There are few athletes in the world who can complain of worse luck than Ryan Papenhuyzen when it comes to injuries over the last 12 months. As things stand, the highly rated Melbourne Storm fullback is set to remain on the treatment table for the remainder of 2022 after shattering his knee cap in 15 different places following a collision with Canberra Raiders captain Jack Wighton in July.
This comes on the back of being ruled out for over ten weeks during last season after a high tackle by the St. George Illawarra Dragons lock forward Tyrell Fuimaono. It has been one thing after another but it’s worth saying that many felt that Papenhuyzen’s luck had changed after he rather humorously, had a four-race prediction at the Melbourne Cup come true following the conclusion of his injury-ridden season in 2021.
Indeed, the fullback tipped Nature Strip, Verry Elleegant, Incentivise, and Spanish Mission all to win or place which they did. Interestingly, the guide to the Melbourne Cup horse race in 2022 tips both of Papenhuyzen’s selections from twelve months ago – Incentivise and Spanish Mission – to compete once more for top honours at this year’s event.
Of course, Papenhuyzen’s stunning Melbourne Cup prediction was done during the off-season with his feet up from the comfort of his own home as he recovered from injury but there was still a feeling that the tide had turned for the player, and that his luck might finally be in after a stop-start year.
Needless to say, this theory was quite literally shattered when Papenhuyzen tackled the oncoming Wighton in a match that the Raiders would go on to win. The result would have been the furthest thing from the club’s mind though as their star player was once again set to face a lengthy spell on the sidelines. In this instance, the fullback will only begin training again in 2023 despite undergoing successful surgery on his knee in July.
It should be pointed out that the encouraging news is that Papenhuyzen didn’t lose any of his natural ability when he returned following concussion and hamstring injuries. Everyone will hope that this is the case again but at the same time, the coaching staff will have a degree of trepidation about what the future holds given how complex knee injuries typically are.
Clearly, the knee helps you sit, stand, lift, walk, run, and jump which perhaps gives one a better indication of how vital they are in the life of an athlete. In Papenhuyzen’s case, his knees were also responsible for his blistering change of direction when attacking and gave him the maneuverability to be considered one of the league’s most outstanding players, as his 2020 Clive Churchill Medal proves.
With this in mind, you can understand why Melbourne Storm are holding their breath to see which version of Papenhuyzen returns he joins in the pre-season training in early 2023. This is a player, however, who has developed a reputation for hitting the ground running again when coming back from injury which will bode well for his chances of making a full recovery in 2023.