Panthers impressed with fit Jamal Idris
The Penrith playing group just wanted Jamal Idris back and happy.
But the fact the giant centre has returned to the NRL in peak fitness has not gone unnoticed by teammates as they prepare to tackle Brisbane on Monday night at Sportingbet Stadium, Penrith.
The table-topping Panthers made it clear they were prepared to give Idris as much time as he needed to get on top of issues in his personal life.
It was one of those instances where football simply didn't matter.
However, Idris has repaid the faith of teammates and the club by staying on top of his physical conditioning while getting himself into a better head space.
For a player of Idris' size, it's crucial that he's taking the field at the right body weight.
Idris was outstanding in last week's win over Wests Tigers and the barnstorming game-breaker will be a constant menace for the Broncos on Monday night as the Panthers look to further cement their unexpected standing.
Panthers five-eighth Jamie Soward says Idris' professionalism through a tough time in his personal life hasn't gone unnoticed by those around him.
"He's obviously had a couple of weeks off and it was the best thing for him," Soward said.
"The way he's come back has definitely (been impressive). He's working really hard and his professionalism with his fitness coming back was really good.
"I know the playing group were really happy with that.
"He's been through some personal issues, we've all seen that. But for him to be out there on Sunday - he was really happy and energetic.
"The playing group believes in him. We love having him here and we're right behind him."
Brisbane have four players backing up from State of Origin duties last week, however they've at least had the luxury of having five days to recover from the bumps and bruises.
Queensland's man-of-the-match from game three Corey Parker has been named at prop, but his offloading up the middle of the field will be as crucial to Brisbane's success as it was in the Maroons' triumph last Wednesday.
Justin Hodges has often struggled backing up in the past but is expected to play.
Brisbane need the win on the road to help cement a top-eight berth, as they look to separate from the pack.
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