Tedesco saw Papenhuyzen coming years ago

·2-min read

James Tedesco knew within a few training sessions with a teenage Ryan Papenhuyzen that the young fullback was going to become an NRL gun.

Struck by his pace and skill, Tedesco got an early glimpse in 2017 of the man who now looms as his closest rival for the mantle of rugby league's best No.1.

The pair will provide the headline clash of the round when their teams clash on Saturday night, even though each has swatted away talk of wanting to outdo the other.

But it's easy to forget they were once Wests Tigers clubmates.

Stuck behind Tedesco and not seeing a path forward at Concord while in under-20s, Papenhuyzen made the call in early 2017 to head to Melbourne and wait for life after Billy Slater.

It proved a double blow for the Tigers, with Tedesco making his own call to leave for the Sydney Roosters shortly after, going on to win two premierships there.

While Papenhuyzen had wait until 2019 to get his chance in the NRL, Tedesco never forgot his talent.

"He was a gun. He was very talented, very fast," Tedesco said.

"He only had a couple of sessions (with the NRL squad), he was pretty young but he was coming through.

"He's turned into a classy fullback. He was always fast, always talented.

"But I think his development down there with the Melbourne structures and Billy (Slater) has been good for him."

The pair were reunited in last year' NSW State of Origin camp, before Papenhuyzen shot out of the blocks with seven tries in four games this year.

But Tedesco has insisted from the opening round this year there is no personal battle between the pair, and that there won't be on Friday night between the Storm and Roosters.

"It doesn't really change much for me, but I am sure everyone will talk about it," Tedesco said.

"Melbourne are playing some good footy all around the park. It will be a different challenge for us.

"We have had some good wins but Melbourne are a top-two, top-four side."

Tedesco has not seen his game falter with playmaker Luke Keary out injured, praising the return of Victor Radley as an extra play-making option.

Meanwhile Papenhuyzen's game has only improved, with Craig Bellamy claiming a fortnight ago he is "getting closer to" Tedesco.

Regardless, the Storm fullback rubbished claims he could take Tedesco's NSW Origin spot come June.

"He's been the best for a while now and all this chat during the week about me taking his Origin spot, that's all rubbish," Papenhuyzen said.

"He's done it for a long time and I'm still learning my trade. It's always good to test yourself against them.

"But he's been doing it for years and I've only been doing it for one or two."