The NRL claim it’s only fair to defer Penrith winger Taylan May’s ban for an assault until next year and allow him to play finals with the Panthers.

May will be free to play in Penrith’s qualifying final against Parramatta on Friday night, despite the NRL coming down on the 21-year-old on Tuesday.

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A little under a week after being found guilty of an assault in a Queensland pub, May was fined $3750 by the NRL and ordered to undergo immediate counselling and education.

But the NRL has decided his on-field punishment can wait, pointing to the fact the incident occurred last October while May’s trial did not begin until last week.

“In proposing the timing of the match suspension, the NRL considered a number of factors including when the incident took place, the date at which the proceedings were finalised and the impact of a match suspension at this time of year,” the NRL said in a statement.

Taylan May during the round 23 NRL clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Penrith Panthers at Accor Stadium in August. Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

May had been out with teammates when he dragged a man to the ground inside a Sunshine Coast pub last October following Penrith’s premiership celebrations.

After fighting the charge, May was found guilty of assault occasioning bodily harm in Maroochydore Magistrates Court but had no conviction recorded.

The news is a massive boost for the Panthers who were hopeful of having the powerful winger line up on the left edge on Friday night.

With Nathan Cleary also returning from a five-match suspension for his dangerous throw on Dylan Brown, the Panthers are back to full strength at the right time of the season.

In theory, it places the club well ahead of where they were when they won last year’s premiership, when they entered the finals battered and bruised with several key stars playing hurt.

Penrith expect Nathan Cleary to hit the ground running when he returns from a five-match NRL ban. (Brendon Thorne/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

“We’re definitely healthier than what we were last year,” co-captain Isaah Yeo said.

“It probably came out until after the finals how much everyone was struggling. But it was hard getting like a consistent team on the field just for training.

“That’s not the case this year, which is nice. But every final is different, there are going to be different challenges.”

The club also has the biggest advantage going into the first week with almost all players coming off a 14-day turnaround after being rested for round 25.

Panthers players have however upped the number of training sessions, with Cleary fitting back into their structure as part of a two-week preparation for the finals.

“Not having to worry about injuries in that last round was the biggest thing. We had two come out of it last year,” Yeo said.

“And then as a player it’s more of a mental freshen-up than a physical one.

“You’re still training hard and you’re probably doing extra sessions but mentally you don’t have to worry about sort of getting up for that moment.”

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