Panthers centre Brent Naden will be full of pride and emotion this Saturday night when he plays in his first ever NRL Indigenous Round.
Not only will the 24-year-old be donning Penrith’s newest Indigenous jersey that he helped create, but he’ll also be wearing specially designed boots hand painted by his Uncle in Dubbo.
An artistic tribute to the people, geography, flora and fauna of the Darug Nation, Penrith’s 2020 Indigenous jersey will include not one but four totems.
The lower back of the jersey will feature the Darug possum totem, while three more totems (Wiradjuri goanna, Kamilaroi snake and Bundjalung/Yaegl turtle) will appear on the upper back of the jersey, in recognition of the club’s three Indigenous players.
“It’s special to be able to play in Indigenous Round,” Naden told the Weekender.
“Not only do I get to represent my own family but the Panthers jersey has the other boys’ totems on it as well, so I get to play for their families and where they’re from too, which is pretty special.”
The competition-leading Panthers will be aiming for seven straight wins on Saturday night when they face the in-form Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval.
Naden will be pushing to keep the club’s winning streak alive as he, personally, is yet to experience a loss this season. He didn’t feature in Penrith’s draw with the Knights in Round 3 or their defeat against the Eels in Round 5.
Naden said he was dropped earlier this season on performance as well as putting on some extra kilos during isolation.
“It’s not easy getting dropped but that’s part of rugby league – you’ve got to take the good with the bad,” he admitted.
Since the Wellington Cowboys junior returned to the paddock against Souths in Round 7, he hasn’t skipped a beat – crossing the line twice and even catching the eye of Immortal Andrew Johns.
Naden said it’s hard for players outside the top 17 to impress coach Ivan Cleary when there’s no reserve grade competition to work their way back into form.
“It’s tough for a lot of the boys because you can’t prove to the coach you’re ready for NRL again, so we do these opposed sessions where we just go hard out and they’re like our game days,” he said.
“I have to thank Cameron Ciraldo (assistant coach) and Craig Catterick (rehab coordinator) for getting me fit again, they really put time into me to get me back into shape – I really take my hat off to them.”
While Trent Barrett has been getting much of the praise publicly for his work at Penrith, Naden said Ciraldo has done wonders for him both physically and mentally.
“Ciro has been there for me working on the physical side of things as well as my mental side, by following up for a chat or phone call and that helps out so much. I can’t thank him enough,” he said.
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.