Ryan Papenhuyzen lights up NRL as young guns make mockery of 'terrible' farce

The Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos both had some exciting youngsters show the future is bright for the NRL.

Ryan Papenhuyzen, Sualauvi Faalogo and Tristan Sailor.
Ryan Papenhuyzen, Sualauvi Faalogo and Tristan Sailor were all brilliant in Melbourne's win over Brisbane. Image: AAP

Ryan Papenhuyzen scored his first try in the NRL in over 12 months on Thursday night as a number of young guns made a name for themselves. Fans were left fuming earlier in the week when the Broncos and Storm both opted to rest a cavalcade of players for the final round before the NRL finals.

The Broncos are assured of a top-two finish and a home qualifying final, while the Storm have locked in a top-four finish. However the Storm couldn't secure a home final with a win on Thursday night, making the 32-22 victory rather irrelevant.

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Craig Bellamy and Kevin Walters therefore chose to give their star players a rest ahead of the finals campaign, robbing fans of seeing Cameron Munster, Harry Grant and Nick Meaney (Storm) and Reece Walsh, Payne Haas and Ezra Mam (Broncos), just to name a few. Some labelled the situation a "farce" and "terrible" for the game, but it meant we got to see a number of exciting youngsters put their name up in lights on Thursday night.

Papenhuyzen got his first start at fullback since July last year after making his return to the top grade via the bench last week. He scored a try and had a try assist, as well as making six tackle breaks and running for 137 metres in a brilliant display.

Fans were delighted to see Papenhuyzen back to his best after a horrific kneecap fracture last year, but he was somewhat overshadowed by 20-year-old excitement machine Sua Fa'alogo. The fellow fullback came off the bench and wreaked havoc on the Broncos, scoring two tries from two line breaks and breaking eight tackles.

Tristan Sailor was also brilliant for the Broncos while deputising for Walsh at fullback, providing two try assists, three line-break assists, eight tackle breaks and 206 running metres. Broncos fans also got a glimpse of their bright future as Josh Rogers produced a strong display at five-eighth.

Ryan Papenhuyzen and Sualauvi Faalogo, pictured here after a Storm try against the Broncos.
Ryan Papenhuyzen and Sualauvi Faalogo celebrate a Storm try against the Broncos. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

The Storm and Broncos both had a combined 11 front-line players on the sidelines, but the crowd of 43,271 at Suncorp Stadium were treated to a glimpse of the next group of rising stars in the NRL. Bellamy said he was "really proud" of his team and was wrapped with Fa'alogo's display.

"There were lots of times during the year we wanted to give him a start," Bellamy said. "He got his opportunity and he is a brave player. He is quick and I am sure he is going to be a regular first grader in the not too distant future."

Craig Bellamy undecided on Ryan Papenhuyzen's role for finals

The return of Papenhuyzen provides a huge boost for the Storm's premiership hopes, with Bellamy facing a selection headache with Meaney in brilliant form this year. Bellamy said is yet to decide whether the 2020 premiership winner will start or come off the bench in the finals.

"All we wanted to see was how much time he got through. He would have got through 80 minutes if we'd needed him to," Bellamy said after giving Papenhuyzen an early bath in the 77th minute.

"We used him in a few different roles. He started at fullback, played in the halves and played in the ruck for 10 or 15 minutes. We are not sure how we are going to use him (in the finals). We are pretty sure he is going to be in the 17.

"I probably would have preferred to see him run the ball a bit more tonight but I am not sure how long it is going to take before he has that confidence. It was an horrific injury and to be out for that long he is obviously going to be rusty in certain parts of the game. We are really happy with the last couple of weeks.

"He gives you a little bit of X-factor. He is an experienced player too. He has been a Clive Churchill medallist and we know he is going to add something to us. I just think he will get better and better as he goes along. Tonight was a really important step, to be able to play 80 minutes if he had to."

with AAP

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