Roosters star honoured by 200-game milestone
Shaun Kenny-Dowall has come a long way since his backpacking days, and on Saturday night, will run out for his beloved Roosters for the 200th time.
After debuting in his side's 18-6 Round 1 loss to the Rabbitohs in 2007, Kenny-Dowall never thought he'd reach Saturday night's milestone.
But now he's here, the Roosters winger wants to pay thanks to the club that gave him his chance in the NRL and has stuck by him ever since.
"It's going to be a pretty proud day. 200, it's a big milestone and I'm really looking forward to getting out there on Saturday," Kenny-Dowall said.
"Probably not in my wildest dreams did I think I'd play 200, but here I am 10 years on and still in the red, white and blue jumper, in probably one of the best areas in Sydney. I wouldn't have had it any other way.
"They gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream and play rugby league. It's developed me into the person I am today. I've learnt a lot along the way, and I'm very thankful to the club for that opportunity."
For a backpacker touring around Australia, Kenny-Dowall is now within striking distance of Roosters legend Anthony Minichiello's try-scoring record at the club.
The former fullback tallied 139 tries in his 302-game career, and SKD is hot on his heels, currently on 112.
"It's a sort of running joke Mini and I have. I don't really try to think about it too much but if I keep playing good football, then it's definitely a possibility," the milestone-man said.
"I'm just fortunate to be out there amongst someone like Mini and that's a very proud achievement in itself."
Kenny-Dowall's rugby league career has been full of incredible accomplishments, but he couldn't go past the 2013 premiership as the moment that stood out most.
The 28-year-old scored the game-turning try in the 60th minute to give his side the lead, and it was revealed after the game that he had played the majority of the match with a fractured jaw.
"Many great players play this game and don't get that opportunity, so to be able to play in two grand finals and win one is definitely the highlight of my career and something I'll remember forever," Kenny-Dowall said.
While success has been synonymous for Kenny-Dowall and the Bondi club in recent years, the Roosters are in the midst of their worst run to start a season since the Chris Anderson-coached side in 2007.
The Roosters started that year with five straight losses, and finished the season with the 13th worst defence in the competition, conceding 610 points along the way.
Three rounds into 2016 and the Roosters find themselves winless and with the worst defensive record in the NRL. Kenny-Dowall says it's impossible to compare the two campaigns, but acknowledges the need to reinforce the 'Bondi Wall'.
"I think we had one marker that year so it was interesting. That was a long time ago, but we've come a long way since then," he said.
"We've been the benchmark for defence over the last three years. There's no secret that that's definitely fallen away. That's a key area we're working very hard on to turn around. It's been a good reality check over the first three rounds.
"We have to get our defence on and get back to the way the Roosters defend and have a steely mentality. We need to have that desperation to stop tries and to make those tackles.
"I think we've got that mentality this week and we'll want to take that out onto the field this Saturday."