Edwards opens up on 2019 horror show

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His teammates have dubbed him the best fullback in the game right now, but it was only four years ago when Dylan Edwards’ future at the Panthers was up in the air following a horror show against the Storm.

While Sydney is in the midst of a September heatwave, Edwards will never forget a freezing night in Bathurst when Penrith was pumped 32-2 by a rampant Storm side that made his life a living hell.

Edwards made his usual 168 metres with the ball but he struggled in the slick conditions, making six errors with two of those leading directly to Storm tries.

The fullback was in just his 28th NRL game and was tormented by Cameron Munster who stripped the ball off him twice and put in two kicks which were fumbled and led directly to tries for the star five-eighth and halves partner Brodie Croft.

“It was a tough night and it was a night I hadn’t ever experienced on a footy field,” said Edwards whose career has shot up since that night in the Central West.

“It gave me the tools to be able to handle those sorts of setbacks and it made me a more mentally tough football player which was really important for my career moving forward.

“It was one of those nights where the harder you tried, the more it felt like quicksand.

“It was a tough game, but it was important for me.”

Edwards played fullback the following week but was shifted to the wing in Round 5 before he was dumped to reserve grade where he played a game at halfback and then moved to fullback for two matches where he did the goal-kicking.

That was the last time he ever played NSW Cup but it came at a time when he was linked with a move to the Cowboys with Caleb Aekins the preferred No.1 at Penrith before he was eventually recalled a few weeks later.

It’s hard to imagine Edwards ever falling out of favour given he has developed into one of Penrith’s most important players and the biggest metre eater in the NRL, but that difficult period threatened to end a special career before it even started.

The 27-year-old has gone on to win two comps, claimed the Clive Churchill Medal last year and recently inked a contract extension, which is a far cry from the shattered fullback who had one off night four years ago.

“You feel for anyone when they go through a night like tonight,” Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said after that game.

“He never shied away from the game, but it certainly wasn’t his night.

“He’s pretty disappointed, but we’ve all had days like that.”

What Cleary said to Edwards that night in the sheds remains a mystery, but the fullback hasn’t forgotten his coach’s message ahead of Friday’s showdown with the Storm for a spot in next week’s grand final.

“He was really good with me,” said Edwards, who fronted the media in the old-school sheds at Carrington Park after the game.

“What he said that night actually instilled more confidence in me even though I didn’t really repay it because the next few weeks weren’t kind to me and I wasn’t really kind to my team with my performances.

“Ivan was a fullback so he knew what to say and he believed in me. That was important.”

Panthers players now look back on that night and reflect on how far Edwards and the team have come, with the mountain men losing to the Storm the following year in the grand final before they got their revenge in a heated 2021 prelim.

Back-rower Liam Martin will always remember that night because it was his NRL debut, but he also sees that game as a huge turning point in Edwards’ career, with the fullback now in line to make his Kangaroos debut next month.

“It was a tough night for him,” Martin said.

“We joke about it now that he couldn’t catch a cold, but look at him now.

“It shows his mentality and his resolve to bounce back from that.

“What he’s done over the past couple of years, in my opinion he’s the best fullback in the game.

“He’s incredible and he doesn’t stop. What he’s doing now after that night shows his character and what kind of person he is.”

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