“I spoke to him about it. The way Melbourne used him and the times he played in the middle, some days the game was going well and it worked well, but then other games it was not as good.
“I can’t imagine Wednesday night would have been easy for him if he went in there and defended our line for 30-something play-the-balls inside our own 20m compared to our ten or 15 play-the-balls. They had more than double, so good luck.
“To put him in at lock forward, it’s hilarious. It would have gassed him. He would have been there for five minutes. He’s a good fella, Paps, everyone enjoyed his company and he’s a good dude. Everyone can see why there’s excitement around him.
“To not take in the team that played so well in game two would have been a brave call. And at the end of the day Cameron Munster was the difference. He was pretty outstanding.”
Clint Gutherson moved to fullback and Isaah Yeo slotted into the centres as Papenhuyzen sat high up in the coach’s box watching his new mates get rolled by a few of his Melbourne club mates.
Papenhuyzen, who exited Sydney’s Sofitel Hotel on Thursday morning to begin his first day of freedom after 210 long days inside a biosecurity bubble, told the Herald he would not have been overawed if catapulted into the hostile Suncorp arena so early in a decider – and in such an important position.
When asked if he could have made a difference, Papenhuyzen said: “I think I could have. I backed the decision Freddy made to keep the same side, he has to make those tough decisions, and he’s the one whose name is dragged through the mud [if he gets it wrong].
“You never know, I could have been on the bench and then we had two rucks go down. But I love Suncorp. I would have enjoyed the challenge. It’s easy to say in hindsight.”
Meanwhile, NSW doctor Nathan Gibbs said Tedesco and Cody Walker were both knocked out but recovered well enough to board the late flight home to Sydney.
Walker was worse off than Tedesco late on Wednesday, but both will benefit with rest. Tedesco spoke about having a sore head and neck as he returned home. Walker was one of the first players to depart before 7am.
“They were both unconscious – they had a loss-of-consciousness concussion – which is obviously a more severe episode,” Gibbs said. “They both recovered well and came home with the team and were on the field with the team after the game. They were both pretty good this morning.
“Normally within three or four hours you get a good idea idea if players deteriorate or improve, but they were OK.”
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.