Merrin recovers to face former team
After three straight injury-plagued seasons, the Panthers have finally received some good news on the medical front, with star recruit Trent Merrin expected to return from a virus against his former club the Dragons on Sunday afternoon.
Merrin was a late withdrawal from the Panthers' 23-22 win over the Broncos in Round 3 due to a virus that saw him hospitalised and put on an IV drip, but expects to be fully fit come the weekend.
"I'm feeling a lot better," the Panthers lock forward told NRL.com.
"It really rocked me around over the weekend. I'm slowly building back up and just getting ready for the weekend.
"All the symptoms and signs pointed to glandular fever, but I'm not too bad at the moment. I've been told that it really rocks you around for a few weeks or even a few months. So touch wood I don't think it'll be that.
"I had the last two days on the field and now I'm just tiptoeing back into it and getting the body back into a reasonably good state."
Merrin's mystery virus meant he missed out on being a part of Penrith's first win of 2016, and he wasn't happy about it.
"I was pretty filthy that I couldn't be out there with them, but it just goes to show what we've been building towards. It's paying off now and we've just got to keep training and working in that direction," he said.
While Merrin is almost certain to return this week, the Panthers are without star duo Matt Moylan and James Segeyaro.
Moylan sat out Wednesday's training, but should return from his back injury in a couple of weeks. Segeyaro, meanwhile, got through the session, but admits he's still about four weeks away from a return to first-grade after breaking his arm in the Round 1 loss at Canberra.
Merrin says that while it would be a bonus to have the pair in the side, he believes their replacements have been doing a more than admirable job.
"It will be great to have those players back in their spots but it's definitely great to see that the younger guys are stepping up," Merrin said.
"The players that are stepping in to those spots are doing a great job and holding the flag up high. It's great to see that no matter who steps into the role, they're doing their job and they're doing what's best for the team."
Also returning from injury against the Dragons on Sunday will be Waqa Blake, who missed last week's game with a cork.
"I was close to playing. It was sort of half-half, but I didn't want to get another knock on it and then miss even more weeks. They just gave me the week off and now I'm able to play this week," Blake said.
"I'm feeling good this week and I'm just looking forward to putting on a good performance."