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Penrith five-eighth Luke Lewis says he could be back in action as early as round two, with the former winger desperate to win the Panthers' battle for the halves.
Lewis had been slated to start at five-eighth when the Panthers travel to Brisbane for round one next week, but fractured a finger on his left hand in the club's disappointing trial loss to the Bulldogs last Sunday.
The injury will force coach Matthew Elliott to give either new recruit Joe Williams or former Raider Josh McCrone a chance to shine alongside expected halfback Jarrod Sammut against the Broncos, but Lewis warned his intra-club rivals not to get too comfortable.
The 24-year-old had a pin and small plate inserted in his hand during the week and is excited by the prospect of being fit to play as soon as the Panthers' round two home game with Canberra.
"I was a bit devastated but the good thing about it is I know I will be back in round two or round three," said Lewis.
"I initially thought it was dislocated and so did everyone else but every time I went back on to make a tackle it kept popping out but it was actually breaking ... the finger was snapped in half.
"The operation went well and everything looks good. I can't ask for a better scenario really.
"I would rather miss those first couple of games and get the finger right instead of missing games halfway through the season.
"I was looking forward to (starting the year at five-eighth), but what do you do?
"I just have to get back to training and rip in and play some good footy."
Lewis said he felt revitalised moving back into the playmaker's role, having spent most of his early NRL career out on the wing or in the centres.
He hopes the return to the action will be noticed by representative selectors and his previous deeds in the centres and wing are not forgotten.
"I used to play five-eighth in my junior days and as I went up I got pushed out a bit to centre and wing, but in the last couple of years I've started to move back in to where I've come from," he said.
"I feel really comfortable at five-eighth and I was really enjoying it too.
"I'm still thinking this year is going to be a good year for me."