Watene-Zelezniak to fill Penrith’s No.1 void
PENRITH flyer Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has declared himself ready to step into the fullback position as the Panthers attempt to survive their NRL injury crisis.
First-choice custodian Dylan Edwards became the latest to join the NRL's biggest casualty ward after dislocating his shoulder in Friday's win over Canterbury.
Scans on Monday are expected to confirm the extent of Edwards' injury, which could range from a six-week rehabilitation or season-ending surgery.
"Fingers crossed he gets back because we need him. He's a weapon in our team" Watene-Zelezniak told AAP.
"I'm praying for a speedy recovery and that it's not too bad."
Panthers winger Watene-Zelezniak filled in with distinction in their eight-point victory over the Bulldogs, finishing with a game-high 155 metres and setting up a crucial try just before halftime.
However, he is now likely to take on the added responsibility in the absence of Edwards, who had become a key piece in the Penrith spine since taking over the No.1 jumper from Matt Moylan last June.
Watene-Zelezniak admitted he had harboured ambitions to play fullback earlier in his career.
"I've always wanted to play fullback and loved playing there. But when you have someone like Dyl there, you have to do what's best for the team," he said.
"I haven't played there since 2015, so when he told me to go back there I was ready to but you can never really be ready for fullback.
"You've got to be really fit to play there. I'll just do my best."
Edwards joins first-grade regulars Josh Mansour (cheekbone), Nathan Cleary (knee) and Waqa Blake (ankle) in a rehabilitation group which includes Tim Browne (bowel) and Sam McKendry (knee).
In good news for Panthers fans, skipper Peter Wallace (neck), Tyrone May (knee) and Tyrone Phillips (pectoral) are likely to be available for Friday's home game against North Queensland in Bathurst.
Watene-Zelezniak admitted Penrith, who are second on the ladder, were driven to defy their doubters in spite of their lengthy injury toll.
"It just makes us want it even more, to do it for that injured bloke and show teams that we come close as a team when things like that happen," he said.
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