From Teddy impersonator to marked man
This time last year, Ryan Papenhuyzen was doing his best Rooster impersonations.
He was pulling on Luke Keary's No.6 jersey to mimic the crafty halfback and spent countless hours trying to replicate the performance of gun Roosters fullback James Tedesco.
Papenhuyzen did so for a week as part of a Storm squad dubbed "The Renegades", whose job was to help the Storm prepare for last year's grand final by imitating Roosters players during the team's opposed sessions.
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"The Renegades", Melbourne players not selected in the grand final side, even had the Roosters' major sponsor Steggles written on the front of their jerseys.
"I studied him and tried to emulate what he does in the game," Papenhuyzen said of Tedesco. "It's not easy. He does get through a lot of work.
"We took it upon us. We do it every week against whatever opposition. We try to replicate what they do. It was doing what he does, but it was almost impossible to replicate.
"You look at someone like Tedesco and look where he is now. I'm sort of in the same boat.
"I'm someone who had a few injuries. I'm only making my way now. He is someone I look up to, so it will be good to go against him."
Fast forward 12 months and the Roosters are formulating a similar plan to stop the Storm dynamo in the preliminary final at the SCG on Saturday.
The battle of the respective No.1s is mouth-watering, and their relationship dates back to their time as Wests Tigers juniors.
While Tedesco was forging his path in the top grade at the Tigers, Papenhuyzen was a rising star.
Papenhuyzen has reached out to Tedesco a handful of times this year.
"He is really good," Papenhuyzen said. "I'll message him on Instagram and he will reply. I said good luck in Origin.
"There are no friends on the field but afterwards we will catch up."
At the start of the year, it appeared most unlikely Papenhuyzen would become a Storm star this season.
He was stuck behind Scott Drinkwater and Jahrome Hughes in the pecking order for the fullback spot left vacant when Storm legend Billy Slater retired.
However, Papenhuyzen's form since making his NRL debut in round four has been irresistible.
"I was third-string fullback at the start of the year but have made my way into the side," Papenhuyzen said.
"I'll just ride the wave for now but once the season is done I'll sit back and reflect on it. I just want to get the job done.
"I've had a pretty special year."