Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy concedes he does not know when superstar fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen will return to the NRL after admitting his recovery from injury is going slower than expected. The 24-year-old has been busy in his recovery from a sickening broken kneecap suffered midway through the 2023 season.
Papenhuyzen last week poured cold water on reports he was in line to return between rounds six and eight this season. "Something came out the other week that I'd be back around rounds six (to) eight, that's a little bit ambitious at the moment," Papenhuyzen told Triple M's Rush Hour. "It's a slow process."
'WON THEM OVER': Braith Anasta's message to haters after backlash
Speaking on NRL360 on Monday night, Melbourne's coach was asked to elaborate on the Papenhuyzen injury and whether he could provide a more accurate timeframe on the 24-year-old's comeback. In a worrying revelation, Bellamy admitted that he had no idea about a possible return date for his gun fullback.
“I’d love to be able to tell you guys that, but I honestly don’t really know,” Bellamy said on NRL360. “It has obviously been a lot slower than what everyone thought, obviously Paps (Papenhuyzen) has been over in the states to work with a guru guy over there.
Papenhuyzen has followed in the footsteps of Roosters star Latrell Mitchell and Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic by travelling to America to work with renowned sports doctor Bill Knowles. A key part of the focus has been on shifting the mentality for the NRL stars from from rehab to reconditioning.
"You learn about your body and how it moves. We laid out a plan and identified what I need to get better at," Papenhuyzen said last month. "The physios in the NRL are great but they are looking after 40 other people whereas I am getting a two-hour session twice a day and it's one-on-one.
"Bill taks a lot about 'this is who you were before your injury and this is what we have to do to get you back there'. With Papenhuyzen sidelined, Nick Meaney is expected to slot into the No.1 jersey for Craig Bellamy's side to begin the new season.
Ryan Papenhuyzen recovery slower than expected
In a sign of just how far Papenhuyzen is from a return to the footy field though, his coach revealed the fullback hasn't even begun running on land yet. Bellamy revealed that at this stage of the 24-year-old's recovery from such a horrific injury, that he's been restricted to running underwater in a pool.
“Still coming along really slowly, he hasn’t started any running on land yet he’s just still running in the water, so they’re not sure how long it is going to take," Bellamy added. “It’s been hard for Paps, this slow recovery and not knowing when he can get back in the game.
“We just need to be patient and hope that when he starts running it improves quickly, but at this stage he’s still a fair way away from doing any training with the team.”
The master coach said he remained hopeful that Papenhuyzen would make his mark on the NRL at some point in 2023. However, the three-time premiership-winning coach admitted there were "no guarantees" that the fullback would definitely return this season.
“Yeah, again that thought has probably passed over a few people’s minds,” Bellamy said. “But we are confident, if we stay patient and Paps does the work he needs to do and our medical team get it right, he’ll be back at some stage.
“Best scenario, six to eight weeks, maybe 10 weeks, but there’s no guarantees there. “We certainly aren’t going to push him and take any chances.”
Melbourne will also be without destructive centre Justin Olam for the opening rounds of the new season after the Papua New Guinea international suffered a fractured forearm in a trial match against the Roosters. Olam is likely to be out for another five weeks. The Storm open the 2023 season with a tough away trip to face the Parramatta Eels on Thursday night.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.