Hawkesbury's Mitchell Kenny hits the field with the Panthers in NRL debut

The number 568 will always hold a special place for McGrath Hill's Mitchell Kenny.

It's his spot in a long line of Penrith Panthers, after making his NRL debut for the club on Thursday night.

Memorable: Mitchell Kenny (centre) celebrates with Reagan Campbell-Gillard (left) and James Tamou in his debut with the Penrith Panthers. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Memorable: Mitchell Kenny (centre) celebrates with Reagan Campbell-Gillard (left) and James Tamou in his debut with the Penrith Panthers. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The 21-year-old was brought on early in the second half in his side's 16-10 win over the Parramatta Eels.

Mitch said he had always had a passion to play rugby, but it wasn't until his later teens when he really looked like he could achieve his dream in league.

He started off with the Windsor Wolves in under 5's. He loved this first taste of the sport.

He went on to play with his school, Arndell Anglican College, and made some of his favourite on-field memories.

"I guess I just loved footy and wanted to do as much as I could ... any sort of footy that was available to me, whether it was school or weekend footy or any rep team that I made, I loved it all," said Mitch.

Mitch received his first developmental team selection when the Penrith Panthers chose him for their under 17's development squad.

He played SG Ball with the Panthers, winning various matches throughout that year, including the national under 18's championship.

Mitch started to move his way up through the ranks of Penrith, playing with the under 20's team for two years and then moving onto their Canterbury Cup squad.

"I kind of just rolled through, into the 20's and then onto the cup side," he said.

"They do a pretty good job at Penrith making those transitions easy. We have really good staff and you find yourself moving through a lot of those teams with players you've already played with.

"It's not too much when you make the step up since there are normally a couple guys going with you ... and that makes it easier."

Along with the action on the field for Mitch, he has also been working hard off the field.

He attends the University of Technology Sydney part time, where he is studying education. He wants to be an English teacher.

Mitch also works with maintenance for the Panthers: "I work for the grounds team there, I'm like a gardener".

Despite achieving so much throughout his early career, Mitch didn't think that he would make first grade so fast.

"I didn't think I'd play this year at all and for it to come so quickly this year and only being 21 it's pretty crazy and a bit of a spin out for me," he said.

"I'm just really grateful for the opportunity ... I've just tried to take it with both hands and see what comes with it."

Mitch said: "The initial call from Ivan on the Monday night, that was just breathtaking ... it's so hard to respond too when you're told that you've realised a dream.

"You're just lost for words, I know its a bit of a cliche but it's absolutely true when someone tells you that you're going to make your NRL debut."

On Debut: Mitch Kenny (left) celebrates after Nathan Cleary scores a second half try to win the game. Pictures: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

On Debut: Mitch Kenny (left) celebrates after Nathan Cleary scores a second half try to win the game. Pictures: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Mitch said the call from Clearly kicked off a massive week.

"I did my first captains run in the NRL the night before [the game] and that's when the nerves really set in ... travelling with the team to the ground ... during the warm-up and just being around the boys all week," he said.

"By the time I was on the sideline of the game, I was pretty pumped and I just wanted to get stuck into it. I felt like the nerves had gone away and I just wanted to get involved."

Mitch did get out onto the field just after the 10 minute mark of the second half. He wanted to work hard and show what he could do and be selfless.

For him this meant making tackles and he did that. Mitch recorded 24 tackles in just 29 minutes. He added 42 run metres as well.

Mitch was able to celebrate not only his debut but his team's win with a large group of his family and friends who attended the game.

"I loved every minute of it."

Mitchell Kenny will take to the field for the Panthers again tonight (Thursday, May 30) in their week 12 match-up against the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. Kick-off at 7:50pm.

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