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Storm coach Craig Bellamy revealed Ryan Papenhuyzen’s recovery from a horror knee injury has been “a lot slower than what everyone thought”.
The gun fullback shattered his kneecap halfway through the 2022 season and spent time in the US to rehab the injury with renowned specialist Bill Knowles in the off-season.
Melbourne confirmed the 24-year-old would miss the first six to eight weeks of the 2023 season, but beyond that Bellamy is uncertain when Papenhuyzen will be fit to take the field.
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“I’d love to be able to tell you guys that, but I honestly don’t really know,” Bellamy said on NRL360.
“It has obviously been a lot slower than what everyone thought, obviously Paps (Papenhuyzen) has been over in the states to work with a guru guy over there.
“Still coming along really slowly, he hasn’t started any running on land yet he’s just still running in the water, so they’re not sure how long it is going to take.
“It’s been hard for Paps, this slow recovery and not knowing when he can get back in the game.
“We just need to be patient and hope that when he starts running it improves quickly, but at this stage he’s still a fair way away from doing any training with the team.”
Bellamy was also asked if there were concerns Papenhuyzen wouldn’t return this year and the master coach said there were no “guarantees”.
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“Yeah, again that thought has probably passed over a few people’s minds,” Bellamy said.
“But we are confident, if we stay patient and Paps does the work he needs to do and our medical team get it right, he’ll be back at some stage.
“Best scenario, six to eight weeks, maybe 10 weeks, but there’s no guarantees there.
“We certainly aren’t going to push him and take any chances.”
Papenhuyzen also spoke about his desire to return at full fitness, hoping to avoid another injury and play career best football after spending time with Knowles.
Knowles also worked with both Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic, rehabbing their respective hamstring injuries.
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“I don’t really have a date in mind, it’s about getting back to a level where I feel I can perform well again,” Papenhuyzen said to NCA Newswire.
“But the thing that really resonated with me is that I want to come back and perform, not just come back.
“That’s what he’s really highlighted, which is, ‘You’ll come back, no doubt about it, but there’s a difference between coming back and coming back performing’.
“I think we just sort of cleared out a way of figuring that out and not being influenced by outside noise and sticking to our reconditioning process.
“Once I got that down pat, and once I’m confident and getting reps in, I should be ready to go.”