Penny out to grab second chance
Kevin Penny is determined to make the most of his second chance as he prepares to make his Super League return for Warrington at Castleford on Monday.
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The former basketball star made an explosive introduction into rugby league, scoring 13 tries in as many games at the back end of the 2007 season to earn a place in the Super League Dream Team.
Penny's star gradually waned and, after initially being loaned to Harlequins and Wakefield, he ended up playing part-time rugby with Swinton for the last two and a half years, but he was offered a fresh start with his home-town club at the end of last year and jumped at the chance to pack in his day job, once he was convinced the call from Wolves coach Tony Smith was genuine.
"I was a courier, delivering parcels, and I was actually on my way to a job when Tony rang me up," Penny recalled.
"I thought he'd pressed the wrong button or sat on his phone. But he offered me a second opportunity and I was never going to turn it down."
Now older and wiser, the 26-year-old is set to make his first Wolves appearance for four and a half years when they visit the third-placed Tigers.
"I've become a better player and a better person as well," said Penny, who has signed a 12-month contract with a two-year option.
"It was kind of a mutual agreement when I left. I still had a year left on my deal but first-team opportunities were limited for me at the time and we decided the best thing for me was to move on.
"Both Tony and (owner) Simon (Moran) said, if I got my career back on track, they would look at bringing me back. At the time I thought they were just saying it but they stuck to their word.
"I've done a lot of learning about myself, about life, about rugby league in general. It probably sounds silly, but I didn't understand my role as a winger.
"Looking back, not having a rugby league background didn't help me. I wasn't able to deal with situations and adapt. I had to go down a level to be able to come back."
Penny will be among a host of fresh faces in action on a full Easter Monday Super League programme as clubs grapple with the difficulty of playing two matches in quick succession.
"Monday's always a bit of a mystery how everybody shapes up," Smith said. "It's not ideal for any team."
Castleford coach Daryl Powell rests scrum-half Liam Finn while St Helens could give debuts to Matty Fozard and Lewis Galbraith in a particularly youthful team that lacks a host of experienced men, including skipper Paul Wellens, Luke Walsh, James Roby, Jonny Lomax and Sia Soliola, for the derby at Widnes.
Wigan, too, will dip into their reserves for the home game against injury-hit Bradford, although coach Shaun Wane is desperate to keep the momentum going following a fifth straight win in the Good Friday derby at Saints.
"I will put a team out that will be really competitive because I don't want any slip-ups," Wane said. "I want the two points.
"Our record over Easter has been 100 per cent since 2010 and I want to keep that going."
Hull are expected to bounce back from their heart-breaking derby defeat when they host struggling London Broncos but coach Lee Radford is wary of the threat posed by the visitors who have lost all 10 league and cup matches so far.
"They're going to get somebody sooner or later," he said. "We've got to make sure we're not the ones they get the result against."
Wakefield, looking to halt a run of five consecutive defeats, are set to give a second outing to 17-year-old Jordan Crowther at Huddersfield, for whom winger Jermaine McGillvary will make his 100th appearance.
Leeds welcome back prop Jamie Peacock for the visit of former skipper Iestyn Harris' Salford, for whom centre or full-back Michael Platt is set to make his first Super League appearance for 12 years.
Harris, who had a 50 per cent record from his first two matches in charge, rings the changes as he looks to spring an upset against his old club.
"Easter is a difficult period," he said. "It's about making sure we don't over-play some of our personnel but also making sure we prepare well for a difficult challenge against a Leeds side who are riding high.
"We will look to be better than we were on Friday. We've just got to keep trying to improve."
Hull KR hope to have scrum-half Kris Keating back as they look to avoid a repeat of their 84-6 mauling by Wigan last Easter Monday when they take on Catalan Dragons in Perpignan.