Kenny-Dowall warms to wing task
Veteran Roosters back Shaun Kenny-Dowall has been one of the best wingers in the competition over the opening month of the 2016 season and says he is warming to the job after spending five years in closer to the action at centre.
The 200-game one-club-man spent his first three seasons, from 2007-09, as a Roosters winger before a full five years almost exclusively at centre.
He was moved wider last year, in large part to accommodate the recruitment of Blake Ferguson, and while he shone – scoring 17 tries – it pales in comparison to his dominance over the start of 2016.
In a team battered by high-profile departures and long term absences through injury and suspension to key players, Kenny-Dowall has shouldered the load, rolled up his sleeves and churned through 130 metres per week and a massive 28 tackle breaks (one behind competition leader, Tigers fullback James Tedesco), with four line breaks – and a try-scoring double last week in his 200th game.
"It has been a good start to the year for myself personally but it's pretty bittersweet, being 0-4, it's a tough position to be in and I'm just trying to do my best to help influence the team and get the team going forward," Kenny-Dowall told NRL.com.
"I've really developed as a winger and feel comfortable out there and that's where Trent [Robinson] wants me at the moment so I'm trying to do the best I can for the team on the wing at the moment."
Kenny-Dowall said the magnitude of last week's 200-game milestone wasn't lost on him – even if he'd preferred to have brought it up with a win.
"To play 200 games for this great club, only seven players have done it before me in the past so it was a very big achievement and it was a pretty emotional day for me," he said.
"I was very disappointed not to get the win but to put on the jersey for the 200th time in front of the home fans and my family was a special moment and one that I'll remember forever."
The 28-year-old is also a relatively rare senior face in the backline and said he was doing his best to help young tearaways like teenage fullback Latrell Mitchell adapt to first grade.
"I think we're doing our best in everything we can to try and make that transition for those guys into first grade as easy as we can and we're trying to help them learn their lessons early on. It's been a tough start for them but I think they're doing a great job," he said.
While not wanting to delve deeply into the past, Kenny-Dowall did pay thanks to the support shown to him by club, coach and teammates through a challenging few months as he fought and beat charges brought against him in court.
"I was very fortunate that the club supported me through that tough time and allowed me to have a very solid pre-season and that was my mindset – I was preparing to play and have a really good 2016 and it's all in the past now so to be able to move forward with a clear conscience and a clear mind and just really be able to concentrate on my football has done me wonders," he said.
"I was very grateful for the support and the environment the boys created for me through that tough time and it enabled me to get away from everything that was going on off the field and really concentrate on my football so there's a great bunch of boys here who always had my back."
As he prepares for his 201st NRL game, Kenny-Dowall said the mood among the squad was still excellent despite the shock 0-4 start to the year.
"We're remaining positive, it's only been four games, we're one month into a six-month season so there's still plenty of football to be had. Next week is another week and we're preparing to win this week and hopefully we can come away with a result," he said.
"We've had really great defence over the past three years. We're trying to put a real steely focus on our mentality towards our defence. Leaking 40 points is definitely not Roosters style and we're trying to get back to the way we defended and hopefully we can get back to that this week against the Warriors."
This article was originally featured on NRL.COM