Night of horrors readies Edwards for Origin onslaught

NSW fullback Dylan Edwards says the challenges of his early NRL career have steeled him to handle the ferocity that will come his way as he enters the State of Origin furnace for the first time.

After two seasons of knocking on the door, Edwards has finally ousted former Blues captain James Tedesco to take the NSW No.1 jersey for his debut in game two in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Edwards, who missed the series opener with a quad injury, has developed into one of the NRL's hardest-working and most reliable fullbacks during Penrith's surge to three-straight premierships.

But along the way the 28-year-old has had to pick himself up off the canvas.

Back in 2019, before the Panthers emerged as an NRL force, the fullback's position was under a cloud.

Edwards had a night all fullbacks want to forget in a 32-2 error-strewn loss to Melbourne early into that season, forcing a crisis of confidence in his ability to crack it at NRL level.

"It was one of those games I hadn't experienced before … the harder I tried the worse it got," Edwards told AAP.

"I didn't have the tools or mental skills to deal with those setbacks at that moment.

"It's definitely paved the way for me to become a better player, how to handle it when you have setbacks in the game.

"We focus pretty hard on the mental side of footy a lot at club level.

"I got dropped a few weeks later and had to work my way back in, but it helped having a coach like Ivan (Cleary) who backs you."

The fullback made six errors, looked lost under an aerial bombardment from the Storm and lost the ball in two one-on-one strips.

But Edwards gained the respect of his teammates with how he bounced back to become one of the most critical cogs in the Penrith machine.

Now there's hope he can translate that into Origin.

"You've got to have those nights to refocus and rebuild yourself," said Penrith teammate Isaah Yeo.

"I loved the way he has attacked the mental side of the game in those tough times.

"Even though he had those setbacks there was nobody who would work as hard as him to get himself to where he is now.

The tougher and the harder the game gets, the harder he seems to go.

"He's done it for us (at Penrith) in grand finals and I don't think he'll be any different come Wednesday."