Penrith young gun Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is set to make a surprise return to the NRL this week, just two weeks after being hospitalised with a collapsed lung.
The 19-year-old’s burgeoning career was put on hold after suffering what was believed to be a relapse of primary spontaneous pneumothorax – a genetic condition that results in the accumulation of air in the space between the lung and chest cavity.
But the Panthers flyer set the story straight on Tuesday, explaining that his most recent setback was a result of a hit he took in a game against the Sydney Roosters in Round 20 and separate to the collapsed lung that forced him to the sidelines last year.
“100 per cent it’s not to do with the condition,” Watene-Zelezniak said.
“I’m not sure where people have got that from. I’m the only one that’s spoken to the specialists. They’ve actually seen the x-rays of mine and can actually make a call on it and know exactly what it is.
“It’s definitely not the case of what happened last year.”
The club’s reigning Rookie of the Year returned to training last week and declared he was ready to take on defending premiers South Sydney on Sunday afternoon.
“It depends on how I feel and what Ivan (Cleary) says about me playing,” he said.
“I feel better than I ever have. My lungs feel bigger now, so it’s good.”
Watene-Zelezniak is expected to be named at fullback, while wingers Josh Mansour (knee) and David Simmons (hamstring) should also be available for selection.
The club was dealt a massive blow on Monday with new skipper and halfback Peter Wallace suffering a season-ending knee injury while centre Dean Whare is out for up to six weeks with a broken thumb.