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Storm mission not impossible for Panthers with Edwards back

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary will finally get a first-hand look at his team's spine at full strength on Friday night but warns returning fullback Dylan Edwards will need time to adjust to the new rules in play in 2020.

Edwards hasn't played a game this season after undergoing ankle surgery just days after returning from Perth following the NRL Nines tournament.

A minor hamstring injury added another delay to the 24-year-old's return when the squad returned to training during the COVID-19 pandemic break in May.

"It's been a long way for Dyl, he could've played last week but we decided to give him another week's preparation," Cleary said.

"He looks sharp on the training paddock but the game's a different thing.

"Like any player who hasn't played under the new rules he's going to have to get a bit used to that but I think the increase in ruck speed will favour the way he plays.

"I'm not expecting miracles from him this week but the new style of play will suit what he's got at."

Panthers v Storm - Round 6

The return of Edwards is expected to complement the new-look Panthers spine which continues to adjust following the departure of James Maloney and arrival of Api Koroisau in the off-season.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy lauded Koroisau's impact at the Panthers on Thursday, labelling Cleary's outfit as a far greater threat with the Fijian international running proceedings at dummy half.

"Api always comes up [in our conversations when] he played for Manly and Souths before that," Bellamy said.

"He's a very clever player and a good competitor. You've always got to be on your toes and he's playing behind a pack of forwards and outside backs that are making a lot of metres.

"I've been impressed with what Penrith have done this year to be quite honest and a lot of their improvement has come with Api coming there."

The Panthers have struggled against Melbourne since 2006, winning just two of their last 20 clashes, but last week's solid loss to the Eels has Cleary confident of their recent record improving.

"I think we've been pretty consistent with our footy," Cleary said.

"We're producing so far each week a consistency that gets us into the contest and a chance to win the game.

"For as long as I've been doing this job the Melbourne Storm have been, if they're not the benchmark, they're very close.

"The Roosters probably hold that mantle these days but the Storm are always there or thereabouts.

"It's always a tough game obviously but something to look forward to and a great opportunity to put yourself against the Storm.

"Last week was no different, if anything we had the opportunity to win that game but we learned a valuable lesson as well."

Critics 'never played the game': Bellamy goes into bat for Smith

Meanwhile, Cleary confirmed both clubs have agreed to play a scrimmage-style match between 7-8 reserve players at Penrith's training headquarters on Friday.

Suspended playmaker Tyrone May is likely to be among those players and get some much-needed match fitness in before his pending NRL return in round seven.

"We're getting a little scrimmage on against the Storm guys tomorrow but all-in-all we'll have to see how that pans out," Cleary said.

"That's got to be confirmed yet. It's going to be a process for Tyrone."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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