Penrith Panthers, Stephen Crichton, fullback, Dylan Edwards, Tom Trbojevic, Viliame Kikau, staff

Earlier this yr the Panthers fended off rival curiosity to lock down centre Stephen Crichton and it didn’t come low cost.

The 20-year-old reportedly agreed to a two-year deal price round $650,000 per season however has since featured at fullback and on the wing.

It was Crichton’s cameo on the again in Penrith’s 25-12 win over South Sydney although that has raised questions over whether or not his abilities are wasted out on the sting.

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Crichton moved to cowl for Dylan Edwards after the common Panthers fullback suffered a head knock within the opening half and made a right away impression.

The native junior went on to run 143 metres and bust three tackles filling in for Edwards, offering much-needed spark and ball-playing from the again.

It prompted Cooper Cronk to declare a full-time change to the No.1 jersey is “simply across the nook” for Crichton.

“Within the instances we’ve seen Stephen Crichton play fullback, he’s arguably been within the high three gamers on the sector,” he instructed Fox League post-game.

“He’s simply acquired these glimpses of brilliance that you simply’re simply in awe of and he can do the powerful carries, he can give you the performs.”

Edwards has come below scrutiny for his restricted ball-playing capacity within the pink zone and it’s an space the 25-year-old instructed Fox League final week it’s an space he has been continuously engaged on.

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Typically when Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Apisai Koroisau are in sync, Edwards doesn’t have to be the reply in assault.

As an alternative, his function is simplified to being the passing hyperlink in set performs on the appropriate and left edge and Edwards has been progressing his sport in that sense.

At instances although when the Panthers are struggling to pose questions in assault, it’s the elusive and multiskilled Crichton who presents the higher risk on the again.

It prompted Panthers legend Ryan Girdler to name for Crichton for use on the sting in a roving function much like that of Tom Trbojevic and Joey Manu.

“They’ve acquired a good few outdoors backs,” he instructed Triple M on Saturday.

“They’ve acquired Momirovski within the centres and he wasn’t dangerous on the wing. You’ve acquired Brian To’o coming again onto one wing, Naden is doing a fairly good job in the meanwhile. It doesn’t appear to be Staines is within the image.

“So, what are you truly going to do with Crichton as soon as Edwards comes again. I do know everyone seems to be speaking about how good he was final night time however Dylan Edwards offers that staff a lot.

“You would put Crichton in a kind of wing spots and play him like a Manu, like a Turbo. Simply give him a license in these attacking conditions as a result of he has nice bringing the ball out of bother, he’s an enormous physique and he’s powerful. He places his physique on the road and is sweet below the excessive ball. He ticks lots of packing containers.

“There’s no purpose he can’t become involved within the sport greater than conventional wingers do should you give him that licence.”

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Girdler is correct about Edwards too.

Whereas a lot was manufactured from Crichton’s standout efficiency on Friday, he had performed at fullback earlier this yr rather than Edwards and was removed from convincing.

In these video games Crichton’s lack of health and positioning in defence to cowl kicks was uncovered on numerous events.

Edwards, however, leads the fullbacks for kick return metres and ranks third for run metres and deal with busts.

He’s all effort and the fittest participant on the membership so taking part in Edwards at fullback in defence and Crichton there in assault could possibly be the reply.

However then once more, is it actually price meddling with a backbone that took Penrith all the best way to a grand last final yr?

Cronk doesn’t assume so – no less than in the meanwhile.

“For the rest of this yr, I believe it’s higher balanced that he goes again to centre and Dylan Edwards gamers fullback,” he mentioned.

“However after that, there’s little question that Stephen Crichton may probably transfer into the fullback function.”

Stephen Crichton starred at fullback. (Photograph by Chris Hyde/Getty Photographs)Supply: Getty Photographs

What makes the dilemma much more attention-grabbing for Penrith is the very fact Edwards is off-contract on the finish of subsequent season.

Charlie Staines is one other long-term choice at fullback though he would wish to spend time constructing his body within the low season earlier than being thought-about.

The Panthers even have a promising teenager in Sunia Turuva ready within the wings however he’s nonetheless possible a couple of years away.

That leaves Crichton and Edwards as the very best bets on this second.

Edwards is only one of 4 Panthers who can communicate to rival golf equipment from November 1 together with Apisai Koroisau, Moses Leota and Viliame Kikau.

Talking of Kikau, he was additionally moved to the interchange on Friday night time in what Mark Geyer branded a “masterstroke” on Triple M.

Kikau could be a real matchwinner at his devastating greatest however has at instances struggled along with his match health, leaving him susceptible in defence and leading to poor deal with method.

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Viliame Kikau performed off the bench. (Photograph by Chris Hyde/Getty Photographs)Supply: Getty Photographs

He thrived off the bench in opposition to a tiring Rabbitohs pack, operating for 144 metres and busting six tackles from 59 minutes.

“I assumed it labored,” Panthers nice Greg Alexander instructed Fox League post-game.

“It isn’t as if Penrith are beginning with questionable again rowers, you’ve Kurt Capewell and Liam Martin, State of Origin backrowers.

“Kikau could be that man and I believe that was the very best he has performed in six weeks. It may be a ploy that continues additional into the season.”

Cronk agreed, arguing that it permits the Panthers to set the tone defensively earlier than unleashing Kikau and Pangai Jr off the bench.

“Ivan Cleary begins along with his greatest defensive backrowers in Capewell and Martin after which Kikau, with the vitality he performed [with] by means of 60 minutes or 55 minutes, is rather more efficient than making an attempt to do it over a longwinded 80 minutes,” he mentioned.

“I believe it’s in all probability a plan shifting ahead. Get the very best defensive staff to begin strong, then deliver in your energy troopers 20 minutes into the competition when there’s a little bit of fatigue within the sport. He was sensible at the moment. He performed a little bit of Viliame Kikau of previous.”

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