Penrith laying bricks in NRL title defence

Troy Whittaker |

Mitch Kenny is adamant Penrith won’t suffer from a premiership hangover as they steel themselves for an arduous NRL title defence.

Having vanquished the demons of their 2020 grand final defeat to Melbourne by beating South Sydney in last season’s decider, the Panthers are back at base camp ready to scale Everest again.

Ivan Cleary’s team will bid to become just the second club in the NRL era to claim consecutive titles after the Sydney Roosters of 2018 and 2019. 

And according to utility Kenny, who recently extended his contract until the end of 2024, Penrith are determined as ever to reach the top.

“Teams are better than what they were last year, and if we think the same things that worked are going to work again, well then we’d just be arrogant,” Kenny told AAP.

“We safeguard against ego and complacency and we’re just looking to build a new campaign. You’ve got to do that day-by-day, brick-by-brick.

“We’re not resting on our laurels at all. This is a young group and we’re really hungry to try and have long-term success.”

The COVID-19 situation put paid to Penrith’s usual pre-season boot camp excursion but they conducted similarly intense training sessions at their facilities last week.

Kenny admits he experienced mixed emotions watching his teammates win the grand final having been ruled out after an ankle injury a fortnight prior.

“I was stoked for the boys, but I’ve missed two grand finals in two years (after being overlooked in 2020), so there is that slightly bittersweet moment,” he said.

“But that gets overshadowed pretty easily by the great feelings of knowing how hard everyone, whether they played or not, worked to achieve this.”

The 24-year-old is likely to feature in plenty more big games, however, with the Panthers investing in the local junior as their long-term hooker when Api Koroisau joins Wests Tigers in 2023.

“I’ve been working hard and I always hoped that might happen, but for it to come true, I’m stoked. I just feel so lucky,” Kenny said of his new deal.

“It’s going be hard when Api – such a good mate and such a good player here at this club – walks away, but I’m just hoping that I’ll fit in that role as best I can and keep doing a good job for the team.

“I didn’t really start playing hooker until 2019. I’m not the same player I was then and I won’t be the same player in another 12 months.”