Andrew Johns called Ryan Papenhuizen “irreversible”, but Brad Fitler suggested that the brutal blow to the megastar fullback could open the door to another gun-making for Storm.
Melbourne will test themselves on Saturday night for the first time this season without Papenihuen – against the ruling Premier Penrith, no less – in Round Nine, Speedster dropped him for four to six weeks after injuring his hamstring and knee.
Former Bulldogs and Knight Nick Manny were named Storm’s No. 1 jumper during Tuesday’s squad release, with Tyrone Wishart, another Melbourne-ranked player capable of slotting fullbacks.
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Fitler noted the tremendous success in transforming fullbacks into top-line players in Melbourne.
“If you look at all the good players in Melbourne – they’re all fullbacks: Jahrom Hughes, Cameron Munster,” Fitler told the Wide World of Sports. Freddie and VIII.
“They know how to train a fullback, and they’ve got Billy Slater there (as a consultant).”
Nico Hynes is another player who entered the NRL as a fullback spot in Melbourne, only to become a first-class halfback.
Daly M is at the top of the leaderboard after nine rounds of Papenhuagen.
The 23-year-old is the leading tri-scorer with 12 and the only player to make four tries in a game this season.
An ill-fated high shot in the Magic Round knocked Papenhuen away for the entire 2021 State of Origin series, and after re-establishing himself as a strong contender for the New South Wales No. 14 jersey, he is out of the count for a game in this year’s series.
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“Irrevocable. Absolutely irrevocable. I don’t think there’s a player in the game who can identify a tired player or have the opportunity to exploit an overlap or defense and capitalize on it (like Papenhuizen),” John said.
“Every time he puts himself in the right position. Every time he has a chance to use his defense. Whether inside the forward, around Munster, outside Munster or Jahrom Hughes, he just knows where to put himself.”
Johns is arguably the greatest halfback in history, but Rugby League Immortal believes fullbacks play a more important role in the modern game.
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“The way Melbourne plays and the way most teams play, fullbacks are probably more important now than halfbacks,” said John.
“If you name the best players in the competition, by no means, you’re going to have Turbo (Tom Trobozevic), (James) Tedesco, Papenhuen, Kalin Ponga – all of these players.
“Fullback is very important.”
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