NRL: The Kiwi boy who joined the elite with a $1.8m deal

By Steve Deane

Shaun Kenny-Dowall has bagged four tries in as many games. Photo / Getty Images
Shaun Kenny-Dowall has bagged four tries in as many games. Photo / Getty Images

He left New Zealand with a backpack and a dream - these days Shaun Kenny-Dowall returns home as a bona fide league superstar.

A sparkling Four Nations campaign for the Kiwis last year confirmed the Roosters' centre's elevation to the status of elite player.

Having previously played just one test against France as a 19-year-old in 2007, Kenny-Dowall was a fixture in the 2010 Kiwis side that took out their second major title in three years.

He scored tries in pool matches against England and Australia, and then got the Kiwis on the board with a crucial try just before halftime in the final.

Having emerged from his days as an unwanted junior at the Warriors to become a strike centre to rival the likes of Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges, Kenny-Dowall's long slog to the big time was rewarded earlier this year when he signed a four-year extension at the Roosters reported to be worth A$1.4 million ($1.8 million).

Given his well-documented humble beginnings, which included staying at a backpackers in Coogee for $15 a night and flipping burgers for the minimum wage, the Australian tabloids jumped all over his rags-to-riches story.

"From the backpackers to the penthouse", the headlines screamed.

"I wish I was living in a penthouse," Kenny-Dowall laughs. "Maybe one day if I save my money and do some good things with what I've got I might be able to afford a penthouse."

For now he makes do with an apartment he has bought in the beach-side suburb of Maroubra Junction.

Still, it's a far cry from where he began, and the financial rewards and job security sit nicely with him.

"I'm really happy to have my future secured," he said. "It's awesome. I'm really happy that the club showed faith in me. Now I just really want to concentrate on my football and repay the faith and play some good footy.

"We've got a great core group that is locked in for a long period of time, so I'm really looking forward to being amongst that and moving forward together as a unit."

Backing up from a season in which he scored 21 tries in 28 games, as the Roosters went to the grand final, will not be easy. These days Kenny-Dowall has a target on his back. Stopping the 1.9m, 101kg speedster goes a long way to stymieing a Roosters attack that can be among the deadliest in the competition.

"That's part and parcel of it," he said. "Teams will be doing their homework [on me] but that is another challenge I look forward too. And I've got confidence in my teammates. We've got two great halves and they give me the ball at the correct times. If we keep working well together we can keep our form up."

So far this season the signs have been good. The Roosters have been up and down in posting two wins and two losses, but Kenny-Dowall has had no problems getting over the chalk, bagging four tries in as many games to sit one off the competition lead.

He seems to enjoy playing the Warriors, too. In Christchurch last year, he was the dominant figure for 72 minutes, slicing up the Warriors' defence with three line breaks, scoring a try and setting up another as the Roosters coasted towards a routine victory.

A spectacular last-gasp Kevin Locke hat-trick changed all that, but Kenny-Dowall says revenge for that painful defeat isn't on the agenda.

"It is a whole new season and we are concentrating on this year. We are looking forward. What's done is done. We can't change that."

While the Warriors are sure to have done their homework on Kenny-Dowall, he admits the Roosters have had a long, hard look at emerging Warriors star Glen Fisiiahi.

"He has definitely got some talent there and the more game time he gets in first grade the better he is going to become," he said.

"We've done a lot of video work on [the Warriors]. We watched them last week and they look revitalised, they have got a lot of energy. We know we will have to be at our best to match them."

- NZ Herald

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