Lang on League: Why Dylan Edwards should move to five-eighth

Drum roll, please.

I think Dylan Edwards should play five-eighth for Penrith next year after the departure of Jarome Luai at the end of the season.

Yep, that’s right, I believe that one of the best fullbacks in the comp, who regularly comes in as the competition’s number one metre-eater, is now at a stage in his career where he’s good enough to play alongside the mercurial Nathan Cleary in the halves.

I know the suggestion is a little left-field and I’ll be lucky if I find one person to agree with me, but let me explain how I came to this conclusion.

For a start Edwards’ ball playing skills have improved out of sight in the last four years. He now comes into the attacking line far more than he ever did before and he sets up tries for his teammates by regularly injecting himself into the Panthers’ attacking formations.

Yes, if you look at his try-assists they’re not sky high but it’s hard to notch up big numbers in that area when you play fullback and you’ve got playmakers like Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Jarome Luai in your side. There’s that plus it’s simply not your job in that position.

Edwards has matured so much as a footballer and improved in so many areas of his game that I honestly think he could handle the shift.

Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards. Photo: NRL Photos.

He’s also not the first fullback to ever make the successful transition to five-eighth either. Remember Darren Lockyer, Preston Campbell, Matt Moylan even?

Now I know the switch doesn’t always work, you only have to look at the Knights’ Kayln Ponga to see that, but Edwards fits the bill in so many areas it would be worth a try.

The next obvious question would be, well who would you play at fullback?

The answer is simple, it’s the Panthers NSW Cup custodian sensation Isaiah Iongi. Iongi exudes class, his speed and footwork are a pure joy to watch and he can return the ball back as good as anyone.

He’s also safe under the high ball and wouldn’t look out of place in first grade.

Iongi is good enough to play fullback in first grade and if it’s not at this club, it will be at another.

Not sure if the young man is ready?

OK then you can re-sign Daine Laurie for another season and give him the job. Laurie has played plenty of first grade at fullback, so you wouldn’t be taking any risks there.

I honestly don’t think it’s a case of weakening one position to strengthen another either.

Of course, the Panthers have other options at five-eighth, Brad Schneider, Jack Cole even Daine Laurie, all come to mind and all could do a superb job if given the opportunity.

However, apart from Laurie playing a handful of games in that position for the Tigers last year and Jack Cole playing one match in the World Club Challenge in February, there’s not a whole lot of first grade experience at five-eighth in that group either. Even Schneider is more of a halfback than five-eighth.

Dylan Edwards to five-eighth… you know… it may not be as silly as it sounds!