Canberra Raiders player Jarrad Kennedy, much to his own shock, has emerged as potential centre option over the past week with several of his teammates currently injured. Credit: Col Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Jarrad Kennedy has confessed his shock when he heard that he was lining up in the centres against the Melbourne Storm last weekend. While the usual Canberra Raiders back-rower had trained there on and off throughout the year, he never expected it would ever come to playing out wide in an actual game.
With Raiders backline players Jack Wighton and Brenko Lee currently on the sideline and rookie Jeremy Hawkins denied a chance to play first grade due to salary cap constraints, Kennedy was handed the responsibility of keeping the right-hand side afloat.
While he was targeted at times in defence by Melbourne, the upstart centre impressed coach Ricky Stuart enough to be named to play there again this Monday night against the Rabbitohs – a good sign considering Stuart gave the 25-year-old minimal advice.
"Ricky just sort of said I have to get my head around playing there and said that he had put me there because I had the speed and athleticism to play there," Kennedy told NRL.com.
"To be honest though at times I did feel a little uncomfortable but that's just because I don't have the experience there."
While Kennedy is unsure how long the centre experience will last, the Tuross Lakers junior is happy to put it down to another learning curve in the NRL.
"It isn't that far from the back row position but it is a lot different," Kennedy said. "It is a lot quicker and there's a bit more space, but it is good to get a bit of experience.
"I'm up for the challenge and hopefully I can learn a little bit more in the coming weeks."
With Stuart at the helm Kennedy's rugby league career has gone from strength to strength in 2014, having already tripled his career games tally in this season alone.
In 13 games this season, Kennedy has averaged a respectable 28.1 tackles and 67.2 metres a game and has been grateful for the chances he has received thus far.
"I'm absolutely stoked about this year," Kennedy said. "Ricky has given me a massive chance and hopefully I can finish off the season on a high."
Now approaching his 20th game in the top flight, his next mission on his journey out wide is taking on Souths centre Kirisome Auva'a. While Kennedy admitted to not knowing much about his opponent this weekend, he did realise the momentous challenge that beckons against the Rabbitohs.
"They are in great form and it's going to be a tough game. We have a big job but in saying that we'll be looking to get over them as well. Everyone knows how big and powerful their pack is so it is a good challenge for us," Kennedy said.
With the finals now out of reach for the Raiders, Kennedy maintained that the team's goal is to now win every game from here on out for Canberra fans who have been gifted five opportunities to watch their team at home in the final seven rounds. Whether that means Kennedy will stay in the centres or return to the back row though remains to be seen.