As a member of Penrith’s dedicated groundskeeping team, Mitch Kenny was mowing lawns, trimming hedges and pulling weeds for the club a little over one month ago. Today, he’s gearing up to play the South Sydney Rabbitohs in his fourth straight game of first grade.
The 21-year-old Windsor junior has literally gone from a part-time footballer and groundskeeper to an 80-minute hooker overnight.
Perhaps he’s Penrith’s lucky charm too, with the club stringing together three consecutive wins with Kenny in the side.
“It’s been a whirlwind… four weeks ago I was mowing lawns and working on the gardens, I didn’t know I’d be here right now,” Kenny told the Weekender.
“I’m really grateful for the experiences I’ve had this year, this is a dream come true playing first grade at Penrith. It’s been a crazy few months and weeks but I’m happy to be riding the wave.”
Things got even crazier for Kenny last week after he became the beneficiary of prop Tim Grant’s selfless act to terminate his playing contract following a season-ending pectoral injury.
Grant’s decision to remove himself from Penrith’s books and vacate a spot in the top 30 squad allowed Kenny to be promoted into the side – meaning the club no longer needs to apply for an exemption to play him for the remainder of the season.
Kenny said Grant’s decision to allow a young local junior like himself to take his spot meant the world to him.
“I’m super grateful to Timmy Grant, I spoke to him and he knows that,” he said.
“He’s such a selfless guy and we love him around the club. I’m just so grateful for what he did.
“I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch, I’ve got to let my performances do the talking but just to know I’m going to be considered each week for first grade is a dream come true.”
Since Peter Wallace’s retirement mid last year, Penrith have struggled in the dummy half department.
While Sione Katoa and Wayde Egan have had their moments over the past 12 months, Kenny has given the Panthers an extra spring in their step and that’s been evident since his debut against the Eels back in Round 11.
While time will tell if Penrith have found their long-term hooker in Kenny, he’s already more than enjoying his opportunity in the NRL.
“I’m still pinching myself… on the weekend I got to play against Cronk, Tedesco and the Australian captain in Boyd Cordner, that’s ridiculous,” Kenny said.
“Playing against Souths this weekend is going to be the same, there’s some quality blokes there and guys I’ve looked up to.
“I’m just looking forward to another game in first grade, and four wins in a row wouldn’t hurt too.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.