Kevin Canning is one of the principals of the Penrith Men’s Walk & Talk, which starts every Thursday night in the Coffee Club opposite Tench Reserve.

A Life Member of both the Emu Plains Junior Rugby League Football Club and the P&C Association, Kevin is driven by a desire to be actively involved in the community, whether through his family life, his work or the Men’s Walk & Talk.

Born in Paddington, Kevin lived the first two years of his life in Annandale, before the family moved to Emu Plains in 1973.

He attended Emu Plains PS and Nepean HS, then took up a Carpentry trade, receiving his ticket in 1990.

Initially working as an employee in the Construction Industry, the recession in 1992 saw him become a Self Employed Contractor, still working in the Construction Industry, and he continues to apply his trade to this day, now in partnership with his wife Alisse.

Kevin and Alisse married in 1994 at St Thomas Anglican Church Mulgoa, and have three children, Larissa, Jarrod and Matthew, with their first grandchild also on the way due early August.

An introduction to Rugby League at the age of 3 subsequently turned into a 21-year career, beginning with two years in Under 7’s and progressing over the ensuing years through to A Grade, where he would be coached by former Penrith NRL coach Len Stacker, former grade players Cliff Cartwright and Grant Drinkwater. and play alongside a number of ex-Panthers, including Legend of the Nepean Brett Lobb, Jody Gall and Matt Sing.

Jarrod, Alisse, Matthew, Larissa, Kevin.

Among the highlights from his Rugby League career is being a member of the Club’s first ever premiership-winning team in 1981.

A second premiership title was attained in Under 19’s Division One, where he would score the winning try in the Grand Final.

Cricket also played a part in Kevin’s life as a boy, playing as an all-rounder for Emu Plains and representing Penrith in Nepean District cricket competition. Cricket would however become too all-consuming, from competing in the school team mid-week, the club team on Saturdays and the representative team on Sundays.

Cricket’s loss was however Rugby League’s gain, and Kevin would play League through to the age of 27, when he then retired, switching his focus to coaching, training and committee involvement. In total Kevin has dedicated over 40 years of service to the game of rugby league.

As his sons’ junior careers gained momentum, Kevin moved with them to Glenmore Park JRLFC and would continue his involvement in the sport for the next 7 years, before younger son Matthew moved on to St Marys, where he would go on to represent Penrith in the SG Ball.

Whilst involved in all the different aspects of Rugby League, Kevin would quite often still be at the football ground at 8pm, 4 days per week, socialising with friends after training, meetings or games.

Life changed somewhat, when he retired from coaching and his youngest got his driver’s licence. Kevin suddenly lost his connection with the social network of the Rugby League community.

In 2018, he realised he needed a new goal and set out with Alisse to walk 10km per day.

Kevin noticed a marked difference in his physical and mental health, so decided he would like to also take up this activity with his mates, to reinvigorate broken social connections.

After elder son Jarrod had attended funerals for four young men by the time he was 21, Kevin realised there was a deeper need in the community for men, both young and old, to connect with others to foster communication and discussion, rather than face issues in isolation.

A message to that purpose was put on Facebook and Kevin was inundated with positive responses.

A subsequent discussion with Paul Wallace led both men to invite Alan Harding, who had lost one son to suicide and was also looking for a purpose and resolution to his life.

Jamie Large and Billy Beggs also both came on board at the outset, with Andrew Paech (Westcare) subsequently joining the quintet when Westcare stepped in as the official partner of the Penrith Men’s Walk and Talk.

From an initial walking group of 19 men, the number of walkers at Penrith’s Men’s Walk & Talk now averages around 40 walkers each Thursday night.

Offshoot groups have since been formed in other districts and states, all inspired by the success of the Penrith Men’s Walk & Talk, which Australian television and radio personality Gus Worland, the founder of Gotcha4Life, describes as ‘The biggest Men’s Mental Health weekly walk in the Southern Hemisphere’.

Kevin has received both a ‘Premiers Award’ and a ‘Community Service Award’ but regards the greatest achievement in his life as his family. “We are a very close-knit family,” said Kevin.

Kevin Canning was nominated as a Legend of the Nepean by Andrew Paech.

If you know a local legend, send us a nomination at nepeannews@aol.com