Five days after his dislocated finger pierced through the skin in a gruesome pre-game injury, Penrith forward Trent Merrin is set to take the field in Friday's NRL clash against Newcastle.
Merrin was initially feared to be out for up to six weeks after suffering the freak mishap that forced him to withdraw moments before last week's loss to North Queensland in Bathurst.
But after undergoing surgery on Monday, Merrin completed a full training on Wednesday and will take his place in a depleted Panthers line-up in desperate need of some experience.
"We were lucky it was a clean dislocation, so there was no break. Obviously it looked gruesome but I think in terms of injuries, it's not as bad as what it was," second-rower Isaah Yeo said on Wednesday.
Trent Merrin was ruled out before kick-off with a gruesome finger injury. Pic: Getty
"It was more just the stitches and making sure there was no infection. Obviously it's a massive boost for us to have him this week, we weren't sure if it was going to be this week or next week.
"But I'm sure he's played through a lot worse."
The extent of Merrin's gruesome injury was summed up in an Instagram post the Panthers veteran shared of an x-ray on his finger.
Trent Merrin's xray of his finger. Posted on his IG.— James Halliday (@JHalliday84) May 5, 2018
Looks about as broke as it could be.. pic.twitter.com/pZH3mUlm1A
Despite Merrin's rapid recovery, the third-placed Panthers still have a long list of injured players, including Nathan Cleary, Waqa Blake, Dylan Edwards, Josh Mansour and Sam McKendry.
Prop Moses Leota was also this week ruled out until round 17 with a torn pectoral.
The injured list has wreaked havoc with the Panthers' left-edge, with coach Anthony Griffin deploying Yeo in the centres alongside inexperienced winger Tyrone Phillips.
The constant shuffling has resulted in Penrith allowing 16 of its 25 tries down that edge, and Yeo expects more plays coming their way at McDonald Jones Stadium against the Knights.
"I'm sure we'll cop a bit of traffic this week. Kalyn Ponga, Lahclan Fitzgibbon's moved over there and he just seems to be scoring tries whenever he wants to," Yeo said.
"We're defending different to what we have the last few years. It's just a matter of all getting on the same page. We're doing a lot of video, a lot of training out there to try and get on top of that."