, combined with a difficult run to the finish line where the Storm play the Sharks, Sea Eagles, Panthers (twice), Roosters, Eels, Raiders and Broncos over the final 12 weeks of the season means any call Bellamy makes will be a big one - no team will be locked into the finals for weeks yet with 1st and 16th place only separated by 10 competition points, and the gap between 3rd and 15th being just 6 points.