Wise head: Brent Kite is on the move at 32. Photo: Getty Images
As he approaches his final match for Manly at Brookvale Oval, fittingly against his future club Penrith, Brent Kite says he can see similarities between his early days at the Sea Eagles and the Panthers of today.
Kite joined the Sea Eagles in 2005, the club having had two lean years previously. Within three years, they had made a grand final, and within four they had won one. The front-rower, now 32 and with a two-year contract with Penrith, is convinced their rebuild looks in part like what he saw at Manly. ''I've kept my eyes on the Panthers, for sure,'' Kite said. ''I like what I see there. They've got a good mix of guys - not too many egos, by the look of it. It's similar to when I first came here. They [the Sea Eagles] were a team on the improve.
''They're on the up. You get the right people at a club … they've had a few lean years, but I think they could turn it around quick, given the type of people they have out there. I've been recruited to do a bit of a job, and I want to fulfil that. When someone shows a bit of faith in me, I want to repay it. I'm not going there for a holiday.''
Kite even considered retirement (''a couple of times, but the bank balance didn't allow that''), before discussions with Panthers executive general manager of rugby league Phil Gould convinced him he had something to offer a new club.
''The offers don't flood in when you're 32,'' Kite said.
''I think the club will concede that they had to move me on, unless it was going to be play for a meat pie and a can of Coke … it wasn't that bad, but I think there were plans to move me on. Not that they ever said that. I was looking around, and I've probably got to credit Gus.
''I think he's seen hopefully the value of a bit of leadership. He hasn't just seen a 32-year-old veteran maybe who's on the decline. He's seen the value in getting someone who's got a few runs on the board.
''You speak to the old heads, and they say you're a long time retired. It's hard to get that notion when the body's not feeling as great as it used to. But I've got to say, it's feeling good enough.''
While sad to be farewelling Brookvale - at least while wearing a Manly jersey - on Sunday, Kite said he was ''excited about getting over to Penrith next year''. But he added quickly: ''Hopefully there's a bit more footy left for the Eagles.''