Rookie Sua Fa'alogo Steps Up as Storm's Fullback Amid Injuries

Melbourne Storm's Ryan Papenhuyzen is sidelined for 4-6 weeks with an ankle fracture, replaced by rookie fullback Sua Fa'alogo. The Storm face the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on May 11, with Fa'alogo making his debut under Billy Slater's guidance.

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Rookie Sua Fa'alogo Steps Up as Storm's Fullback Amid Injuries

Rookie Sua Fa'alogo Steps Up as Storm's Fullback Amid Injuries

The Melbourne Storm will face the Cronulla Sharks at AAMI Park on Saturday night, May 11, in a top-of-the-table clash. However, the Storm will be without their regular fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, who has been sidelined with an ankle fracture for at least four weeks.

Papenhuyzen's injury is a significant blow to the Storm, as he underwent surgery on Tuesday and is expected to miss between four to six weeks. His replacement will be 21-year-old rookie fullback Sua Fa'alogo, who will make his debut under the guidance of club legend Billy Slater.

Fa'alogo has played two NRL games, scoring three tries, and has showcased "dancing feet, instinct, and electric speed." He has been working on his game and has a "thirst to get better and improve areas of his game he needs to," according to Melbourne's general manager of football, Frank Ponissi.

Slater, now Queensland coach, has been instrumental in Fa'alogo's development, working with the young fullback one day a week to improve his game. "Billy comes in one day a week and works with our outside backs and our attack coach Marc Brentnall," said Ponissi. "He has been enormous to the development of our players and especially our outside backs."

In addition to Papenhuyzen's injury, the Storm will also be withouthalfback Jahrome Hughesfor two weeks due to a calf strain. Tyran Wishart will fill in at halfback against the Sharks. Xavier Coates remains sidelined with a hamstring issue, with Grant Anderson named to start. Tui Kamikamica could be a late addition as he bids to return from injury, while Chris Lewis is back in the mix.

The match between the Storm and Sharks will kick off at 7:35 pm AEST on May 11 at AAMI Park in Melbourne. The game will be broadcast live and exclusive on Fox League, with coverage due to begin following the earlier Dragons vs. Rabbitohs clash. The match will also be available for live streaming and replay on Kayo Sports.

The Storm have a great record at home against the Sharks, with an overall record of 29 wins to 16. The Storm won the last encounter between the two teams by 44 points on June 11, 2023. Despite being down on troops in the spine, Fa'alogo's promotion provides an opportunity for him to shine, with Slater's guidance and the team's trademark competitiveness on every play. "He has bided his time, and now a great opportunity arises for him," said Ponissi about Fa'alogo playing his first home game in a Melbourne league jumper at NRL level.