Wellington Cowboys junior Brent Naden enjoys winning NRL debut with Penrith

SPECIAL: Wellington junior Brent Naden (right) celebrates the Panthers' opening try with fullback Dylan Edwards on Thursday night. Photo: AAP
SPECIAL: Wellington junior Brent Naden (right) celebrates the Panthers' opening try with fullback Dylan Edwards on Thursday night. Photo: AAP

It was 2015 when Brent Naden captained the Penrith Panthers under 20s side to the premiership, earning rave reviews on the way.

It seemed only a matter of time before the Wellington Cowboys junior was lighting up the NRL.

But sometimes things don't go exactly as planned and Naden, who had battled homesickness during his early years at Penrith, dropped off the radar a little after moving from the foot of the mountains and playing lower grades at Canberra and Newcastle.

But all that tough journey did was make his eventual first appearance for the Panthers' top side so special.

RELATED:

After an off-season return to Penrith, Naden made his long-awaited NRL debut on Thursday night.

After helping the battling Panthers to a much-needed 15-12 win over Manly, the Wellington product was overcome with emotion.

"I'm lost for words," Naden said, tears in his eyes, when speaking with the Panthers' website after the game.

"It means everything."

Naden was swamped by family members at Panthers Stadium, including younger brother and current Wellington player Brock, after the game.

They had just witnessed Brent show all his trademark enthusiasm and energy for 80 minutes.

Lining up in the centres, Naden may not have scored a try and enjoyed a highlight-reel-worthy moment but he still caught the eye.

Few people enjoyed any of the Panthers' two tries more than Naden, who spent time celebrating with fans while his teammates mobbed each other.

"I knew I had to go out there and play above my game and above my weight. Hopefully I did that for the boys," he said post-game.

"I knew they had my back and I had theirs, that's all I could do."

Naden, who laughed he normally "can't shut-up" while the tears flowed, ran for 108m in the win and made 19 tackles.

Naden was partnered in the centres by Isaah Yeo, who made his return from injury in the match.

Yeo made a key play in the dying stages of the game as the Sea Eagles had come storming back into the game after being 15-0 down in the second half.

With his side leading by just three, Yeo leaped to safely take a bomb and ensure his side secured maximum points.