Papenhuyzen, who was a fringe on Craig Bellamy’s squad after making his debut last season, had a standout 2020 that will include a November home debut for Brad Fittler’s New South Wales side.
Melbourne No. 1 excelled in Sunday’s grand final, providing one of the highlights of the game with a breakaway attempt to put the storm 26-0 up.
Slater, who closely oversaw Papenhuyzen’s development into a top-notch full-back, was not only impressed with the youngster’s performance, but also surprised by the maturity of his medal-winning speech, signaling great things for his future.
“If this isn’t a captain’s speech, I’m not here,” Slater told WWOS Radio. “It’s just leadership everywhere. He is a humble young guy and works hard.
“What sets him apart is the knock back when Cleary was aiming for a penalty and he almost landed in row four to hit again. And he gave his team possession of football. He just wants to participate.
“He’s such an impressive young man. I think he’s got leadership everywhere going forward and he’s been rewarded with a spot on Brad Fittler’s 27-man roster on the NSW team. So well done dad.
“I see how hard people like Ryan Papenhuyzen have worked to develop their game. When you have a small part of it and help them as a person I understand how rewarding coaching is. Because I have a little taste of it a few individuals but I can imagine how proud Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett and Mel Meninga, all of these coaches who got players through, got a real sense of reward for doing so. ”
Papenhuyzen’s great game
The Storm youngster was overwhelmed with emotion at the last siren when he admitted to having “butterflies” in his first career Grand Final.
“I’m so emotional. Wow. The whole day was just the unknown. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s the most butterflies I’ve ever had, ”he said to Nine after the game.
“We made it so difficult this year. At home they do it a lot harder than we do. I’m so happy. We’ll celebrate alright.
“This first half. That was the best defensive performance I’ve seen this year. Our first half definitely created the platform. It’s incredible.”
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