Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden returns home to Wellington to help Cowboys club

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: Wellington Cowboys junior Brent Naden with Jayden (right) and Tori Daley (left). Photo: NICK McGRATH
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: Wellington Cowboys junior Brent Naden with Jayden (right) and Tori Daley (left). Photo: NICK McGRATH

Brent Naden was selling raffle tickets, mingling with the Kennard Park crowd and, if his contract would have allowed, you get the feeling the 23-year-old would have run out with the Cowboys on Saturday as well.

The Penrith Panthers centre loves Wellington, his home town.

It's not surprising to know the Group 11 star turned NRL gun makes the four-hour trip west as often as he can and the timing for his latest trip was perfect, the Cowboys rallying behind the inclusion of dual international Timana Tahu to knock off competition leaders Dubbo CYMS for the first time in four years.

Naden was in the sheds at full-time singing the team song and, to a man, congratulated the Wellington boys he regards as family following the 28-10 victory.

Anything to give back to the club that helped him achieve his dream.

"Without the club I wouldn't be at Penrith so I just want to give back as much as I can," Naden said.

"You walk around and see old faces and new faces and say hello; I'm a friendly bloke.

"And seeing the boys play today, it makes you want to run out as well. They're going extremely well."

TRY TIME: Naden scores for Penrith in their win over Souths. Photo: AAP

TRY TIME: Naden scores for Penrith in their win over Souths. Photo: AAP

His brother Brock played on the wing on Saturday in first grade while his little sister Britt leads the Cowboys' league tag side. His cousin Rylee Blackhall, also on the Panthers' radar, directs traffic for the Wellington under 18s.

"I've still go family out here ... every time I get the chance I come back," he smiled.

Naden made his NRL debut with the Panthers this year and has played three games - for three wins - scoring two tries in what has been a whirlwind month for the lanky three-quarter.

After short stints at Canberra and Newcastle, his debut in black ensured Naden's rugby league career came full circle after he joined the Panthers as a 17-year-old when Phil Gould flew to Dubbo to sign him after seeing him play for the Western Rams in a curtain-raiser to Country-City Origin in Mudgee in 2012.

It's been six years (since joining Penrith) but it feels like it's gone really fast, the last three weeks have been a blur.

Brent Naden on his NRL debut in 2019.

"I've been a massive sponge," Naden said.

"I'm just trying to soak up everything that comes my way and it's still feels a bit surreal at the moment. It's been six years (since joining Penrith) but it feels like it's gone really fast, the last three weeks have been a blur."

Naden joins an ever-growing group of players with links to Wellington in the NRL, with Kotoni Staggs, Tyrone Peachey and Blake Ferguson also in the top flight, while Josh Addo-Carr's late grandfather Wally Carr hales from the Central West town.

Wellington hosts Parkes on Sunday and Staggs will be at Kennard Park for the Group 11 clash.