''You'd be the second-most wanted Naden now'' … teenager Brent Naden. Photo: Wellington Times
PENRITH are on the brink of signing the cousin of Malcolm Naden, the man who was Australia's most-wanted man before his capture in March.
Panthers general manager Phil Gould met 16-year-old Brent Naden in Dubbo on Monday and wants to bring the talented teenager, from nearby Wellington, to the NRL club to play in the SG Ball under-age competition.
A junior representative centre, Naden is also the focus of interest from four other NRL clubs but was excited to be courted personally by Gould, a face he knows well as a prominent television commentator.
''I was a bit shell-shocked meeting him for the first time,'' Naden told the Herald. He said he had never met his notorious relative, who is accused of murder and had been on the run for six years before his recent capture. ''With my Western Rams under-18s team, all the coaches and all the boys call me Malcolm,'' he said. ''They don't call me Brent, they just say 'Mal'. I just take it on the chin, I know they're only mucking around with me. Even mum says, 'You'd be the second-most wanted Naden now', with the [interest of] NRL clubs. I just have a sense of humour about it.''
The emerging talent said he would wait until having a meeting with representatives from other clubs chasing his signature before making a decision whether to join Penrith, but was eager to get on the pathway towards an NRL career.
Gould said last night he had made the trip to Dubbo in an attempt to entice Naden and another promising junior from the central west of the state to Penrith. 'What an outstanding young man,'' Gould said. ''Actually I met two outstanding young men in Dubbo on Monday. Both come from wonderful families. Both very talented players. Love to have them at the Panthers.''
Meanwhile, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary says he has no concerns with the off-field behaviour of star centre Michael Jennings. Gould said the 23-year-old had been reminded of ''certain obligations'' at a recent meeting between him and his manager. Cleary was ''very happy with the situation and it's been dealt with. Michael was happy to get back out on the field and he should be fine,'' he said. ''He's been very good this year and, with Origin selection coming up, he's keen to impress. So far this season he's done that.''