Struggling Panthers tag Origin star for unlikely first

Matt Encarnacion

The versatility of Penrith star Tyrone Peachey will be put to the test after being named at fullback in a bid to arrest the Panthers' alarming drop in form.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was expected to return from a hamstring injury and assume his spot as custodian for Saturday's crucial NRL clash against Manly.

But he was instead named on the wing in place of Christian Crichton, with Peachey set to start in the No.1 jersey for the first time in his career.

Veteran forward Trent Merrin has also lost his spot in the starting line-up, with James Fisher-Harris moving into the front-row and Isaah Yeo posted at lock.

The Panthers are in danger of slipping below sixth spot for the first time this season after losing four of their past five games, including a 32-point hiding in Brisbane last week.

Merrin on Tuesday admitted the team had shown signs of complacency during their losing run, as well as being affected by their State of Origin representation.

Peachey has never worn the No.1 jumper in his NRL career. Pic: Getty

"It's been a tough period. Getting the Origin boys back into the team, and trying to build that consistency again, it's always tough," Merrin said.

"I think we can take some good things out of the last few games we've played.

"We just haven't been getting the results."

In other team news, Cronulla second-rower Luke Lewis is set to return from a calf injury for their crunch match against Brisbane.

The Broncos, who are two points below the Sharks in seventh spot, have retained Jamayne Isaako at fullback and captain Darius Boyd in the centres for the second week in a row.

North Queensland big man Jordan McLean could play his first match since breaking his foot in March after being included in an extended squad to take on Newcastle.

The match marks Kalyn Ponga's first return to Townsville since switching camps over the summer, however he failed to finish Tuesday's training session due to an ankle injury.

Dylan Walker and Jorge Taufua return from injury for the Sea Eagles against the Panthers, while Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne moves to the wing for their match against South Sydney.

Defending premiers and ladder leaders Melbourne also get Dale Finucane back in their starting line-up against a Canberra side boosted by the return of Joseph Tapine.

For the Warriors, Blake Green and Tohu Harris have been included but they lose suspended prop Adam Blair for their game against Gold Coast.