Whare benefits from injury layoff
Penrith outside back Dean Whare will make a welcome return to the NRL after being named on the wing for Penrith's clash with St George Illawarra on Saturday afternoon.
It's been exactly 311 days since a training mishap cut the 27-year-old's season short after an ACL injury limited the former Sea Eagles flyer to just one appearance under head coach Anthony Griffin.
"It (the knee) is 100 per cent now… I played the last three trials and last one for 80 minutes and got through sweet so the knee is ready to go," Whare told NRL.com.
"Doing it at the beginning of the year I was able to have a few extra months to get it right and lucky for me that it's probably been at the best so far in a long time."
The timing of the injury meant the New Zealand international was able to return to light training while his teammates were on their finals charge last season, before putting his injured knee to the test for the entire pre-season.
"It was my first pre-season in about five years because I'm usually away on tours and come back in January," he said.
"To get a full pre-season under my belt helped my knee and how resilient it is now.
"I became more of a fan than a player.
"It was awesome to watch the boys go as far as they did and I had a little crew with me that were injured too and that made it easier."
Named on the wing for just the second time in his Penrith career, Whare isn’t fussed where he plays in the backline, just as long as he's in the mix.
"I just want to make the top 17 every week… it doesn’t matter where," he said.
"I just want to help the boys out as much as I can and play some consistent footy."
As for a return to representative football down the track, the 15-game test veteran is open to returning for the Kiwis, but is also focussed on playing well at club level, particularly with the Penshurst junior off-contract at the conclusion of the season.
"After the last two years I've had with injuries and being out for the year, I'm just concentrating on the Panthers and if I'm playing good enough then hopefully I might get another look in for the Kiwis," he said.
"I went over to England for the World Cup in 2013 and we lost in the final so it would be good to make amends for that.
"But that's far from my mind, it's all about doing well for the Panthers at this point."