Even though the Penrith Panthers will enjoy a deserved weekend’s rest, they will be well represented during the NRL’s Representative Round with a whopping 17 players selected across various nations and teams.
When the round kicks off this Friday in Newcastle, Penrith’s star Kiwi back Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will go up against the new-look Kangaroos.
Watene-Zelezniak’s New Zealand selection is a significant one for the 20-year-old after he was forced to withdraw from the team on two previous occasions – the first because of a training mishap in 2014 and the second because of suspension.
Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney said it will be third time lucky for the Penrith flyer.
“When I texted Dallin to tell him, he was really, really excited,” he said.
“He a kid that’s been in our Junior Kiwis program and I remember watching him score four tries against the Junior Kangaroos a few years ago.
“He’s one of those kids that has always been on the cusp of making it, now he finally gets that opportunity.”
Peta Hiku was also selected but had to withdraw during the week through injury.
In the weekend’s other big match, Penrith will have six players involved in the City v Country fixture this Sunday afternoon in Tamworth.
Tyrone Peachey, Bryce Cartwright, Leilani Latu, Josh Mansour and Reagan Campbell-Gillard will turn out for City while Dubbo’s Isaah Yeo is the lone Panther representing Country.
Two Pacific Test matches will take place at Pirtek Stadium this Saturday with Fiji battling Papua New Guinea and Tonga tackling Samoa. Reserve grade hooker Sione Katoa will be the only Panther represented in the Pacific Tests when he links up with his home nation of Tonga.
Meanwhile, former Test international Elijah Taylor (now with the Tigers) and reserve grade utility Zach Dockar-Clay were selected in the NSW Residents team.
And it’s Australian honours for Penrith Holden Cup youngsters Nathan Cleary, Robert Jennings, Tyrone May and Dylan Edwards who were all chosen to represent the Junior Kangaroos while boom first grader James Fisher-Harris and Cowen Epere were picked for the Junior Kiwis.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.