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Humble teenager Leniu signals arrival by upending idol

Penrith's teenage prop Spencer Leniu put his admiration for Paul Gallen to one side as he picked up the Sharks skipper and planted him on the ground in last Friday night's win.

Leniu, who doesn't turn 19 until next month, was making his NRL debut but despite the cocktail of nerves, gratitude and excitement swirling around inside of him, he stopped the 37-year-old former Test and Origin forward in his tracks.

"I kind of got to the line and saw him running at me. I thought 'Oh this is Paul Gallen' because of what he's done for the game I kind of look up to him. Much respect to him," Leniu said on Monday.

Looks like Leniu and his best friend, centre Stephen 'Critta' Crichton will be playing their second NRL game this Friday night against the Broncos.

By then the Broncos forwards will have some inkling of Leniu's legendary tackle on Gallen.

"When he got to me I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Leniu said.

"I just put my body in front of him. Everyone was kind of hyping things up because he's a bigger name than me. But it was an ordinary tackle.

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"I've never met him but I'd like to meet him. My parents were saying that he gave me a rap pre-game so I appreciate that so much."

Gallen had probably heard the comments made by NSW Under-20s coach Mark O'Meley – both Leniu and Crichton were in his winning team in July – that Leniu hit as hard as NSW Origin prop Payne Haas.

The two will meet at Suncorp Stadium this weekend to find out if that's true.

"I can't say I'm as good as Payne Haas. He's such a dynamic player and I'm sure every other front rower looks up to him like I do," Leniu said.

"I look up to all the forwards here at the Panthers. I still pinch myself driving into these facilities and being amongst this group."

Crichton said Leniu hadn't been bragging about taking the Sharks skipper down.

"He's a really humble bloke because I grew up with him, going to the same high school and stuff. Every since I met him he's been that humble kid – always putting others before himself," Crichton said.

Match Highlights: Panthers v Sharks

It made it all the more fitting that the pair made their NRL debuts together.

"He face-timed me a couple of days before the game and he's crying and I said 'Are you alright?' And he said I'm making my debut with you man'. Then he started crying and I couldn't hold it in either," Crichton said.

But props aren't supposed to cry are they?

"He's a little softie on the inside. But I love that kid," Crichton said.

The brawl that defined Crichton and Leniu's friendship

The pair also won the 2018 SG Ball premiership with Penrith together and are hoping to win the 2019 Jersey Flegg title too.

But they'll take as much NRL time as coach Ivan Cleary wants to hand out.

Crichton also had the difficult experience of replacing someone he admired in the Sharks game – centre Dean Whare. But he found the Kiwis international more than gracious.

"I looked up to Dean. Ivan came in and said he hasn't been in form, but I knew I still had big shoes to fill," Crichton said.

"Straight away I did my homework to do what I have to do to fill in that big hole.

"Dean still came up to me and said 'Good luck' and keeping me comfortable telling me I'll be alright."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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