Andrew Johns called Ryan Papenhuyzen ‘irreplaceable’ but Brad Fittler suggested the megastar full-back’s cruel injury blow could open the door for the Storm to produce another weapon.
Melbourne will test themselves without Papenyhuyzen for the first time this season on Saturday night – against reigning Premiers Penrith, no less – after the speedster suffered a hamstring and knee injury in round nine, ruling him out for four to six weeks.
While former Bulldog and Knight Nick Meaney was named in Storm’s No.1 jumper when the teams exited on Tuesday, Tyran Wishart is another player in the Melbourne ranks who can fit in at the back.
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Fittler highlighted the great success Melbourne had had in turning full-backs into top players.
“If you look at all the good players in Melbourne, they’ve all been successful at the back: Jahrome Hughes, Cameron Munster,” Fittler told Wide World of Sports. Freddy and the eighth.
“They know how to form a fullback, and they have Billy Slater there (as a consultant).”
Nicho Hynes is another player who came into the NRL via the full-back position in Melbourne, to become a top-class half-back.
Papenhuyzen leads the Dally M standings after nine laps.
The 23-year-old is also the top try scorer with 12 and is the only player to score four tries in a game this season.
A sickening shot in Magic Round ruled out Papenhuyzen for the entire 2021 State of Origin series and, after once again establishing himself as a strong contender for the New South Wales No.14 shirt, he is out of luck. calculations for the first game of this year’s series.
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“Irreplaceable. Absolutely irreplaceable. I don’t think there’s a player in the game who can identify a tired player or an overlap or an opportunity to exploit the defense and take advantage of it (like Papenhuyzen),” said Johns.
“Gets in the right situation every time. Whenever there’s a chance to exploit the defense he’s there. Whether it’s inside the attackers, whether it’s around Munster, whether it’s away from Munster or Jahrome Hughes, he just knows where to put himself.”
Johns is arguably the greatest half-back in history, but rugby league Immortal believe full-backs play a more crucial role in the modern game.
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“The way Melbourne plays and the way most teams play, the fullback is probably more important than the halfback,” Johns said.
“If you name the best players in the competition, not in any order, you go Turbo (Tom Trbojevic), (James) Tedesco, Papenhuyzen, Kalyn Ponga – all those players.
“Full-backs are so important.”
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