Brent Naden is the first to admit he used to take offence at people judging him because of his surname.
The new Knights outside back has never met or had anything to do with his notorious cousin Malcolm Naden, Australia’s most wanted man before his capture in 2012 and subsequent jailing for life for murder, but he has carried the burden of association.
“My pop used to say you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives,”Naden said.
“My parents knew him but I’ve never met him and they did their best to distance us (the family) from him. When I was younger, it affected me though.
“When I first went to Penrith, it got brought up in the media all the time and it got to me a bit. But now, it’s water off a duck’s back.
“I’m all about trying to make my own name for myself now and I’m just really grateful to the Knights for giving me this opportunity.
“Hopefully, I can repay their faith.”
The 22-year-old centre or winger has linked with the Knights after stints with Penrith and Canberra.
He joined the Panthers as a 17-year-old from Wellington with Phil Gould flying to Dubbo to sign him after seeing him play for the Western Rams in a curtain-raiser to Country-City Origin in Mudgee in 2012.
His father Geoff was an outstanding bush footballer with the Wellington Cowboys in Group 11 while his uncle Ian played for the Wests Magpies in Sydney in the mid-80s.
Naden captained the Panthers to a Holden Cup Under 20’s premiership in 2015 but despite a move to the Raiders in mid-2016, he is yet to cracked the NRL.
Homesickness has been one of his biggest issues and even now, he still struggles being away from his close-knit family in Wellington.
“Initially, when I was at Penrith, there were days where mum wouldn’t answer my calls because they knew I wanted to come home and even now it can get to me,”he said.
“I’ve actually taken the family off my social media so that I don’t see them having fun and me missing out. But Newcastle is a great town and the boys have been great to be around so that’s really helped.”
Knights coach Nathan Brown says he has seen plenty to like about Naden in the pre-season.
“He’s looked good at training and is someone who looks capable of taking that next step,” Brown said.
I’m all about trying to make my own name for myself now and I’m just really grateful to the Knights for giving me this opportunity.Brent Naden