A Penny's Worth

Footballer, Nick Kenny

Nick Kenny is a footballer who plays the position of prop for the Brisbane Broncos in Australia's National Rugby League.

» Quotes by Nick Kenny

A footballer begins by playing in the backyard for fun. Can you describe how playing for money has affected the way you play the game?
When playing professional football there is a lot more emphasis on playing a 'role' within the team. Each player has a job to do, which to a certain extent limits the ability for you to do things instinctively. When playing in the backyard for fun it was all about experimenting with different skills, ie offloading, chip and chase and long passes etc. The freedom to do this in a professional team is limited because this freedom to experiment does not fit in with the team objectives.

Obviously the amount of training, game preparation, recovery and dietary habits are closely monitored in professional football whereas when playing in the backyard for fun did not require these commitments
When you were young, did you and your parents think there was a realistic possibility of you playing professionally?
No, it was not a 'realistic' possibility but it was certainly my number one dream to become a professional rugby league player for the Broncos. I was more naturally talented with cricket and tennis as a youngster and probably had more of a chance at excelling in those, although my heart was always set on rugby league. I was fortunate to get scouted playing league as it happened at a later age (20) than most.
When does scouting typically happen?
Most of the time players get scouted during school, anywhere from the ages of 13 to 17. It is unlikely to get scouted beyond teenage years. I got scouted at the age of 20 while playing in a University competition which is a really unconventional path to take. I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.
How has your relative fame affected the way that old acquaintances treat you?
With my close friends it has not affected my relationships because we still relate on a similar level to way we always have (pre-football). With people that I have met since becoming a footballer it is often hard to reach an understanding that goes beyond me as a footballer.
Can you describe what it's like to play in a jersey which you used to have to pay $150 to buy?
Its still exciting every time I get to wear the jersey, it means a lot to me. Before putting it on each week I have a quiet moment in the dressing room and I reflect on how fortunate I am and I remember the players who have gone before me and forged the reputation the jersey has today. Beyond the age of 18 I decided that I wasn't going to put a broncos jersey on unless I earned it, now I get to wear it each week.
Describe what it's like to play with guys that when growing up you would have lined up to ask for an autograph.
When I first started training and playing with these childhood "football idols" I was awestruck. It felt surreal to wear the colours and run around with these guys. Now that I have been part of the team for a while and these guys are now my friends I realise that they are no different to everyone else. However, there are still often times(eg. seeing team posters or watching on TV) when I pinch myself and realise that I am now part of a team that holds a social stigma that I used to admire so much as a youngster.
Growing up, you and your friends practiced signing your names. Do you remember the first time you signed an autograph for a fan?
Yes I do and it was well before I had achieved anything in the game. A young kid saw me wearing the Broncos gear and although he didn't know who I was, he knew that I was in the junior Broncos team and that I may one day represent the NRL team. It felt a bit strange to be giving a kid an autograph as a novice, but as if I was going to say no! I also remembered as a young fan asking one of my heroes for an autograph and he said no, and I remembered how upset it made me. I made a promise to myself that day that if I ever had a public profile in sport I would never reject someone for an autograph.
Have you met this player since you've played for the Broncos?
Yes I have met this person and we are friends now. Although I never mentioned the denied autograph moment.
Can you describe what it's like to see yourself playing on TV?
I had seen videos of games that I had played in for years so seeing footage is not that strange. However, hearing the commentators (famous ex players) talk about you and things you are doing on the field while you are watching is always a thrill, so long as they aren't criticizing you!
Professional athletes don't simply compete with, but also against one another. How does competition among players for limited positions affect the team spirit in the side?
Last season quite a few players left the club so there has been a lot of competition for spots in this years new look team. This has been a good thing. The rivalry between players for positions has made the training sessions competitive and at a high intensity. Undoubtedly there will some players disappointed at missing selection but those who are in the team will realise that they must produce good form or else they can be quickly replaced.
The security of a professional athlete's job seems to be more performance based than other vocations. Would you rather a good performance in a losing side or a poor performance in a winning side?
I would rather a good performance in a losing side most of the time. Unless of course it was a Grand Final. The worst feeling in team sport is feeling like you haven't done your job and you let your team mates down. Whereas if you come off the field knowing that you have given your best, regardless of the result there is a sense of satisfaction. Although its impossible to control everything that happens on the field, I have found that if you know you have prepared as properly and professionally as possible in the lead up to the game you are likely to perform at a high level consistently.
Much is made of home field advantage in sports, but in a sport like rugby league where playing conditions are so similar in each stadium, what is the real advantage to playing at home?
When Suncorp Staudium is filled with 50 000 Broncos supporters it can really get the adrenalin going and help you find that little bit extra. There is also a sense of pride in defending your home ground and the Broncos has always set out to make life difficult for teams travelling to Brisbane to play. Also knowing that when playing at home you have your friends and family watching it can provide that little extra incentive to perform.
You spend a lot of time in the gym and you've also spent a lot of time in the books to earn a degree in physiotherapy. Is it more difficult to train your body or your mind?
Personally, training the body I find less difficult. Playing rubgy league has always been a passion of mine so training on the field and in the gym has been something I have always enjoyed doing. Although the physical demands and mental toughness required to push the body's pain limits is taxing, it has never felt like a job. Whereas it was not always 'enjoyable' slogging it out with the study books in the library for hours on end.
Is being a professional athlete just as difficult or more difficult than a normal job?
I would say less difficult. For me its never boring or monotonous being a professional athlete. Although there are a lot of sacrifices you have to make like no free weekends, dietary restrictions and pressure from being in the public eye, I wouldn't want to trade it for a 9 to 5 desk job. We get paid well to do something we enjoy and each day you are surrounded by your friends. There is also the realisation that this career does not last forever and that a normal job is waiting for me in 6 - 8 years time so now is the time to enjoy the ride and make the most of it.
Would you rather lose the Grand Final by 1 point or 40 points? (Why?)
Although it would be heartbreaking to lose a Grand Final by one point it would be embarrassing to lose by 40. At least you know that you were competitive to lose closely and there is a sense of pride in that.
Would you rather win the Grand Final by 1 point or 40 points? (Why?)
In a Grand Final a win is a win. I would just as gladly take either!
There's a fairly short expiration date on an athlete's body, especially in a physical sport like rugby league. How are you preparing for life after rugby league and how well do you think most players handle the inevitable transition?
I think that the transition to the workforce is difficult for most players for many reasons. A drop in income, a return to the real world away from the special treatment and fame of life in the spotlight and an absence of competing and team comradery are just a few reasons. I still work as a physiotherapist one half day each week. I do this to keep my skills up so that I will be capable of working as a physio if I need to when I retire from football. I also spend one day a week doing life coaching for troubled teens. The club finances and encourages players to gain some type of qualifications outside of football as well, so I have taken the opportunity to continue some sort of study each year. I have completed a business management certificate and a real estate license also. Although I am not certain what path I will take when I retire I think its important to continue ongoing education so I have options.
What is the best piece of advice you've received, and what was the source of that advice?
'The quality of your life comes down to the size of your contribution'. That was advice given to me by my mother. I feel extremely lucky to have the job and lifestyle I've fallen in to. It can feel like a guilty and selfish existence at times when you see how many people struggle. I seem to be happiest when I know I am providing some type of help or inspiration to others. This is why I am involved with "Queenslanders in the Community" which is life coaching program for troubled teens.

