Cronulla team-mates and cousins, Will Kennedy and Braydon Trindall, grew up watching the annual All Stars match and dreaming of representing their Indigenous heritage together.
After establishing themselves at the Sharks in recent seasons, Kennedy and Trindall had continued to talk about their ambition but neither was expecting to be selected for Saturday night’s clash with the Maori All Stars at CommBank Stadium.
“I used to go to the game every year when it was on the Gold Coast,” Trindall said. “Seeing guys like Greg Inglis, Wendell Sailor, Matt Bowen and Johnathan Thurston play, I just dreamed of getting a chance one day, but there are so many talented Indigenous players I didn’t really get my hopes up.”
Trindall and his family would travel by train from Caboolture, near the Sunshine Coast, to the All Stars match on the Gold Coast after moving from Wee Waa in north-west NSW, while Kennedy watched the game on television in Bathurst.
His father, William “Bubba” Kennedy, made 61 first grade appearances for Balmain from 1996 to 1998 and is a bush legend but he never had the opportunity to represent his culture as the All Stars concept only begun in 2010.
We have been talking about it the last couple of years … ‘Imagine if we got chosen in All Stars’.
However, daughter Kandy, who was a member of the inaugural Sydney Roosters NRLW squad in 2018, has played for the Indigenous All Stars on four occasions and son Will is set to make his debut this year.
“They didn’t really have anything like this when my dad played so I think it is really good that we have got this game to showcase our culture and to represent those past players as well,” Kennedy said.
“My sister has played All Stars, so she beat me there. I remember going to Queensland to watch her play and I was very proud of what she has achieved.
“I always wanted to be a part of this team after watching all those great players like GI and JT, but watching my sister play made me want to play even more.”
After a break out 2021 season with the Sharks, 24-year-old Kennedy is expected to be named in the No.1 jersey by Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley, while Trindall is likely to spend time alongside star Cronulla recruit Nicho Hynes in the halves.
“It is really special to play with Willie K,” Trindall said. “We have been talking about it the last couple of years … ‘Imagine if we got to play, imagine if we got chosen in All Stars’.
“We are from the same area in north-west NSW and to get picked in the same year is really special.”
Kennedy, whose family originally hails from Walgett, is a proud Gamilaroi man – as is 22-year-old Trindall, who joined the Sharks in 2019 and played alongside his cousin in the Newtown team which won the NSW Cup grand final.
“We are pretty close,” Kennedy said. “We actually are related and to have him here at the club, and to play footy with him, we just know how the other plays and we just build off each other.
“For us to make it together is something very special and both our families are proud. When I called my mum and dad to tell them they were both very happy. Culture is a big thing in our family and to represent them and where all of my mob are from will mean a lot.
“We used to watch it on TV and I remember watching JT, and GI popping up in the dance … I get goose bumps from all of that so to be selected is really cool.”
Kennedy and Trindall are among seven Cronulla players set to play in the All Stars match – five of whom are in the Indigenous team, while Briton Nikora and Royce Hunt will play for the Maori All Stars team.
Hynes, centre Jesse Ramien and veteran prop Andrew Fifita are the other Sharks in the Indigenous team.
Trindall said he was looking forward to playing with Hynes, who starred at fullback for the Storm last season but has joined Cronulla as the club’s chief playmaker.
“Nicho has been good to work with.,” Trindall said. “He is good around the club and we are all working well together so he is a good fit.”