Greetings countrymen... Penrith prop Sam McKendry hopes to catch the eyes of Kiwi selectors with a big game against the Bulldogs on Friday night. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos.
The knock on the Panthers all year was that they had no Origin representatives and enjoyed a pretty favourable draw.
Well, Penrith prop Sam McKendry hopes the club's Kiwi contingent can get some recognition – starting with a big showing against the Bulldogs' international big men on Friday night.
"We don't really get much of a mention, us Kiwi boys. At the end of the day, it's always good to pull on the black and white jersey if you get the chance," McKendry told NRL.com on Monday.
In McKendry, Dean Whare, Elijah Taylor, Sika Manu and Lewis Brown, the Panthers boast five players who have pulled on the New Zealand jumper before.
Add young gun Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and that's a third of the current NRL side who are ineligible for Origin duties, almost making you wonder whether a strong Kiwi representation was a deliberate ploy to avoid the mid-season madness.
McKendry, 25, hoped the side's strong efforts this season – especially that of workhorse lock in Taylor – would be rewarded with Four Nations berths.
"They've all been playing well this year for sure. Especially 'ET'. He works hard on the field and he played there in the mid-year Test. He definitely deserves it," he said.
Penrith’s opponents this weekend, Canterbury-Bankstown, aren't exactly Kiwi-less themselves.
Fullback Sam Perrett joins forwards Sam Kasiano, Greg Eastwood and the injured Frank Pritchard as an experienced quartet from across the Tasman that could easily feature in coach Stephen Kearney's line-up in late October.
While Pritchard's season ended with a pectoral injury back in April, Kasiano and Eastwood in particular are in the type of form that could pit them against the Kangaroos later this year.
After missing last year's World Cup with a serious neck injury, McKendry said Friday's showdown – as well as the bigger games towards the end of the year – would go a long way to forcing his way back into the squad.
"I've just got to be persistent and play good. When we play against the stronger sides, that's when you've got to perform. I've got to step it up this weekend against Kasiano, Eastwood, Graham, they're all good forwards," he said.
"Last year it was unfortunate with my neck injury. I only played half the season. I don't think I had enough games to show that I could play in the World Cup. This year I was unfortunate as well as I hurt my ankle so I couldn't play in the ANZAC test.
"So I've got a lot of motivation to make the team. Hopefully we can play some semi-final football and it'll help me making that Test side."