The immediate focus of rugby league superstar Ryan Papenhuyzen may be on making a full recovery from an horrendous broken ankle, but one day he would love to win the Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase with his mates.
Papenhuyzen was in Sydney on Wednesday for the launch of the sixth edition of the world’s richest greyhound series which reaches the semi-final stage this Friday night at Wentworth Park before someone walks away with $1 million in the Grand Final on October 13.
“Absolutely, 100% I’d love to win this race one day,” said Papenhuyzen who, apart from being an ambassador for Greyhound Racing NSW, is also a greyhound owner. “As an owner it’s the pinnacle.
“But even just the night of the Grand Final itself it’s a great event. It's really enjoyable and the dream is to have one running in it.
“I’ve loved greyhound racing for a long time. I had my 18th birthday at Wenty (Wentworth) Park. Ever since then we got a group of six of us together and we all have just been owning greyhounds since then and we all try to get to the track whenever we can and I’m looking forward to getting there with a bunch of mates on Million Dollar Chase Final night.”
Speaking publicly for the first time since the sickening injury a month ago ended his season against the Broncos in what was just his third game back after spending 13 months on the sidelines with a knee injury, Papenhuyzen says he hopes with the all clear from his surgeon and physio, that he can begin a pre-season after Christmas and be ready for the 2024 season.
“It’s obviously non-weight bearing and I’m still in a boot at the moment, but it's gone well, and it’s as good as it can be right now and the scars have healed up nicely,” he said.
“It won't be as long as the knee thank God but at the same time it is rehab and you have got to take it seriously. So far so good, and I guess check in with me in the New Year and I should be good to go.”
Eight semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase will be run on Friday night with winners only advancing to the Grand Final a week later.
This year sees Ladbrokes return as the naming rights’ sponsor having backed the inaugural Million Dollar Chase back in 2018.
“It's an absolute thrill to be back sponsoring this event,” Karl deKroo, Executive Director, Stakeholder Engagement at Ladbrokes said.
“It feels like we’re really coming home. It is the pinnacle of greyhound racing, not just in Australia, not just in NSW, but the world. It's the race that everyone wants to win. It's a life changing race. So to have the Ladbrokes brand on the Million Dollar Chase, it just feels right.
“We've been big supporters of the industry for a long time, particularly in NSW where we're associated with the majority of clubs and big races, and not to have had the Million Dollar Chase just didn't feel quite right.
“So we're thrilled to be back. It was literally the one jewel that was missing, and what we love about the Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase is not just Final night, but it's really the journey to get there, the qualifying through the country and regional areas, and then into winner-takes-all semi-finals to get a slot in the big final. It just brings a whole lot of excitement.”
GRNSW Chief Executive Officer Rob Macaulay said the growing prominence in the sporting landscape of the Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase was evident by the attendance of major media at the launch at Circular Quay.
“It says a lot about the stature of this race that it can attract the media it has here today,” he said. “People want to talk about it. The semi-finals on Friday night then a week until the final … there's a real buzz around.
“It was fantastic to have someone like Ryan here supporting the event too. Ryan is a great supporter of greyhounds, both as pets through our rehoming program and racing itself and it’s really fantastic to see him make the effort despite his injury to come along and support us.
“As I said there's a lot of excitement at the moment about the series, and there’s some great dogs in the semis this Friday, and I can guarantee anyone who comes along to Wentworth Park on October 13 will have a night they will never forget.”