This time last year Dylan Edwards was in a moon boot.
It was NRL Grand Final Week up on the Sunshine Coast and the severely underrated fullback was nursing – what would later be revealed to be – a broken foot in the hopes of playing in that coming Sunday’s blockbuster decider against South Sydney.
As the record books would show, Edwards put up one of the bravest performances in Grand Final history – not only winning himself a coveted Premiership ring in the process, but later the club’s prestigious John Farragher Award for Courage and Determination.
A year on and in Grand Final Week yet again, Edwards is fit, firing and in career-best form.
“It’s definitely chalk and cheese this year compared to last year,” Edwards admitted.
“I remember having one run all week last year. I had my fitness test on the Thursday and that was my one run. I was in the moon boot for the rest of it.”
If Penrith are to knock off arch-rivals Parramatta this Sunday night at Accor Stadium, Edwards will no doubt be one of the keys to the Panthers winning back-to-back titles.
While the entire city of Penrith is bursting with joy this week celebrating the club’s rare achievement of making three straight Grand Finals, Edwards was rather subdued when asked what he thought of the side’s incredible feat.
“I haven’t really thought about it, to be honest,” he said.
“It’s pretty special, I suppose, to be able to keep performing well each week and making it to the big dance is pretty special… pretty cool.”
The 26-year-old enjoyed one of the games of his career last Saturday night in Penrith’s thumping Preliminary Final win over the Rabbitohs.
Edwards was in just about everything that evening – running a whopping 287 metres and winning praise from the entire rugby league faithful.
Asked how he’s handling the attention as one of the game’s most consistent performers this season, the Bellingen Dorrigo Magpies was humble in his response.
“It’s nice mate but, in saying that, I play a team sport and I’m not here to win individual awards. I have a lot of people to thank in this team who make my job easier,” Edwards said.
“We’ve got a great squad who really like to learn, and I can’t rap the boys enough.”
Earlier this month, Edwards was bestowed the highest honour of his rugby league career so far – the 2022 Merv Cartwright Medal for Panthers Player of the Year.
Edwards said it was a special award to win after his standout regular season and something he’ll perhaps reflect on more when he hangs up the boots.
“It was nice to win, it’s definitely the best award I’ve ever won, that and the John Farragher Award I got last year,” he said.
“It’s very special and something I’ll reflect on later when I’m older.”
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 a decade.