Panthers NRL debutant knocked back sevens

Matt Encarnacion

Tyrone Phillips knocked back an offer to play rugby sevens to keep his NRL dream alive and has been rewarded with a club debut for Penrith in Friday's match against North Queensland.

Phillips thought his rugby league career was over when his contract with Canterbury expired last season and no other side showed any interest in making an offer.

"Not being wanted in the NRL and have a club to go to... this game is a big part of my life and I thought it was over," Phillips told AAP.

"I didn't think I would get the chance to play in the NRL again."

That's when he reached out to former Australian rugby sevens coach Andy Friend, who gave the backline utility a series of off-season fitness markers to prepare for the 2018 calendar.

If he met all expectations, his first sevens stop for Australia would have been in Munich, where former South Sydney junior Maurice Longbottom was unearthed as the latest star of the rugby variant.

Other world series destinations include Cape Town, Las Vegas, Vancouver, London and Paris.

Then there were the bigger carrots of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, the World Cup in San Fransisco later this year, and the ultimate dream of reaching the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Instead the 24-year-old will resurrect his NRL career at Carrington Park in Bathurst.

"During the season when I was playing league, I did keep an eye on sevens," Phillips said.

"The coach told me to tune in, watch a bit, get a bit of understanding of it.

"But I don't get jealous. I'm not a jealous type of person. It is what it is.

"Everyone holds their own destiny and everyone's got a different path to take.

"My heart was in league and that's where I wanted to stay."

Phillips has been rushed onto the wing after an injury crisis at the Panthers, the latest of which resulted in fullback Dylan Edwards being ruled out for the season with a shoulder reconstruction.

Phillips is one week into his comeback from a pectoral tear he suffered in the pre-season but quickly impressed with a hat-trick of tries in reserve grade.

"It feels great being back," he said.

"It's been a long wait being in rehab for the past four and a half months, but I was happy enough to get the chance to play last week.

"I didn't expect this at all."