Photo by Colin Whelan copyright © nrlphotos.com :  Jarrad Kennedy  NRL Rugby League, Telstra Cup Round 3 Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans at Canberra Stadium, Friday March 23rd  2014.

Despite playing a handful of matches since making his NRL debut in 2012, this season can be undeniably be titled as Jarrad Kennedy’s breakthrough year with the hard working back-rower establishing himself as a feature of Ricky Stuart’s top 17.

Prior to this season, Kennedy had played in a total of six NRL matches over two years however in 2014 Kennedy played his highest number of games in a season, appearing in 20 games in total.

Kennedy has earned a reputation as one of the fittest, if not the fittest forward at the club and his outstanding fitness levels again came to prominence during pre-season testing.

Kennedy’s efforts during the pre-season drew special praise from Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Nigel Ashley Jones and in turn impressed Stuart a great deal.

After promising form in the Auckland Nines and in the side’s two trials, Kennedy was selected on the interchange bench for the Round 1 clash against the North Queensland Cowboys.

Kennedy’s aim at the start of the year was to become a consistent first grader and after spending the previous four seasons toiling away in reserve grade following his NYC premiership in 2008, the 25 year old had finally broken into the Raiders NRL line-up for Round 1.

Now he had to perform well enough to retain the spot that he had worked so hard for.

Kennedy was a solid contributor in the opening two rounds and was thrust into the starting side the following week due to an injury to Josh Papalii.

He was one of the side’s better players in the loss to the Titans and kept his place in the starting side for the victory over the Rabbitohs a week later.

Unfortunately a severe virus halted Kennedy’s progress and forced him to miss a week of football altogether in Round 5.

Kennedy returned to the starting side the following week however Stuart dropped Kennedy to the VB NSW Cup following the return of Papalii.

The workaholic back-rower played the next three games for Mounties before returning to the Raiders line-up in Round 10 following his good form. He would not lose his place in the side for the rest of the season.

As mentioned earlier Kennedy is extremely fit and agile for a forward. Due to this, Stuart asked Kennedy to fill in at centre during the middle of the year due to Canberra’s mounting injury toll.

Once again, Kennedy responded to the challenge and earned Stuart and his team mates respect in the process.

By the end of the year, Kennedy’s terrific performances had not only seen him establish himself in the Raiders top 17, but as a starting back-rower with a bright future ahead of him.

Kennedy can also take a great deal of confidence out of the fact that he finished in the top five for polling for the Meninga Medal and should use the confidence derived from his breakthrough year to build for an even better 2015.

Games: 20

Average Minutes: 73

Tries: 1

Try Assists: 1

Line Breaks: 4

Line Break Assists: 2

Tackle Breaks: 17

Average Metres: 78.8

Average Tackles: 29.15

Offloads: 8

Kick Metres: 2 kicks for 39