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No pain no gain for Watene-Zelezniak

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has a high pain threshold but not even a plea to Penrith Panthers medical staff could help him do the unthinkable and play on with a broken jaw in round three.

The Kiwi international made a return to the field on Sunday, a month after playing an entire 80 minutes with the vertical-line fracture during the 18-14 victory over South Sydney in March.

A routine check-up at the dentist proved the turning point for the 22-year-old when he was told it was a much more serious issue.

''I thought I had a toothache and needed a root canal or something to fix it,'' Watene-Zelezniak told

''Then he took an X-ray and it came back with that. I wanted to keep playing. I figured I played with it one week so I thought why not keep going with it.

''The club was looking out for my best interests and ruled against it. I've still got the wiring in there and it pulled up sweet despite a knee to the jaw and high shot in the Sharks game."

Penrith players are understandably on edge for no other reason than getting through games without more injuries.

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They lost winger Josh Mansour to a long-term facial injury last week, while Sam McKendry and Tim Browne are also casualties for the season.

Last season's halves Nathan Cleary and Tyrone May continue to make their way back from knee injuries, while Waqa Blake is still two months away from a return.

Even on Monday, young rookie Christian Crichton walked past Watene-Zelezniak speaking to when the interview was paused.

''What scan did you just get done?" Watene-Zelezniak asked.

Pointing to the back of his leg, Crichton said: ''Just got bruising, it was nothing but, came back all good."

Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Watene-Zelezniak breathed a sigh of relief.

''Oh good,'' he said.

''I panicked then. We can't afford for another man to go down.''

Panthers coach Anthony Griffin shifted Watene-Zelezniak to the left edge alongside Kiwis teammate Dean Whare against the Sharks - a move that could prove permanent for the remainder of the season to cover the loss of Mansour.

''He's been there since my first year here. I don't know anything else than him being my centre," Watene-Zelezniak said.

''To get back into this side I would have played anywhere.''

The pair will mark Marcelo Montoya and Will Hopoate, who caused problems with Moses Mbye down the left side in the 20-18 away loss to the Bulldogs in round three.

''When they connect they can be anything,'' Watene-Zelezniak said.

''They haven't got there yet but show all the signs they can be a quality side.

''They've got awesome backs. Moses has been one of the form players of the competition. We've got to review this team and figure out where we're going to score some points.''

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour 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.