It’s fair to say Sunday was probably one of the biggest days in Ryan Papenhuyzen’s life so far.
The 22-year-old won his first NRL grand final, was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal for a man-of-the-match performance, and then found out he’s been selected in the NSW State of Origin squad for the first time.
And no one seemed happier for the young fullback than Melbourne captain Cameron Smith.
Smith didn’t know about Papenhuyzen’s Blues selection until halfway through the Storm’s winning press conference inside ANZ Stadium.
Both players joined coach Craig Bellamy to speak to the media throng and it was 14 minutes into the press conference when one journalist asked Bellamy about the number of Melbourne players chosen in Origin squads for next month’s series.
Smith had no idea Papenhuyzen had been chosen for NSW until he heard that question, and he was clearly delighted for his young teammate.
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Smith turned to Papenhuyzen and asked, “are you in the NSW squad?”, to which the latter replies with a grin, “yeah”, and then his captain gives him a hug and a slap on the back and says “well done mate”.
Papenhuyzen is one of three Storm players in line to make their Origin debuts.
Brenko Lee and Tino Fa’asuamalaeaui have both been picked by Queensland and may debut in this year’s series.
“Paps has really matured this year, he would probably be the first one to say he’s had a lot of help from Billy (Slater),” Bellamy said of the young star.
“He’s been very grateful for that, but it’s another thing to take it as well and he has, and he’s done really well.
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“Unfortunately Tino won’t be with us next year so that was his last game for the club tonight, but he’s been outstanding for a guy his age, he only played about four or five games last year.
“He’s done a tremendous job for us this year.
“Brenko just came to us this year and it’s a credit to him that he’s got Queensland selection this year. I’m really happy for them.
“This kid here (Papenhuyzen), it’s going to be hard to move James (Tedesco) out of the fullback position, but he can play a few other places, he will give them some X factor in a couple of other positions as well.”