Brett Kenny

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Brett Kenny
Personal information
Full name Brett Edward Kenny
Nickname Bert
Born (1961-03-16) 16 March 1961 (age 54)
Gerringong, New South Wales
Playing information
Height 181 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight 84 kg (13 st 3 lb)
Position five-eighth, centre, lock
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1980–93 Parramatta Eels 265 110 0 0 410
1984–85 Wigan 25 19 0 0 76
Total 290 129 0 0 486
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1982–87 New South Wales 17 2 0 0 8
1982–87 Australia 17 10 0 0 36
1983–87 City NSW 4 1 0 0 4
Source: RLP
Official Wigan Website on Brett Kenny

Brett Edward Kenny (born 16 March 1961 in Gerringong, New South Wales) is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer of the 1980s and 90s. He was a five-eighth and centre for the Australian national team and New South Wales Blues representative sides, and the Parramatta Eels. He played in 17 Tests, made 17 State of Origin appearances and won 4 premierships with Parramatta. He is considered one of the nation's finest footballers of the 20th century.[1]

Youth and baseball[edit]

The son of a former Australian baseball representative, Brett Kenny did not turn to rugby league until well into his teenage years after baseball and athletics. Despite a lack of experience, his talent was quickly noticed by Parramatta when playing in the juniors at Guildford and he was graded in 1980. So successful was Kenny in the lower grades that he was partnering established champion Mick Cronin in the centres by the end of that year making seven first grade performances in his rookie season.


A swap with five-eighth Steve Ella in the middle of the 1981 season worked wonders for a team that had struggled during the previous season and a half and under coach Jack Gibson they developed into formidable competitors.

Kenny was the pivot between the fearsome backline combination of Cronin, Ella and Eric Grothe and a tremendous scrum-base force of halfback, Peter Sterling and lock, Ray Price. These stars formed the nucleus of a side which dominated the New South Wales Rugby League premiership between 1981 and 1986 winning four premierships, once runners-up and once third.

In the 1981 Grand Final against Newtown, Parramatta were behind for most of the match but exerted a continuous pressure after half time which took its toll on the Jets. The Eels powered away to win comfortably with Kenny scoring two fine tries - the first when he flew away into the corner after a Ray Price break.

Along with Wally Lewis, Kenny was selected to have his likeness adorn the newly created state of Origin Shield. His superb performance in the 1982 Grand Final against Manly - scoring two tries and producing a wonderful step near the touchline to set up one for Eric Grothe - made him a certainty for that year's Kangaroo tour.

The 1983 season saw Kenny continue his irrepressible form for the most part - his 21 tries is the standing record for a five-eighth in an Australian rugby league premiership season and included eight tries over five consecutive games. However at one point that season he was rested for a time by coach Jack Gibson. He returned to his best in the finals, scoring two Grand Final tries for the third successive time in the Eels 18-6 win over Manly.


After the ban on foreign imports was lifted, the '82 invincibles were in high demand. Wally Lewis had a spell at Wakefield whilst Peter Sterling moved to Humberside with Hull, but it was Kenny who made a lasting impression on the British game. He arrived in Wigan on 3 December 1984 and made his debut in the 22-8 win against Warrington. In the next 4 months Kenny went on to become an immortal at the club, scoring 19 tries and forming an elusive partnership with John Ferguson, who had been signed for a 3-month spell.

His finest moment came at Wembley as he led Wigan to their first Rugby League Challenge Cup victory in 20 years. Having flown back John Ferguson for the game, the club were confident of a win. He caused controversy before a ball had been kicked by keeping his hands in his pockets during the National Anthem and the pre match ritual, looking uninterested. But all doubters were proved wrong as Kenny became the first Australian to be awarded the Lance Todd Trophy for his Man-of-the-Match performance in the 1985 Challenge Cup final during the 1984–85 season, commonly regarded as the greatest final in Challenge Cup history (played before 99,801 spectators). His solo try scored when Hull had full cover defence across the field was memorable but so too was his marshalling of the Wigan defence and his own tackle count contribution. Kenny in his one season became a firm favourite at Wigans' Central Park and found fans among many neutral supporters.

