The Melbourne Storm have got superstar fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen back, but they've been rocked by a potentially disastrous blow for halfback Jahrome Hughes. Papenhuyzen played his first game at NRL level for over 12 months on Saturday, coming through unscathed in his first taste of the top grade since fracturing his kneecap last July.
Papenhuyzen played 18 minutes off the bench and didn't look troubled, but the same can't be said of Hughes. The halfback is set to miss the Storm's final-round clash with Brisbane after limping off AAMI Park with a knee injury late in the 37-18 win on Saturday.
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Hughes was spotted in a knee brace after the game and the initial diagnosis was a medial strain. NRL Physio Brien Seeney said anything more than a grade one injury would be a multiple-week absence, which would be a huge blow for Melbourne's finals campaign.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said he couldn't see Hughes making the trip north to face the Broncos next Thursday night considering the five-day turnaround. However Bellamy said he was hopeful of having his star No.7 available for the first week of the playoffs.
"It looks like he's got a slight medial, they don't think it's too bad but I wouldn't imagine he will play next week as it's a five-day turnaround," Bellamy said. "He will go for a scan tomorrow ... given how he feels now I don't think they think it's a whole heap of damage but I couldn't imagine him playing next week."
Bellamy also revealed that hooker Harry Grant suffered a shoulder injury, although he was able to play out the remainder of the game. The Queensland State of Origin rake started on the bench for the second time in three weeks.
"He was sore and it looked like he was going to come off at some stage which is a big call as he's a tough little bastard," Bellamy said of Grant. "We will check that but again I don't think it's too serious but you'd rather have a few more days for him to recover."
We need him. He combines well with Munster on the other side
— Lord St. John Cromwell, Earl of Strathmore (@JohnMKeynes1936) August 27, 2023
Bad news for Jahrome and Storm fans. Good news for Broncos fans. The Melbourne winning streak going back to 2016 against Brisbane will end this Thursday night.
— Richard Impiombato (@R_Impiombato) August 27, 2023
Pat Carrigan (foot), Nicho Hynes (quad), Jacob Kiraz (back), Braidon Burns (hamstring), Jarome Luai (shoulder), Jahrome Hughes (knee), Joey Manu (hamstring), Clint Gutherson (knee), Luke Metcalf (hamstring), Sione Finau (ankle), Rocco Berry (knee) + more I’m sure
— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) August 26, 2023
Ryan Papenhuyzen wants more minutes after successful return
The news wasn't all bad for the Storm, with Papenhuyzen making a successful and welcome return. The 25-year-old played his first game in 405 days on Saturday, receiving a standing ovation at AAMI Park when he was brought on with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Wearing a precautionary ice-pack on his knee post-match, Papenhuyzen said he felt relieved to have made a successful NRL return. "The few games in the Queensland Cup helped me a lot, just knowing that the body was going to hold up," he said.
"It felt really good, really comfortable - the nerves playing my first game for Falcons (in the Queensland Cup) were probably more than this game. I will never forget that moment when I went on the field, it was an unbelievable noise the crowd gave me."
Bellamy is facing the tricky dilemma of whether to play Papenhuyzen at fullback or leave Nick Meaney there. Meaney has been brilliant while filling in for Papenhuyzen, but could also play wing or centre.
"It's just nice to be in contention for selection again for the 17," Papenhuyzen said. "We're a special side and Means (Nick Meaney) has been doing a really good job.
"If Craig (Bellamy) decides I'm good for (longer minutes) he'll put me in the team, and if not that's the way it goes and I just need to be a good teammate. I'd just be happy to be in the team wherever."
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