Zelezniak to keep cool for Panthers in NRL

Matt Encarnacion
Penrith's Trent Merrin will return from a compound finger dislocation for their Newcastle NRL clash

He's Penrith's fiery new fullback, but Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is no fool.

A season-ending shoulder injury to Dylan Edwards has opened the door for Watene-Zelezniak to wear the No.1 jumper for the rest of the NRL season.

But his mid-season switch started rockily after being sin-binned for striking in last week's loss to North Queensland, and he was left embarrassed by the incident.

"That's not me. I had a brain snap on the weekend. I'm just very competitive when I cross the white line and it got the better of me on the weekend," Watene-Zelezniak said.

He has vowed not to let the team down again, beginning with Friday's NRL clash with Newcastle.

"When I went off there, in the sheds I was pretty upset with myself. It's not the kind of example I want to set to not only the supporters I have, but also my son and my family.

"When I got home, my family asked me what was going on and that it wasn't me. They're 100 per cent right - I let the team down last week."

Of all the injuries confronting coach Anthony Griffin, replacing Edwards is arguably the toughest due to their lack of depth at fullback and the backline shuffling he's been forced to make.

But Griffin likes Watene-Zelezniak's work rate and running game, and backs the New Zealand international to learn from his mistake.

"He made an error of judgment there and young players, they do that," Griffin said.

"They learn from that and that's the main thing. He's very honest in his assessment after the game, which is a credit to him, but that's what happens sometimes in the heat of the moment."

Griffin has confirmed veteran forward Trent Merrin a certain starter despite last week's compound dislocation of his finger, while playmaker Jarome Luai will be their fifth debutant this year.

The Panthers will aim to consolidate their top-four spot against a Knights side who have recalled Brock Lamb, Josh King, Danny Levi and Luke Yates in place of Jack Cogger, Jamie Buhrer and Jacob Saifiti.

STATS THAT MATTER:

* Penrith are eying their fifth-straight win over the Knights for the first time since 1988-89

* Knights second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon is aiming to become just the third player to score a try in seven-consecutive matches at McDonald Jones Stadium

* The Knights are on a 59-game streak of conceding at least 10 points. If they do so again, they'll break their club record set between 2006-09