Golden Boot[edit]

Kenny was acclaimed as the best player in rugby league history by former GB and Wigan great Billy Boston. In 1986 - when the Eels were hit by injuries to most of their top players - the Kenny/Sterling partnership reached its zenith, with the two stars regularly winning matches for the Eels. In the Grand Final, though Kenny was disallowed two tries the Eels won 4-2. That year Kenny won the Golden Boot as the best player in the world.

At the end of 1986 with the retirement or absence through injury of former Eels champions, things went downhill. Kenny was hit by injury in 1987 and was never at his best. His 1988 season was wiped out by a serious knee injury leading to a decision to retire from representative rugby league. Yet, even having lost a lot of pace, Kenny's footwork, passing skills and anticipation were stronger than ever. Between 1989 and 1992 he missed only three games for the Eels, constantly standing out in a struggling side after Sterling succumbed to severe shoulder problems. His tackling ability was so good that he was successfully moved to lock forward in 1991 despite his lack of kilograms. Back at five-eighth, his testimonial year in 1992 was again superb, and he recovered from contractual disputes and shoulder problems to finish his career on a high note in 1993 even if his form was not as good as in previous seasons.

Representative career[edit]

Bert (to his fans) debuted at the State of Origin level in 1982 as a replacement in game II before being selected in the run-on side for game III.

His season form saw him selected for the 1982 Kangaroo Tour of a team that came to be known as the Invincibles where Kenny played so well that he was selected in all six of the tour's Tests and for three of those he kept Wally Lewis out of the Test team. He scored six tries in the Tests plus six minor tour matches. For the rest of Kenny's international career he was picked in the centres to accommodate Lewis at five-eighth.

He toured in 1986 with the second Kangaroo side to go through a tour unbeaten, scoring eight tries in five Tests and nine minor tour matches. That year he was also named man-of-the-match in the final game of the State of Origin series.

Playing style[edit]

He was a prodigiously skilled five-eighth with tremendous footwork and anticipation. Parramatta didn't suffer from Kenny's lack of kicking prowess since Sterling, Mick Cronin, Steve Ella and John Muggleton were able to do this, enabling Kenny to focus on his kick-chase which accounted for many of his 110 first grade tries for Parramatta. Kenny was also a brilliant tackler, consistently able to bring down much bigger players like Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga and Gene Miles in State of Origin games during the 1980s. Kenny was in his early days capable of great acceleration, often aided by feigning to deceive a would-be tackler or a quite simple dummy. When Wally Lewis was at the height of his Origin dominance Kenny was one of the few NSW players with an ability to match and possibly contain him.

Statistical highlights[edit]

He held the Parramatta club record for the most first grade games (265) from 1993 to 2010, and also held the record for most tries for the club (110), which was surpassed by Luke Burt during the 2011 NRL season. His 21 tries in the 1983 season stands second behind Steve Ella's 23 for most tries in a season.

Brett Kenny holds the record feat of being the only player to have scored 2 tries in 3 (consecutive) grand finals, from 1981 to 1983. In the 1986 Grand Final against Canterbury, Kenny looked to have scored 2 tries, but had them disallowed in controversial circumstances. [2]

Post playing[edit]

Since retirement, Brett Kenny has kept a low profile other than publishing an autobiography, The Natural, and writing occasionally about the game.

In 2000 he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia's international standing in rugby league. In 2006 he coached the Penrith Panthers under 20 Jersey Flegg Cup side to a premiership title.He is married to Julie Kenny and has 3 children, Joshua, Nikkolah and Mitchell.

Kenny made a cameo appearance in the 2006 film, Footy Legends.[3]

In February 2008, Kenny was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia.[4]

In 2010, Kenny became the coach of the Wentworthville Magpies in the NSW Cup competition, taking over from Rip Taylor.[5]

In 2012, Kenny took over the coaching of The Entrance Tigers, Central Coast


External links[edit]