Dylan Edwards will almost certainly get first crack over Dallin Watene-Zelezniak at fullback when Ivan Cleary names his team for next week’s NRL season opener.
Following much debate over the off-season, the 23-year-old rising star will wear the coveted Panthers number one jersey after successfully getting through both NRL trials unscathed.
Despite plenty of press regarding Edwards’ battle with Watene-Zelezniak for the fullback role, the father of one said it hasn’t phased him one bit.
“I haven’t really worried about it too much, I’ve just been trying to do my best every day in pre-season,” he told the Weekender.
“I put my best foot forward every day I come out here.”
When Edwards went down last April with a season-ending shoulder injury, Kiwi captain and Panthers winger Watene-Zelezniak made the fullback role his own.
After recovering late last season, Edwards knew he had to improve his game if he was to wrestle back his prized jumper.
“You always have to improve, adjust and add new strings to your bow,” he said.
“I would have actually been available to play if we beat the Sharks and made it to the Preliminary Final. My body was ready to go, it would have been down to Ciro if he picked me or not.”
With Cameron Ciraldo returning to assistant coach duties this season, Edwards said he’s very much looking forward to working with new coach Ivan Cleary in 2019.
Cleary was last at the club when Edwards was coming through the famed Panthers system, but never got to play under him until now.
“Ivan’s a really good coach as everyone around the league knows,” Edwards said.
“He’s really respected throughout and has coached a lot of the boys before, which is handy.”
With the NRL season a little over one week away, Edwards is hoping 2019 is not only a fruitful year for him but a healthy one as well, particularly after his season-ending injury last year.
“Last season was easy to watch when we were winning but it was hard at times as well,” he said.
“I’m back healthy now and I want to put that injury behind me.”
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.