NRL 2024; Craig Bellamy gives Ryan Papenhuyzen a State of Origin push


Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says anyone not impressed by Ryan Papenhuyzen’s brilliant return would be “telling little fibs” as he pushed the star fullback for a NSW State of Origin debut.

On Tuesday, new Blues coach Michael Maguire gave Papenhuyzen, who has worked his way back from two significant injuries across the past two season, a ringing endorsement 50 days out from the opening clash with Queensland.

Papenhuyzen has scored four tries in the opening five games this season, having played just three games since a sickening knee injury in round 23, 2022 and then breaking his ankle in week one of the 2023 finals.

Maguire suggested the “character” shown by the 25-year-old to overcome such adversity was the sort of trait that he was looking for in the players he’ll select to face the Maroons.

“It’s great to see what he’s been able to do and achieve with everything he’s been through, and that’s part of character that I’m talking about,” he said.

“A player that comes back in that sort of way says a lot about a person and he’s playing some really good footy at the moment.”

Bellamy was equally effusive for the calibre of football Papenhuyzen has been able to produce and said he could “without a doubt” be at worst a good addition to the NSW bench for the series opener on June 5.

“Everyone would be sort of telling little fibs if you weren’t impressed with how Paps has come back,” Bellamy said on Wednesday.

“After the injuries that he’s been through and the length of the injuries and the severity of the injuries. there’s not a whole heap of guys who come back and come back probably reasonably as quickly.

“He’s certainly got something going for him, but I know when we first used him (from the Wests Tigers) he had at a spot in the bench and he done a great job.”

Bellamy conceded giant prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona wouldn’t be “100 per cent” for his 2024 season debut, a call-up for Thursday’s clash with Roosters after an untimely calf injury to Tui Kamikamica.

Amid reports Bellamy urged Asofa-Solomona to get into better shape after a series of hamstring issues during the pre-season, the coach said he just wanted his 200cm, 120kg forward to “play his role”.

“I think he’s going to be a little bit underdone match fitness wise,” Bellamy said.

“He hasn’t played in the NRL this year at all, he didn’t play any of the trials.

“But that will be how we manage him with the minutes he plays and when we play him. Having Tui out gives Nelson a chance to make a mark on the game earlier.”

Bellamy said Kamikamica could be out for “at worst” up to five weeks with the injury.

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