Brett Kenny’s record speaks for itself - 265 games and 110 trys (both once a club record) for the Parramatta Eels. This also included 4 Premierships and being the only player to ever score 2 trys in 3 Grand Final wins. If that wasn’t enough he also played 17 times for NSW and Australia.
I can still remember watching Brett throughout my childhood as I sat on the Brett Kenny hill. My dad would take my brother Marc and I there frequently as we lived not too far away and my brother was a mad Parra fan.
Even though I was a Shark through and through I always held a huge admiration for the way Brett played and carried himself off the field. With Rugby League continually evolving it’s hard to compare eras and players. but for those of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s we were blessed to be connected with these super stars of our game. It seemed they had so much personality and talent we just wanted to be them. I feel we lack that same connection with today’s players or maybe we have just got older.
His style was so slick he one of the fastest five eighths of his time and his ability to capitalise on a mistake by the defence and want the ball when the game was on the line was just a few of the key attributes of a player who in my opinion could have played in any era.
I was fortunate Brett invited me up to his place in the Central Coast to chat about life and his career. Most of my podcasts go 45 to 60 minutes and I noticed we were 40 minutes in and hadn’t even spoken about footy yet but I thoroughly enjoyed and cherished my time with a truly great man.
The last 12 months has been a tough one for Brett. He has lost his job, seen his step son Riley seriously injured and had the fight of his life when diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer. However he has a great attitude to life and continues to move forward which is a timely reminder to live life to the fullest and continue to be positive in dire situations.
Listen to the entire episode on the player below or continue to find the stand out learning points from the chat.
BEING DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER
“I said I just got to get on with life. I was confident after I spoke to the specialist. When I first got told what it was it really knocked me around. I thought I’m never going to be able to see my kids get married never see grand kids stuff like that. I was down at Westmead and just cried. You start thinking of all the negative things of what you can’t do and will I be around for this and that. The specialist was really good after seeing her I thought I can do this and I got into the routine”
Life can change in an instance as was the case with Brett. Positive mind set can be a critical element of continuing to move forward when things aren’t going right. From hearing the stories of all these amazing people I have learnt that showing vulnerability and letting people in can be a major turning point for people and shows true character and strength and can often help others who are looking for more positive circumstances.
NOT MAKING THE EELS JERSEY FLEGG
"I got selected to trial for Jersey Flegg when I was 17. There were two other guys from Guildford and we went over and I DIDN'T make the team"
Brett was selected in the greatest 100 Rugby Players of all time which goes to show his stature and reputation amongst the experts and fans. However it wasn’t all rosy for Brett from the start. Growing up he combined his love for both Baseball and Rugby League and was invited to trial for the Jersey Flegg team with a few others from his local Guildford team. Even though he was young for the grade it would be great grounding for Brett to not to make the team and have to wait till the following year for another crack.
It gives a timely reminder that good things can take time and not every story starts successfully. It’s those tough times that can make or break you but that perseverance is a key trait that provides long term success.
JACK GIBSON & PROFESSIONALISM
“Jack Gibson made me a five eighth. The last time I played there was under 9’s or 10’s. I was graded as a centre. I didn’t know much about Jack I had heard a few things. I was shit scared of him and when he arrived he wore these big coats and
gold watches. But he bought in more professionalism with the place and he was that far ahead of his
time it was unbelievable”
The 80’s was an interesting time for the Eels after they employed the super coach Jack Gibson after the unsuccessful grand finals of 76 and 77 and looking for their first break through. Brett spoke to me about the professionalism he introduced from game day attire to modern training practices but those small attributes all combined to create a winning and long lasting culture of one of truly great dynasties in rugby league history.
A great message for us to control the controllable. Things like setting a standard for simple things like how we dress and carry ourselves. Things like turning up early whether it is at work, training or study. It’s those little one percenters that keep us accountable and give us a positive edge.
MENTORING FROM MICK CRONIN
“Mick Cronin did a lot for me when I first started playing first grade and I played outside him. I could sense he took a lot of knocks so I wouldn’t be the one getting belted and that allowed me to grow into the position and gain confidence. So I thought it’s about time I started looking after him and it was nice to see him retire with a premiership”
Just as Mick Cronin took him under his wing, Brett would repay Mick later in his career when he faced injury issues. This also extended to looking after young Eels players as they came through the ranks. It’s an important message to use our experience to help others grow. Just as we have been mentored there is a time where we need to step up as a mentor to. We can get defensive and see others as a threat when we should be sharing our knowledge and experience and continuing to grow together.
To summarise the key learning points from Brett:
1. Keep moving forward in the face of adversity.
2. Persevere through your failures and come back stronger.
3. Control the little things to gain an edge. Use innovation and do things differently.
4. Pass on your knowledge and help mentor others
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