The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

RYAN Papen­huyzen reck­ons he’s walk­ing around with a smile as wide as a lotto win­ner.

And who could blame the Storm full­back af­ter what he achieved this year.

For­get play­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive foot­ball at the start of the year, play­ing first grade was barely on the radar af­ter Papen­huyzen was rel­e­gated to the Storm’s third-best full­back op­tion dur­ing the pre-sea­son. He was shopped around to ri­vals but re­ceived lit­tle in­ter­est.

Next month he will be of­f­con­tract for 2021 and will be one of the most in-de­mand play­ers in the competitio­n.

First, though, Papen­huyzen will show off his blis­ter­ing speed af­ter be­ing picked in Aus­tralia’s nines team to com­pete in the two-day World Cup tour­na­ment start­ing on Fri­day.

“There have been lit­tle mo­ments where I have re­flected on what I’ve achieved this year,” Papen­huyzen said.

“I had just told my parents I was picked in the Aus­tralian team and was just walk­ing back to my car af­ter get­ting a cof­fee and started smil­ing.

“I just had this crazy feel­ing out of nowhere. If some­one saw me they would’ve thought I won the lotto. Ev­ery now and then I’ll have a chuckle look­ing at the start of the year and how it is now. I’m pretty proud.

“I didn’t know it at the time but I was get­ting shopped around be­cause the club needed to find space in the cap.

“Dur­ing the pre-sea­son I was thrown a bit of ev­ery­where be­cause Drinky (Scott Drinkwa­ter) and Hugh­esy (Jahrome Hughes) were the top full­back choices. I know I can get bet­ter.

“I’m try­ing to ride out the wave of this year and en­joy my footy. Now I have a few games, I want to take it to the next level.”

The 21-year-old made his NRL de­but off the bench and spent the first half of the sea­son used mainly as an impact player.

His scin­til­lat­ing form made it im­pos­si­ble for Storm coach Craig Bel­lamy to ig­nore, with Papen­huyzen start­ing the fi­nal six games at full­back.

The Storm’s rookie of the year had not con­sid­ered se­lec­tion for Aus­tralia. So much so he should be sun­ning him­self in Bali this week in­stead of run­ning out at Bankwest Sta­dium.

“I didn’t think I was a chance,” he said. “My mates were mes­sag­ing me ask­ing if I would be a chance but I kept telling them I would be right to come on the trip.

“When they an­nounced the nines con­cept, I thought it would be such a cool thing and the Aussies would have a mad side. I don’t even know how to de­scribe be­ing picked.”

Papen­huyzen said he had started con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Storm.

Pic­ture: AAP

From the Mel­bourne bench at the start of this sea­son to the Aus­tralian Nines team, Ryan Papen­huyzen has had a fan­tas­tic year.

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