Parramatta back-rower Kenny Edwards says it was a huge relief to finally get back on the field in Round 8 after a "stupid mistake" forced him to sit out the opening seven rounds through suspension.
Edwards' return was particularly timely for the blue and golds as he was a bit of a Mr Fix-it for the last year, spending time at five-eighth amid a monumental halves crisis.
Saturday's 18-12 win over Penrith saw stand-in five-eighth Brad Takairangi leave the field with a suspected PCL injury which would rule him out for around six weeks and Edwards was forced to again slot in alongside Corey Norman in his long-awaited comeback.
"Massive relief man," was Edwards' initial emotion to finally getting back out with the team.
"It’s been a long seven weeks. Especially watching how the boys went from round three to six. But to be back out there and back playing the footy we know we can play is a massive relief."
Edwards reckons he felt some need to make it up to his teammates, particularly after watching on through a four-match losing run after the club's two wins to start the season.
"It was a stupid mistake why I wasn’t playing for the first seven weeks. But to come back and get this win, to go two in a row. We’ll be taking everything with us to Townsville next week and hopefully getting the win up there," he added.
That "stupid mistake" was a well-publicised domestic incident which saw Edwards plead guilty to common assault for tipping a drink over his ex-partner and cop a seven-match ban while also being slapped with a $60,000 fine and good behaviour bond.
Keen to move on, Edwards now says he'll do whatever he can to help the team – including reuniting with Norman in the halves while the club's playmaking stocks are again hit by injury.
Regular five-eighth Clint Gutherson is already playing fullback due to a knee injury to fullback Bevan French. French and back-up half Jeff Robson (calf) are both out until roughly Round 10 meaning another solution will be needed for at least one week. Reserve grade fullback Scott Schulte (hamstring) is also sidelined.
Fringe first graders Will Smith, Jamal Fogarty and Troy Dargan could be looked at to partner Norman in the halves or Gutherson could move back there with winger Josh Hoffman to slot in at fullback with plenty of wing replacements available.
The other option is for Edwards to again partner Norman in the halves. The rugged 27-year-old's impact had certainly been missed by the Eels during the opening seven rounds.
He started three games at five-eighth last year – all alongside Norman – for two wins, and also ended up subbing in on other occasions. The only loss was against eventual premiers Cronulla at their home ground in a game the Eels led handsomely before being run down.
"It’s nothing me and Normy haven’t done before," Edwards said of being called upon to slot in there in the second half against Penrith.
"'Takas' has done an awesome job and he had to come off and at half-time and I got told I was playing five-eighth.
"To lose Takas is a massive loss but I think our right edge is exceptional. They played so well [on Saturday], their defence really helped us win that game."
Edwards remained hopeful Takairangi's knee injury would not be as bad as first thought.
"I think he has done something to his knee. Hopefully he will be right, he has a history with knees. But if not we’ll saddle up and someone will play there and we’ll just do our job," Edwards said.
"I’ll do whatever is best for the team. If it’s best for the team that I play five-eighth then so be it. I think Bevan is still a couple of weeks away so Guth can’t slot back in there. We’ll see what happens during the week but if Brad wants me there I will do the job there."
Edwards recalled the club had a winning record with him playing in the halves last year, even if the numbers were sketchy.
"I think I won four from five games there last year. And the one we lost was against the premiers Cronulla. So I’m comfortable and confident in whatever I do. That’s the kind of person I am. I like to attack things at 100 per cent. And I’ll do that if need be, I’ll play five-eighth next week."