By CALLUM WALKER and DAVID ROGERS
Born in Levin, New Zealand, Huddersfield’s Kenny Edwards didn’t make his first-grade debut until the age of 23 for Parramatta after playing in the NRL Under-20s competition.
And it was a debut he will remember for the rest of his life.
“Making my debut was unreal,” he says.
“You want something your whole life and you dedicate your life to one thing. So when you achieve it, it’s a humbling feeling.”
It’s not exactly been the most straight forward of careers for Edwards, who developed a bad-boy reputation and was forced to leave the NRL in 2018. It was the culmination of a number of incidents that sullied his career.
In 2015 he was handed a nine-month ban for passing a urine sample on behalf of his fellow Parramatta player Kaysa Pritchard.
In 2017 he missed the first seven rounds of the competition for pouring alcohol over his partner in a domestic argument.
And in 2018 he was dismissed by Parramatta for fleeing from police in a roadside check. He was later suspended from driving for six months and fined A$600 for abandoning a vehicle at the roadside.
But fortunately redemption was at hand.
“In 2018, I got in a bit of trouble and had to leave the NRL,” he admits.
“My manager, who was over here for Magic Weekend at the time, came back to me with a couple of options and we narrowed it down to Warrington, Hull FC and Catalans.
“I went to France because I didn’t need a visa to enter the country.”
It couldn’t have been better timing for both Edwards and the Dragons, because that year the French club won the Challenge Cup for the first time, something the entertaining forward will never forget.
“Winning the Challenge Cup and being the first French side to do it was a massive achievement,” he says.
“To be a part of the first Catalans team to win silverware is something I can always look back on and be proud of.”
Edwards spent 18 months in Perpignan before moving to Huddersfield ahead of the 2020 season. Some people questioned his judgement, but he could not be happier.
“Some people thought I was crazy when I decided to leave the south of France and come to England, but I love it here,” he adds.
“I’m a pretty simple fella and I enjoy the lifestyle, so it’s a really good fit.
“When I signed, they weren’t doing too well, so I did wonder whether I had made the right call, but getting a player like Aidan Sezer to come at the same time made a massive difference.
“We took a massive step in the right direction last year.
“Adding a couple of players this year is only going to make us a better team. Ricky Leutele is an NRL Premiership winner and will give us some class out wide and I can’t wait to play alongside Josh Jones – he’s a tough cookie with a point to prove this year.”
At the age of 31, it’s perhaps fair to say that Edwards has learned from his past indiscretions in the NRL. And there’s one particular hero that stands out in helping him through the rocky times.
“I like to think I’ve grown as a person and as a father since my days in the NRL,” he says.
“I had a great role model in (Parramatta coach) Brad Arthur, who tried to keep me in line and I still talk to him about life to this day.
“You live and you learn and I’m learning every day and it is exactly the same on the field. I just try to get better every day.”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.