Papenhuyzen avoids second year NRL blues
After a break-out debut NRL season Melbourne fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen has turned to Storm great Billy Slater to ensure he avoids the second-year blues.
Papenhuyzen went from third-choice fullback to a key weapon in Melbourne's charge to the preliminary finals and will have his first hit-out in the position when the Storm host North Queensland in Melbourne's east on Saturday afternoon.
The 21-year-old said he had been working hard to ensure he won't suffer second-year syndrome, when rookies fail to match their first season hype.
Papenhuyzen said it was something he reflected upon as soon as 2019 was over.
"It is something I addressed right after the season," Papenhuyzen said.
"Why does the second-year syndrome exist and, after talking to a few people, it seemed it's just people getting a bit complacent and not adding parts to their game.
"So that's what I have done this pre-season so it's not something I am stressed about."
Papenhuyzen recognised the best way to beat the blues was to add to his game and improve on the parts he was already doing well.
Papenhuyzen, who played 22 games last season, said he had continued to work with Slater, widely regarded as the game's best ever fullback.
"I didn't think I could do any more video with Bill, but he has been helping me add parts to my game," Papenhuyzen said.
"I've been working on decision making, being a bit smarter with the footy and being a bit smarter in tight situations or vice versa when it is a bit loose and I need to go and attack the game a bit more."
Melbourne will be blooding a new centres combination at Casey Fields in Cranbourne with Marion Seve and Justin Olam replacing Curtis Scott (Canberra) and Will Chambers (rugby).
But the new centres boast just 26 NRL games between them, with Papenhuyzen saying he needed to show more leadership this year.
"I feel like a bit of a leader now as I am in a key position, so I have been working on communicating better and making sure I have a voice to lead guys around the field," he said.
© AAP 2020