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Fa'aoso retirement has Robinson on alert

Matt Encarnacion NRL.com Thu, Feb 06, 2014 - 9:55 AM

Panthers second-rower Matt Robinson has been named to play in Penrith's trial against Wests Tigers on Saturday night. Copyright: Renee McKay/NRL Photos. Copyright: Copyright: Renee McKay/NRL Photos

Seven months after breaking his neck, promising Panthers forward Matt Robinson will make his return to the field in Penrith's trial against Wests Tigers on Saturday. 

Just days after Manly's Richie Fa'aoso announced his retirement earlier this week because of a serious neck injury, Robinson considers himself lucky just to be back on the field. 

"Hearing about Richie had me thinking a little bit. It's pretty crazy that it can end your living and welfare just like that," Robinson told NRL.com. 

"I should be set for a good comeback, hopefully there aren't any complications there."

Robinson, 23, fractured his C6 vertebra in Penrith's Round 18 win over Parramatta last season and initially feared his career could be over. Fa'aoso fractured his C7 vertebra in Manly's grand final qualifier against South Sydney. 

"Obviously there was a lot of shock when I first got told about the injury," Robinson recalled. "I didn't know what to expect for the first few days, there was a bit of certainty with x-rays and all that. 

"But the doctor told me pretty early on that I was very lucky and you should expect a full recovery pretty much."

The Warriors junior said he also found inspiration from teammate Sam McKendry, who suffered the exact same injury in Round 7 - also against the Eels - but returned strongly for the final five games of 2013. 

"I'm mates with him so I talked about it with him. It gives me confidence knowing you can come back and come back well because he started playing good too," he said. 

Robinson, who has played 23 games late in 2012, said doctors had given him the all clear to resume full training just in time for the off-season and has had no issues since. 

"It's not too daunting to play on Saturday seeing as though I've been training since the off-season and I've been doing contact since then," he said. 

"It feels like I've been playing already so it doesn't feel like a big deal, I've been playing a few contact games already. I feel like I'm ready but you'll never know. I'll probably get nervous."

The hard-running back-rower has now set his sights on regaining a spot in Ivan Cleary's top 17, but faces stiff competition from the likes of Sika Manu, Elijah Taylor, Lewis Brown, Adam Docker, Tyrone Peachey, Nigel Plum and Adam Docker. 

"It's been good though. Everyone's been on top of their game and training really well," he said. "And I've been training well too which I'm happy about. It's going to be competitive, not only for my spot, but if you're a forward in the club, you're going to be battling for a spot. I'm looking forward to it."

Robinson is one of four ex-Warriors to re-unite with Cleary at the club, including Brown, Taylor and playmaker Isaac John.