Penrith rookie Jack Hetherington is known for being a bit of a ‘loose cannon’ on the field, so much so that the club’s media department held him back from conducting interviews for a few months because they were a little wary as to how he would approach the press.
The Weekender finally got the chance to interview the 22-year-old forward from country NSW this week and – to the media manager’s delight – all went off without a hitch.
Born in Canberra and growing up in the small town of Young, Hetherington was destined to play rugby league.
His grandfather, Roosters legend Bill Mullins. His father, Raiders workhorse Jack Hetherington. And his uncle, Brett Mullins, was one of the most exciting players of the ‘90s.
So how does a player with strong ties to Canberra and the Roosters end up making his first grade debut at Penrith?
It all began roughly six years ago when Panthers boss Phil Gould and recruitment officer Jim Jones made the four-hour journey to Young to watch some good old fashioned bush footy.
“I was playing in a rep team down there and Jimmy Jones and Gus travelled to Young to watch,” Hetherington recalled.
“We had a chat and I was close to signing with Penrith when I was 16 but I got scared, I thought I’d get homesick.”
Hetherington continued to ply his trade in the country for a few years before the Roosters snared him for their Holden Cup team.
Gould then came calling again, and Hetherington joined the Panthers.
“It was always a dream to play footy and try and be like Dad, Uncle and Pop. I never really expected to be at Penrith but I am and I am loving it,” Hetherington admitted.
“I often hear from Dad and Pop, they ring me all the time and tell me what I’m doing wrong. They tell me to pull my head in and are good to have around to talk to. They’ve been there and done it all.”
While Hetherington has had a rocky start to his NRL career – picking up two suspensions in just a handful of games played – he is grateful for the many people he has in his corner.
“I’m pretty used to it now, I’ve copped a fair few suspensions over the years. I’ve got to think and breathe a bit more when I’m out on the field,” he said.
“I have so many carry-over points from previous years being silly, that I can’t do anything wrong otherwise I get bloody suspended.
“I’m just trying to do the best job that I can and learn from the quality players I have around me.”
Hetherington is signed with Penrith until the end of 2019 and hopes to remain a Panther well into the future.
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.