DWZ eyes off long-term fullback spot at Panthers
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will use the remainder of the Telstra Premiership season to push his case for a permanent role in the Panthers No.1 jersey.
Fresh after a two-try performance for New Zealand against England in Denver, the 22-year-old will go head-to-head with regular Kiwis fullback Roger Tuivasa Sheck on Friday night in a mouth-watering challenge as the Panthers look to stay inside the NRL top four.
The 22-year-old took over the fullback duties at Penrith in round nine after Dylan Edwards suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and has gone on to average a career-high 189 metres per game.
"I think I've told everyone how much I love playing fullback and it's the position I prefer, but I'll always put the team first and what the coach thinks is best," Watene-Zelezniak said.
"I'm loving my time at fullback; I get more involved, talk more and get the ball in my hands more. I push where I want to and have got space to have fun.
"I'll keep putting my best foot forward for the team and whatever happens [but] fullback is my preferred position."
Any possibility of a permanent switch will depend on the form of Penrith in the final nine weeks of the regular season and the recovery of Edwards' injury moving into 2019.
The Panthers have lost Christian Crichton to Canterbury next season, while Kangaroos winger Josh Mansour re-signed with the club in May.
Watene-Zelezniak had only played in the custodian role at Penrith six times before this year and knows there are areas where he can improve.
"I have to be talking more and be on my best game to help the boys out as much as possible," he said.
"In defence I'm very vocal, yelling at the boys where to be. In attack I could be better, I'm talking more than I used to. I think it's a confidence thing.
"It's something I've been working on."
Away from the paddock the devoted family man is one of the more gentlemen-like players in the competition but on-field it can be a different story with a fiery approach in his game.
"Some people do say I flick a switch but I don't like losing in anything, [I'm] very competitive. I have a mentality when I go onto the field it's either me or them," he said.
"I've always been competitive coming through, I think that's what has helped me get where I am today."
Penrith will go into Friday's clash with the Warriors without NSW Origin halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney. Watene-Zelezniak is one candidate to kick goals in their absence.