It was a night to forget for Penrith Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards at Bathurst’s Carrington Park on Saturday night.
Melbourne Storm exposed his inability to pick up the bouncing ball, making the Panthers number one pay twice. The first was a horrible mix-up at the back which saw Cameron Munster score to give the Storm a six point advantage going into the break. The second coming at critical stage in the second half when Penrith were still in the contest.
The latter proved fatal, with Edwards’ confidence hitting rock bottom and the team followed suit in surrendering to their heaviest defeat in the Central West annual event. However, he may have been unlucky in another play where Cameron Munster stripped the ball when the tackle appeared completed.
On the surface it may look like this is the only issue, but there’s a more underlying problem Ivan Cleary has with his back three.
The inability to get traction early in the tackle count.
Towards the back end of last season Dallin Watene-Zelezniak earned the right to be preferred fullback in round 1. His kick return was solid. This allowed Josh Mansour to use that momentum on the second hit-up to make good ground and put the opposition under pressure.
To date, Mansour has not had the same impact as in previous years and Watene-Zelezniak hasn’t regained that excellent 2018 form.
While coach Cleary may opt to stick with Edwards, surely his position in the starting line-up is on thin ice.
My back five would be: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (fullback), Josh Mansour and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (wing), Waqa Blake and Dean Whare (centres). Malakai has earned his spot on the wing with a good game against Newcastle two weeks back and a double in Canterbury Cup at the weekend.
At this stage the best option short-term is for Edwards to play Canterbury Cup and work on his game. At 23 and with a lot of football ahead of him, this will provide longer term benefits for his all-round game.
Penrith Panthers will be looking to make amends for their round three loss when they take on Wests Tigers at Panthers Stadium this Friday night.