It is easy to get insulated from society and self absorbed when playing professional sport. You can get upset about an injury or losing a game but in the scheme of wider society, these troubles are so minor to other people's woes.

Having a profile through sport can be very advantageous in being able to provide help to others. I think a lot of sportspeople have a great opportunity to use their sporting fame as a vehicle to bring attention and help to those less fortunate.
What is the best piece of advice you've given, and who was the recipient?
A tip I passed on to a group of friends in the 2008 Caulfield Cup, Race 8, Horse 8. It was a 50 - 1 outsider that came home.
When you're on the cusp of death looking back on your life, what do you hope to see?
That I made positive influences on the lives of those I had an opportunity to help and to have made the most with what skills I was given.
What would we find Nick Kenny doing if his long lost uncle left him an estate worth $10 billion?
I would appropriate a portion of the estate for myself, my family and friends to live a comfortable life. Then I would ensure that the majority of the estate was used to build better lives and opportunities for those less fortunate.
Favorites. Movie? Book? Word? Food? Drink? Color?
Movie - Apocalytpo
Book - River God
Word - Full Time
Food - Nana's Angiolotti
Drink - Cold beer after a hard day's work
Colour - Maroon
What would it take for you to grow a moustache and a mullet?
For a moustache - 6 months and a lot of 'hair growth formula'
For a mullet - a friendly dare
Would you rather a time machine or a teleporting machine? (Why?)
I would definitely prefer a teleporting machine to have the freedom to go anywhere at any time. We are living in the most exciting time in history now and there is too much to see and do in one lifetime.