Viliame Kikau has sparked concerns about his availability for the NRL grand final after he was spotted with his arm in a brace on Sunday.
The Panthers breathed a huge sigh of relief when Kikau and five-eighth Jarome Luai both received good news on Sunday, avoiding bans for illegal hits on South Sydney centre Campbell Graham.
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But second-rower Kikau may still have another issue to overcome, after he was seen wearing a brace on his left hand when walking out of the Accor Stadium sheds after Saturday night's 32-12 preliminary final win.
According to AAP, the Fijian international saw a physio after the game over what has been a niggling problem in recent weeks.
Kikau in a forearm brace looking thing gives me huge Bizza in a wheelchair vibes pic.twitter.com/fOWyw7OOCm
— Mitchell Whiley (@MitchellWhiley) September 25, 2022
Kikau was also seen wearing the brace while attending the NSW Cup grand final on Sunday alongside his Panthers teammates.
The back-rower could be seen with his arm guarded as he sat in the stands during the club's reserve grade triumph over the Bulldogs.
However Penrith officials are adamant he is in no doubt for next Sunday's grand final against Parramatta.
A spokesperson for the club said Kikau carried the injury into Saturday night's match against Souths and that the brace is just a precautionary measure.
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Panthers prop Spencer Leniu will also be put through concussion protocols after being whacked high by Taane Milne, while rookie winger Taylan May will be given until mid-week to beat a hamstring injury.
Arch-rivals since Penrith's introduction to the NSWRL as Parramatta's little brother in 1967, the western Sydney clubs have never previously met in a grand final.
But in recent years tensions between the clubs have grown, particularly at a junior level in underage representative grades.
Former Eels centre Michael Jennings once famously claimed he hated Parramatta when he was still playing for Penrith, while Eels prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard's relationship with his former club is continually a talking point.
Kikau missed out on the rivalry in his formative years as he only moved to Australia at age 18, but said it didn't take long for him to embrace it on signing with Penrith in 2016.
"Parra people hate Penrith, and Penrith people the same. It's going to be a blockbuster," Kikau said.
"I caught onto (the rivalry) in the last few years. It's great for the fans and great for the game as well. The atmosphere is unreal.
"They've beaten us twice this year and we got them once so it'll be another big one next week.
"I don't think there's anything bigger than this."
Sunday's decider will arguably be the first time two traditional arch-rivals meet in a grand final since Parramatta and Canterbury in 1986.
Usually known for his attack, Kikau was brilliant in defence in last year's grand final as he trod a fine line between measured aggression and going too far.
That was again the case on Saturday night as he made a point of targeting South Sydney's backs and nailing them in their own end, ending up on report for a shoulder charge on Graham which drew a grade-one charge and $3000 fine.
"I came into the league and I was really good at attack, but my defence was just a bit off," Kikau said.
"I have just learned a lot the last few years ...Penrith has taught me a lot. Not only how to be a good footy player, but a good person off the field.
"That is a credit to the club. The only way I can repay them is with a big game this week."
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