Fearless DWZ loves the danger zone
FLYING Penrith fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak smiles when he says there is no time to be scared on a football field.
Not when you're job is to pick up the ball off a kick return and run flat out into a wall of defence that is out to smash you.
"If you are going to get hurt you may as well be doing something good," the 23-year-
old said matter-of-factly.
Quietly spoken, polite, a young married father with his second child due next month, Watene-Zelezniak comes across as one of the most gentle-natured and caring individuals you are likely to meet.
But Watene-Zelezniak is also fast winning a reputation as a player who shows no fear or thought of self-preservation because of the way he attacks every run.
"I love it," Watene-Zelezniak said. "I have to be running hard because if they smash me you have to be going hard. So I just run it back as hard as I can."
But the reality is his job is not without its dangers.
Like earlier this season when Watene-Zelezniak played out the opening round against Parramatta with a fracture in his jaw. Then the following week he backed up against South Sydney, played the entire 80 minutes, thinking all he had was a toothache.
It wasn't until he took himself off to the dentist that he discovered it wasn't a tooth causing the pain.
Signed at Penrith for a further two years, Watene-Zelezniak has made no secret of the
fact fullback is his preferred position.
And with Dylan Edwards out for the season with a shoulder injury, the New Zealand international is using every game to push his claims to keep the spot long term.
"It is my favourite position and it is where I grew up playing too," he said. "I have just had to wait my turn. Whatever the club reckons is best for the team I'm happy with. But fullback is where I want to be."
Already the proud father of a little boy, Orlando, Watene-Zelezniak's wife is expecting the couple's second child next month.
It leaves just enough time to knock over this NRL finals series, and most likely an upcoming Test match for New Zealand against Australia on October 13.
"I have a little son who motivates me every day and every week and every time I play," Watene-Zelezniak said. "I have a daughter on the way also who is due in a couple of weeks.
"She is due on the 23rd of October. Hopefully she comes at the right time."
Heading into the Warriors game last weekend, many believed the Panthers' late season form would mean they'd only be in the finals to make up the numbers.
But the performance has given them such a lift that they will now take on the Rabbitohs with renewed confidence, and probably with the healthiest roster of the four teams playing in week two of the finals.
"It has been building for a while but it has come at the right time," Watene-Zelezniak said. "This is a whole new competition, finals football."