Ryan Papenhuyzen has had to fight his way to the top of the NRL, and says he could not have reached the pinnacle without the inspiration of an all-time sporting great.
Melbourne Storm gun Papenhuyzen was told as a teenager that he was too small to pursue his dream of playing rugby league professionally.
But now weighing at 84 kilograms and regarded as one of the best players in the sport, the fullback says he turned to NFL legendary quarterback Tom Brady for inspiration.
‘It probably got me down when I first got told that but as I was starting to progress a little bit, there was that extra little bit of motivation that kept me going,’ he told Fox Sports.
‘I truly believe that you’re never too small or you’re never too big or you’re never quite fast enough to do anything.
‘I look at someone like Tom Brady over in the NFL, when he was coming through the draft he was highly disregarded, he was slow and didn’t think he was up to it and then you can look at someone like him.
‘I think you find your point of difference somewhere and for him it was between his ears and for me that’s something I’ve been working really hard on and I just thing there’s other areas you can make up for if you’re too small or whatever.
‘One thing that I learned when I came down to the Storm is you can do whatever you want if you actually put your mind to it and from there the world’s your oyster really.’
Papenhuyzen spent a year away from league as a teenager, trying his hand at union and touch football, but was lured back to his first love with his desire to reach the NRL reignited.
‘It was always a dream as a kid to play NRL but then there was that little period in-between where I was indirectly told that you’re not good enough,’ Papenhuyzen said.
‘I was enjoying my touch footy and playing (rugby) union at school as well, playing cricket on weekends, I just love sport in general.
‘It wasn’t too hard to have a year off back then but I pretty much got back into it again with my touch footy mates.
‘We started a team out of Dundas and they fell under the Balmain competition and we won a comp there and I just really enjoyed footy again.
‘It progressed through the Balmain juniors system and then got recruited by the Storm and the rest is history.’