Penrith fans might be heralding the decision to at long last move Matt Moylan into the halves as the moment their anticipated season finally kicked started with the Panthers still a hope of making the finals after overcoming a 2-7 start to win six of their last eight.
But the decision to elevate Dylan Edwards as the player to replace Moylan at fullback that has arguably reaped even bigger benefits for the club, providing that James Tedesco style of game that even Moylan as fullback struggled to provide.
Since his promotion, Edwards has averaged 173 metres per game, ranking him third in the NRL, while his 42 tackle-busts in just eight games to date, puts him third, behind only Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (57) and Tyrone Peachey (48).
While Edwards might only have one NRL try to his name, he has six line-breaks and three try assists against his name including the all-important line-break for Nathan Cleary’s second try against the Warriors that put Penrith permanently back in front.
It’s no secret among those within the club that Edwards is churning out such numbers given the strong pre-season he had, which the Bellingen-Dorrigo Magpies junior admits he was required to do if he was going to progress into the NRL side this season.
“I’m stronger than what I was last year playing 20s.” Edwards told Nepean News.
“But just knowing the physicality of playing against men, having had a bit of a chance to play some reserve grade last year, I knew it was going to be even tougher if I wanted to play first grade.
“That was my goal so I had to get stronger and fitter.”
Apart from a surprise early season appearance in the fullback role against Souths after Moylan was demoted to the Intrust Super Premiership team, Edwards had to wait patiently until Round 13 before coach Anthony Griffin gave him the opportunity to play in his preferred position in the NRL.
But since that promotion, Edwards says that while he is happy with his running game to date, there is still much work to do especially in forming key combinations and isn’t afraid to continually seek advice from the former custodian, Moylan.
Photos: Penrith Panthers
“I just wanted to try my best in Intrust Super Premiership and hoped that I would get a shot eventually. That was my aim, just to try week in week out,” Edwards explained.
“But I’m loving it up here. I’m just trying to do my job of working in more, getting good ball.
“Running out of trouble isn’t going too bad at the moment so my aim now is to improve week in week out and work on some with combinations with the boys.
“I also keep picking Moyza’s (Moylan) brain and learning tricks and tips off him. “If I keep working, get in there and do my part for the team, hopefully I can make this (playing fullback in the NRL) a regular thing.”
Edwards also says that while Penrith’s mid-season draw, which has seen the Panthers play once at home over the past two months has made it easier for him to gel with the team, he admits he is looking forward to the run home into the finals given the team has five of their next six games at Pepper Stadium starting with tomorrow's clash against Jarryd Hayne's Gold Coast Titans.
“It’s been good, the boys have done really well but has been a bit tough at times,” Edwards declared.
“We’ve tried to come together more and more, week in week out and I think we’re really gelling well as a team now.
“But (prior to Manly) we haven’t played at home in over two months.
“You can never take it for granted playing at home and a home crowd cheering you on.
“If we can get good crowds at home, it would be nice help for us get a good run in (for the finals).”