Dream reunion for Watene-Zelezniak brothers
Their last game together was in junior football when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, now 21, played four years above his age group to link with older brother Malakai back in New Zealand.
It was younger sibling Dallin that caught the eye of former Panthers coach Ivan Cleary who gifted the St Clair Comets junior his Telstra Premiership debut at 19 years of age.
While the Kiwi international has gone on to play in 55 first grade games since then, Malakai has been slogging it out in a bid to never give up on his NRL dream.
Some ill-discipline off-field from Panthers trio Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Peta Hiku on the weekend has opened the door for the long-awaited debut of the newest Panther at the ripe old age of 25.
His little brother couldn't be prouder and has been named to line-up alongside him in the backline.
"He's (Malakai) been doing everything right and giving 100 per cent at training in preparation for games," Dallin told NRL.com.
"That showed in the games he played in the Nines and in the trials.
"I'm sure he will take the opportunity with both hands and give it a good shot.
"He's always been a good player and as a younger kid I looked up to him living his dream and having fun, it made me wish I was out there with him and playing like we did out in the backyard.
"That was the dream for both of us (to play together) and we did when we were younger when I played up an age group a few times, and there is nothing better than playing alongside him.
"You know what he's going to do and play off each other."
Dallin has brushed aside minor knee surgery that hampered his start to the 2017 season and recently announced he will be sticking around long-term at the foot of the mountains.
The try-scoring winger has committed to the club for another three seasons – his longest ever contract – after previously preferring to only sign short deals throughout his career.
"Growing up when I was 17, I'd sign one-year contracts but now that I have a wife to look after, three years is a good thing for not only me but her too," Watene-Zelezniak said on Tuesday.
"It's the longest deal I've done and I think it was just time for me to grow up a bit.
"I'm happy and there is a little bit of security for myself now to stay here for a few more years and better my game on and off the field.
"I've been here since I was in 12 in development squads so this is the place I call home and happy to for the next three years.
"It gives me time to know where I'm going to be to start my life with my wife and future family."
Fullback still remains Dallin's preferred position, and with Moylan lining up for the Intrust Super Premiership side on Saturday a late positional switch could be on the cards against the Rabbitohs.
"That's my preferred position and one I want to play but I'm happy to play anywhere in the NRL," he said.
"You never know where you're going to end up and teams change every week.
"I'm ready for any position that comes towards me so I can better myself as a player."
The Panthers have started the season two wins and three losses and while it's not panic stations yet, the defeat to the Storm on the weekend has given the side an indication of where improvement is required.
"We need to take it back to the simple things and do a bit of video on our weaknesses and try and strengthen them," Watene-Zelezniak said.
"They're (Melbourne) on a really good roll and on the weekend we didn't execute as well as we should of.
"It was a good test for us to see where we were at and we've got some work to do.
"It's only the start to the season and we are a young side and the best thing about being young is we learn fast and work on our weaknesses.
"The boys and culture at the club is something that we've built and if we play to our strengths and be at our best every game we could do something special here."
In-form centre Tyrone Peachey is another casualty in the Panthers backline after succumbing to a fractured rib with journeyman Michael Oldfield named to take on his former club on Friday night.