Egan, DWZ return to Penrith as more dangerous Warriors

Penrith players know as well as anyone Wayde Egan's tried-and-tested threat close to the line for the Warriors.

Since his days as the Panthers' U20s captain, Egan has looked up out of dummy-half, sold a pass, and then gone for the tryline himself.

The play at times became so predictable that even Egan himself could tell opposition teams knew it was coming. 

But stopping him, somehow seemed so difficult.

"I remember when we were playing NSW Cup, he always talked about his show-and-go being the best show," Penrith second-rower Liam Martin said.

"He went 10 weeks in a row or something scoring tries out of No.9.

"He knows it himself, but he sells it so well."

Once Egan's pet play, the Warriors hooker has proven far more rounded this year's run to the top four and Saturday night's qualifying final against the Panthers at BlueBet Stadium.

While he scored twice out of dummy-half in the opening two rounds, the reinvigoration of the Warriors' attack has given Egan more to work with this season than in any other since his arrival in 2020.

His combination with rampaging forward Addin Fonua-Blake close to the line is dangerous, as is his service to on-song halfback Shaun Johnson.

"He's always been such a quality player. He was our captain in U20s, and you knew he was destined for bigger things in the NRL," Martin said.

"The couple of years he played at Penrith were probably pretty tough. He was still quite young and had a few injuries and stuff like that. It was pretty tough for him.

"Him and the club probably saw things different ways with Api (Koroisau) coming back and him moving on.

"I am really glad to see him finding his feet and enjoying his footy again."

Much of this week has been about the link between Penrith's coaches, or Nathan Cleary's time growing up idolising Johnson.

But there are also lower-profile crossovers between the two clubs.

If Egan has been the most improved player in the NRL this year, fellow ex-Panther Dallin Waetene-Zelezniak hasn't been far behind at the Warriors.

Waetene-Zelezniak was at one stage Penrith's fullback ahead of Dylan Edwards, before exiting the club midway through 2019 for Canterbury.

In the years since, Waetene-Zelezniak has been at the struggling Bulldogs and Warriors while the Panthers have won back-to-back titles and reached three grand finals.

But this year he has exploded, not only scoring 21 tries but becoming one of the hardest wingers to stop in the league close to the line.

His journey has hit home with the likes of Tyrone Peachey, who played with Waetene-Zelezniak in his rookie year of 2014 before also leaving Penrith and returning this year.

"He is sort of similar place to me. Struggling for the last couple of years, and he's come really good," Peachey said.

"He was really good back then. He just need an opportunity and now he's got it. He's grabbed it with both hands. He's been really good."

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