The incredible resurrection of Dylan Edwards

Dylan Edwards, his partner Nadine and their two kids. Photo: Megan Dunn.
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Five years ago, Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards was switched to the wing mid-way through a horror performance against the Tigers.

Ironically, the Panthers won the game 9-8 thanks to an Edwards try close to full-time but it should have spelled the end at Penrith for the kid from Dorrigo.

We’ve all seen this story before and Edwards would have been at long odds to carve out a decent career in a Penrith jumper after his start to the 2019 season.

A week earlier, his hands had let him down in a 32-2 thumping at the hands of Melbourne on a cold night in Bathurst. Some were surprised he was even named against the Tigers, so bad was the performance.

He survived one more week on the wing after that Tigers game before he was dropped to reserve grade by coach Ivan Cleary.

Media reports had him linked to a move to Townsville to join the Cowboys, labelled “unwanted” at Penrith in one story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Dylan Edwards chats with Nathan Taylor back in 2017. Photo: Melinda Jane

The Panthers would use both Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Caleb Aikens at fullback before Edwards eventually made his way back into the team against the Warriors mid-way through the season.

After that, he never left.

It is what happened during those four weeks out of first grade that defined Edwards’ career.

He didn’t just work hard in reserve grade, although that was a significant part of it.

Edwards did plenty of work on his mental health during this period.

He went to extraordinary lengths to get back into the headspace required to be a first grade footballer.

It all could have gone either way.

Dylan Edwards in 2019. Photo: Melinda Jane

Either Edwards would never regain the confidence lost during those early weeks of 2019, or he would become the answer to Penrith’s fullback conundrum.

We all know how it turned out.

Fast forward to 2024 and Edwards is a three-time Premiership winning fullback, has played three Tests for Australia and won a Clive Churchill Medal along the way.

And next Wednesday night, arguably the pinnacle of his career: running out in a sky blue jumper for New South Wales in front of 83,000 fans at Accor Stadium in the State of Origin series opener.

For Dylan, his partner Nadine and his kids, it must feel somewhat surreal.

Dylan Edwards and his partner arrive at the season launch in 2023.

Especially when they dare to look back at those early months of 2019.
Plenty of players wouldn’t have come back from it. The list of those who haven’t redeemed themselves from similar positions is long, very long.

Now Edwards will not only wear the number one jersey for the Blues, but he’s displaced the incumbent captain in doing so.

There’s been calls for some time for Edwards to replace James Tedesco, but loyalty won out until this point.

And while Tedesco had a below par series last year, nobody can deny that the Roosters captain has had plenty of good moments for the Blues.
But your time is up eventually.

The best thing about Dylan Edwards is that his highest quality is effort.

It’s not necessarily power, speed, height or ball handling.

Effort is everything when it comes to his game. He does not die wondering.

Dylan Edwards against Melbourne last year. Photo: Megan Dunn.

His outstanding performance in the 2022 Grand Final, which saw him named man of the match, exemplified that to a tee.

Not every player has that effort in them.

They can be flashy, have great moments, get all the headlines.
Often, it hides other inefficiencies.

But effort? You can’t fake that.

The Dylan Edwards story couldn’t be more country boy made good if you tried.

And the hiccup of 2019 is all part of it.

Dylan Edwards parties in the sheds after the 2023 Grand Final. Photo: NRL Images.

Ask Edwards now and I doubt he would swap it for the world.

He made the best of the worst time in his career and has come out smiling.

And perhaps the best part of it? The man who dropped him, Ivan Cleary, is still by his side today.

What a great Penrith story.

One of many, of course.

Isaah Yeo will line up for his 12th State of Origin match on Wednesday night. He his built for this kind of football.

Brian To’o? He plays number 10, having played in every game of the last three series’. He was probably the first player picked for the 2024 series.

Liam Martin also makes it 10 in a row next Wednesday night, another country-boy-made-good yarn.

And then there’s Jarome Luai.

You could have argued that he was done in the Origin arena after being dropped for the third game last year.

Now, he will play a crucial role alongside Nicho Hynes in restoring some much-needed pride to the Blues jersey.

Luai and unfinished business go hand in hand. He will do his state proud.

A villain in so many people’s eyes, Luai has a chance to re-write part of his story.

Jarome Luai is sent off in Origin II last year. Photo: NRL Images.

Penrith built all of these footballers. It is the best possible example of the top development system in the game.

Michael Maguire has named a New South Wales team we can all get behind.

You may not agree with every selection, but it is littered with great stories; with rugby league talent and passion that cannot be bought or faked.

This series is set up for legacies to be created, a few of them close to home.

I have no doubt this is the Blues team to rub Queensland off the map.

Troy Dodds

Troy Dodds is the Weekender's Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia's leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.

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