The injury crippled Panthers have been given the all-clear to include rookies from their development list so that they can name a fit side to take on the Knights this weekend.
The Panthers mounting injury list is adding pressure to their salary cap next year, while they currently have close to $4 million worth of talent sidelined.
Their crisis has forced the NRL’s hand to grant Penrith leniency to allow them to name a 21-man squad on Tuesday.
The Panthers are missing 10 of their first choice players through injury and suspension, including Nathan Cleary, Josh Mansour, Trent Merrin and Dylan Edwards.
Moses Leota added to their woes in the loss against the Cowboys, with scans revealing a pectoral tear that will sideline him for at least eight weeks.
And now they face the challenge of not just being deprived of talent, but getting a healthy side on the park.
It may promote development player Liam Martin to the main squad, while Nick Lui-Toso and Jarome Luai could be in line for their NRL debuts this Friday.
NRL clubs are allowed to contract six development players outside their top 30 squad, but without the permission of League Central cannot play them.
This means that without the NRL’s approval, the Panthers would not be allowed to play Martin against the Knights. They would only be handed that lifeline if no other fit players could cover that position.
Manly applied for an exemption from the NRL to assist their own injury crisis last week and debut Moses Suli. They were forced to upgrade his contract to include him in their top 30 so that the 19 year-old line-up against the Roosters.
The Panthers have debuted four players this year and with more to come this week, they may face a salary cap issues in 2019.
Player managers usually insist on bonuses being written into contracts to entice clients, which reward NRL debuts, milestones and good performance.
Utility Tyrone May is on the brink of returning from his ACL tear, but the Panthers would undoubtedly prefer to ease him back into action. They may no longer have that luxury given their current dilemma.
There is some good news for Penrith, with Merrin’s surgery on Sunday revealing a clean dislocation of his finger rather than a more complicated fracture. This may shorten his duration on the sidelines.
Despite all their injuries, the Panthers still sit third on the NRL ladder, while their three losses have come by a combined 12 points according to Big Freebet.