“Everything froze when I kicked it. I saw the ball drift back to the right and I wasn’t sure if I had put it out to the left enough.
“But then it straightened up and it hit me [what had happened]. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. You want the ball in those big moments.
“When you watch those tight games as a kid, two good teams and then someone levels the score, that’s what you dream about.”
Papenhuyzen sparked wild scenes in the middle of Suncorp Stadium as the Storm made it 25-all. A Smith penalty goal in golden point sealed the result.
The Thursday-night epic was being hailed one of the greatest club games in the modern era. The lead changed a remarkable four times in the final 10 minutes.
Even when the Storm trailed by 10 points with as many minutes to go, Papenhuyzen, 22, said they never lost hope, especially given the way Brandon Smith continued to bounce around in his 50th NRL game.
“We just had this energy and this want to win,” Papenhuyzen told the Herald.
It was extra special for Craig Bellamy’s troops given they were forced to relocate to the Sunshine Coast during the week to escape the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped Melbourne a second time. Papenhuyzen said the players had made peace with the fact they could be stranded north of the Tweed for up to three months.
Papenhuyzen, who ”drop-kicked a few drives” during a rusty round at Twin Waters on Friday with seven of his Storm teammates, hated to think what the mood would have been like had he shanked the field-goal attempt.
It was his first-ever attempt at a one-pointer in 30 NRL games.
“Given we had the long turnaround, had we lost it would have been completely depressing,” Papenhuyzen said. “At least when you win you can enjoy the next couple of days.
“The reality is we’re here for the next two or three months. We’re sweet with it. We’re still getting paid to play footy, so we can’t complain. That feeling on Thursday night was so special … it’s something to be really proud of.”
Opposition teams have come to expect Smith or the injured Cameron Munster to slot a field goal late in the game, so the Storm rehearsed for Papenhuyzen to become an option.
The Roosters were brave but completed at just 44 per cent in the second half, a statistic not lost on coach Trent Robinson.
Irate Chooks fans claimed the team was robbed when Brandon Smith appeared to knock on as he played the ball before Papenhuyzen nailed his shot from 34m.
NRL head of football Graham Annesley, however, was satisfied there was no knock-on, nor any need for one of the brilliant clashes to be overshadowed by “such microscopic scrutiny”.
“I am aware of the noise around this incident and I’ve reviewed the footage this morning,” Annesley told the Herald. “While there could be a slight hint of a bobble as Smith places the ball on the ground, it certainly isn’t clear-cut.
“It didn’t even rate a mention during the television coverage and it would have been splitting hairs – and just as controversial – had it been ruled as a lost ball or knock-on.
“I thought the referee [Ashley Klein] contributed enormously to one of the great games of the past decade, and it doesn’t deserve to be diminished by such microscopic scrutiny.”
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.