Merrin trains as Panthers survive Kikau scare
Injured Penrith prop Trent Merrin trained on Wednesday as he looks to overcome a finger injury and confirm his place in the Panthers line up for Friday night's clash with Newcastle.
It was Merrin's first session back on the paddock after initial fears over the weekend he could be sidelined for more than a month with a compound fracture.
The 28-year-old underwent surgery with a clean dislocation found to be the issue – clearing a pathway for an early return.
Merrin was put through his paces with the main squad before participating in a heavy contact drill at the end of the session.
"It's a dislocated finger so it's usually a couple of days, if he can play through the stitches ... at the moment he's doing that," Panthers fill-in centre Isaah Yeo said.
"At one stage he'd ruled himself out and Jimmy (Maloney) was getting stuck into him. All of a sudden he's playing again.
"We were lucky it was a dislocation. I'm sure he's played through worse things than that.
"Having him is massive and he's a leader, it's good a he's not letting a dislocated finger get in the way of his game this week."
The Panthers could ill-afford any more setbacks in an injury-crisis period that includes more than eight regular first grade players missing.
There were also fears Villiame Kikau was playing on with a broken hand after being heavily strapped at training, but the Fijian prodigy received good news and trained strongly.
"They thought it was a broken bone when I got an X-ray but it came back all clear," Kikau told NRL.com.
"It's not that bad, it feels more like nerve pain but should be alright. I'm good to go, I'll be sweet. I've got some padding in there to cover it up."
Kikau was not shy highlighting the fact Newcastle's edge defence were in for a night of targeting following a struggling against the Rabbitohs.
The defensive efforts of rookie halves Connor Watson and Brock Lamb have been hit and miss in 2018 and Kikau has proved at times unstoppable with 41 tackle breaks in nine games.
"They're not probably a first-choice halves combination and have been in and out of the side," Kikau said.
"I'll make sure I'll do a job there and help Jimmy Maloney on the edge. I've got to get into their halves and make them work."
Penrith had edge defence issues of their own against the Cowboys with Maloney and Yeo caught out in the first half to trail 20-0.
"I haven't played in the centres for a couple of years now which doesn't help," Yeo said.
"Me and Jimmy have worked a lot together this week making sure on the same page together.
"We had one last week he was going up and I was going back. We just can't have that. I'm sure we'll cop a bit of traffic this week testing that out. I've got confidence we can fix that and be fine."