An email conversation with Kevin Penny: 'Hand of fate steered me into joining up with Warrington'

From academic ambition to academy; Following legend's recipe for success; Marrying need for speed with bulking up
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You are the bookies' favourite to be the top try-scorer in Super League this year. Is that putting too much expectation on you at this early stage? I think that people always have high expectations of new players and players who have made an impact in their previous season, so it is natural that we expect people to improve on their last performance.

If you could have a bet, who would your money be on? I honestly couldn't put my money on one player because I don't recall anybody running away with the award.

Did you ever dream that you would progress so quickly in your first season? Not at all! Everything happened so fast for me last season, I didn't have time to think about my next step. It was a case of getting my head down and getting on with the job I had to do to keep my place in the Warrington side.

Any team-mates who helped particularly? Every player helped me last year, but in particular Jon Clarke and Chris Bridge took me under their wing. If I make a mistake in training, they are the first players to give constructive criticism, and that's what brings the best out of me. Lee Briers also helped me progress through the season as we developed an understanding and I knew when he was going to pass the ball or kick it for me.

A lot of people were urging Tony Smith to get you straight into the Great Britain side. How do you feel about his decision to hold you back? I had great respect for the decision that Tony Smith made to leave me out of the Great Britain side [against New Zealand]. I learnt a lot in the four weeks I had in camp with the squad. It was a massive learning curve for me and that was the exact reason why Tony had me in the squad. I understood fully that I had only played 13 first-team games and that is simply not enough to play in a Test series. I would be lying if I said that I was happy to sit out the Test series because I was truly gutted to be in the stands or watching it on TV at home. But once I sat down and thought about the conversation that I had with Tony Smith I realised that it was the best decision at this stage in my career.

Is the World Cup a realistic target for you? As for the World Cup, Tony spent time with me to give me feedback and to explain the areas I need to improve in order to be part of the squad.

Do you have a favourite try out of those you scored last season? My favourite try last season was the try against St Helens in the Challenge Cup.

Great ex-players like Martin Offiah and Alex Murphy have sung your praises. What does that mean to you? Both are legends of the game and to get praise from them means a lot. But the most important thing for me is not to get carried away; they are legends because they delivered results year after year. I now need to stay focused with my feet on the ground.

Martin used to admit that if his side won and he didn't score he was never quite happy. Do you feel that way? I feel that my job in the team is to score tries, so yes, I feel the same way, but it's a great feeling when the team perform well and get the result we set out to achieve.

Do you prefer left or right wing and why? How do you feel about the prospect of playing outside Matt King? I don't mind which wing I play on. Last year I played on the right in the academy and on the left when I came into the first team. I felt that I played my best rugby on the left wing last season. I am excited about playing outside Kingy this season as I feel he is one of the best centres in the game.

Where did this story come from about your father being an American basketball player? I did an interview and I was asked how I got into basketball. My answer was that my dad played basketball at college in America and came back to England to pursue his career in the English National League. But to clear up the story, he is not American; he was born in the UK.

Was there a chance that it was basketball you would pursue? What else were you good at and how did rugby league come out on top? There was a chance, as when I started at Priestley College in Warrington, I wanted to visit the States on an exchange, where I could play and coach basketball. I played cricket for Cheshire and Appleton and football for numerous teams, including Warrington Town Schoolboys. Rugby league happened as a consequence of playing in the school team to improve my GCSE grades. I was approached by Warrington to join their academy, which provided me with an opportunity to join a structured professional environment, which could lead to becoming a professional rugby player at the top level. I took that option because my dream was to be a professional sportsman and, although rugby was different from the other sports I had played, my family and I believed it was fate offering me a different opportunity.

Do you feel the need to add bulk and can that be done without blunting your pace? I'm conscious that I need to keep the balance between adding bulk without harming my pace, which the club help me with.

Warrington have under-achieved recently. Why should this be the season you make the breakthrough? Because we've got a great team with a good balance of youth and experience and knowledge.

You've signed a long-term contract with the club. Were you not tempted to keep your options open a little longer? I'm a Warrington lad and believe that we have a great future, which I want to be a part of.

Yellow boots – fashion statement or long-term commitment? Wait and see!

Who is the hardest winger you've had to defend against so far? Francis Meli, because of his skill and amazing strength.

What's the last gig you went to? Kylie at the MEN with my mum.

Any regrets that you never played for Warrington at Wilderspool? I watched some great games there with my Auntie Cath and my stepdad. But for me it's about looking forward to what I could achieve and not looking back.

Attachment

* Born 3 October 1987 in Warrington.

* 2005 Signs for Warrington Academy.

* Sept 2006 First-team debut as substitute versus St Helens.

* November 2006 Capped by England Academy.

* 2007 Records a prolific 13 tries in only 13 games and agrees new long-term contract which will keep him with Warrington Wolves until 2011. Named in the Great Britain training squad and Super League Dream Team.

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