NRL: New goals after an unlucky break

By Michael Brown

Roosters' Kiwi star takes time off to heal, and now he's raring to go in a busy season that starts with the Nines

Shaun Kenny- Dowall played almost all of last year's NRL grand final with a broken jaw. Photo / Getty Images
Shaun Kenny- Dowall played almost all of last year's NRL grand final with a broken jaw. Photo / Getty Images

Shaun Kenny-Dowall is a little embarrassed about it.

After he played nearly the whole of last year's NRL grand final with a broken jaw, comparisons were made with John Sattler who played with a broken jaw in South Sydney's grand final win over Manly in 1970.

Sattler was floored by Manly's John Bucknall but refused medical treatment and insisted he continue.

It has gone down in Rabbitohs folklore, but Kenny-Dowall's emulation of it has made him a reluctant hero.

"I don't think it was an extraordinary feat," he said. "I think if anyone was in my position playing in a grand final, something you work so hard throughout your life to get to, it's a case of mind over matter. I really just wanted to be a part of it.

"It was pretty painful but I had a job to do out there and that was my main focus. I didn't want to let my teammates down. I tried not to think about it too much and instead focus on every play of every moment."

The best moment, aside from the final whistle, was when the centre scored a try with 20 minutes left to give the Roosters a 20-18 lead they never relinquished.

It was afterwards the pain really set in, and relief finally arrived in the form of a shot of morphine.

"Jumping around, I knocked it a few times and realised something was up," Kenny-Dowall said.

His coach, Trent Robinson, knew earlier.

"I looked at him at halftime and I saw his jaw was a little bit out to the side," Robinson said afterwards. "I didn't want to ask him and he looked at me and said he didn't want to tell me if there was anything wrong."

The injury required surgery and Kenny-Dowall had to miss the Kiwis' World Cup campaign.

The 26-year-old, a regular in the side since 2007, would have been an automatic choice at centre. But instead he had to watch his countrymen being overrun by Australia in the World Cup final.

There were other painful moments. He lost about 6kg because he couldn't eat properly, and also suffered an infected mouth.

The injury had one positive spinoff - he had his first off-season in three years and is now raring to go when the new NRL season starts next month.

Before that, he will be part of the Roosters side to play in next weekend's Auckland Nines. The Roosters have come under considerable criticism for saying they will leave out all nine players who took part in the World Cup, including Sonny Bill Williams and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and include 42-year-old Brad Fittler who retired from the NRL in 2004.

Auckland Nines rules dictate they must include one of their top-five earners and 12 of their top 25, but it hasn't stopped many suggesting the Roosters are damaging the credibility of the tournament.

"That's rubbish," Kenny-Dowall said. "We have a lot of bright, young talent and some of our big names will be playing as well. It's not something we are taking lightly.

"You can expect us to be competitive."

But their focus is undoubtedly on the World Club Challenge against Wigan the following weekend - which will be contested on Australian soil for the first time in 20 years - and then trying to defend their NRL crown.

They will field a settled outfit - retired former Australia and NSW second-rower Luke O'Donnell is the main loss and French prop Remi Casty the notable addition - and one with plenty of power and skill.

Kenny-Dowall says they now have a target on their backs but it must be less afflictive than a broken jaw.

Nines - key facts

• All 16 NRL clubs will contest the Auckland Nines at Eden Park next weekend.

• As the name suggests, teams have nine players, each with five forwards required to pack down in scrums.

• 31 games - each of two nine-minute halves - will be played during the two days.

• Prizemoney totals A$2.25 million ($2.44 million). The winning club takes A$370,000, and the prizes go down to A$110,000 for clubs eliminated after the round robin.

• Clubs are required to include one of their top-five earners and 12 of their top 25 players in their 16-man squads.

• There are four pools of four teams, and the top two sides from each progress to the quarter-finals.

- NZ Herald

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