Nick Meaney has revealed Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has flagged the possibility that he might be moved to the bench once Ryan Papenhuyzen is ready for NRL action. Papenhuyzen recently returned to the playing field after 12 months on the sidelines with a fractured kneecap he suffered in a game last year.
The dynamic fullback has played three games in the Queensland Cup and appears on the verge of making his return to the NRL. Bellamy and the Storm have remained coy about if and when they will deploy Papenhuyzen in first grade, but have suggested it could come before the finals in three weeks' time.
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Meaney has been brilliant at the back for the Storm in Papenhuyzen's absence, and would have every right to feel hard done by if he loses his spot. But the fullback has revealed to AAP that a switch to the bench has been flagged with him.
With no other injuries in the backline, there is no clear place for the in-form Meaney in the starting line-up once Papenhuyzen returns. "Craig sort of spoke to me about when he comes back, whether there's that role coming off the bench, or keep my spot at fullback," Meaney said.
"He's spoken to me about just playing my best footy, try and learn each week, get better each week. I knew that coming down here that Paps was here (as first-choice fullback). I'm there to do my best job for the team, no matter where that is."
Another option would be to keep Meaney at fullback and use Papenhuyzen as a strike weapon off the bench. The Storm have utilised a similar plan in the past with Nicho Hynes.
Meaney also revealed how sessions with Billy Slater - Melbourne's greatest-ever fullback - have helped him keep his form up in a second season at the Storm. "He just sort of talks about the little things that you probably don't think about: body position in defence and most importantly, just mentality things," Meaney said. "Just fight for everything."
Cameron Smith urges Storm to pick Ryan Papenhuyzen
Speaking on Tuesday morning, Storm legend Cameron Smith urged Bellamy to pick Papenhuyzen this week. “He’s had two-and-a-half games back in the Queensland Cup and he performed quite well again on the weekend, you’d like to think his confidence is slowly building,” Smith said on SEN radio.
“I think they have to throw him in, at some stage he has to go in and I don’t think there’s a better time than this week, they take on the Titans in Melbourne. After that, they finish with the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, we know where the Broncos are at, at the moment they’re flying, they’ll be very confident, and they’ve got a big aggressive football side. Maybe this week is the opportunity to put Papenhuyzen in.”
Storm general manager of football Frank Ponissi also revealed on Monday: “There has been no decision made and won’t be until (Tuesday). He’s a chance, but not guaranteed."
🏉✅NICK MEANEY & PAPENHUYZEN MUST BE IN THE RUN ONSIDE TOGETHER IS A 'NO BRAINER'Two Superstars pic.twitter.com/0bKIIy4ltM
— WoMac (@MakiWomac) August 14, 2023
If Papenhuyzen is fit and firing you pick him, simple. Meaney has been solid enough but he isn’t Paps, Storm need a little more X-Factor from the #1 to trouble the top sides, get him in ASAP if he is physically and mentally ready.
— Tim (@Mason_09) August 15, 2023
melbourne desperately need papenhuyzen back. meaney does the job, but they miss papenhuyzens raw attacking ability in games like this #NRLPanthersStorm
— abby (@lowkeyabby) August 4, 2023
Papenhuyzen was not considered for selection in last round's win over St George Illawarra, but Bellamy indicated he was progressing well. "We're fairly happy with what he's done so far," the Storm coach said.
"He gets another chance to play again this week and we'll see what happens there. We're not putting any pressure on him, we'll just see how he responds in games but then how he responds and adapts after games. We're just taking it week by week, day by day, to be quite honest, and then go from there."
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