Shaun Kenny-Dowall deserved better than that from the Roosters.
No, I’m not talking about cutting him. Rare is the player who becomes a one-club icon and most are forced out in some fashion or another. SKD’s departure just happens to coincide with a decent reason: a possession charge. It’s a serious charge and we shouldn’t take that lightly.
I’m talking about that piss-weak excuse of a statement on the Roosters website announcing he was being released, effective immediately.
When we’re speaking about a player who is the second-leading tryscorer in the club’s century-plus history who once answered the question “which club would you refuse to ever play for” with “Souths”, and who loved the club more than players in this business-first era ever do, a statement on his departure from the club – scandalous or otherwise – is no place for aphorisms.
The superlatives should have flowed like blood from SKD’s jaw on the 6th October, 2013. He earned at least that much.
Yes, he was frustrating as hell. He was prone to a fumble, loved a sideways run and his defence didn’t have you confusing him with Matt Cooper. He once threw a pass right to Darius Boyd in a grand final qualifier and on more than a few occasions had fans going for a concussion test after the collective group either slapped their heads in frustration or headbutted the chair in front of them.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall wasn’t the perfect player. But he was a Rooster.
Sure, there’s no way you can really polish a turd, and SKD’s possession charge (no matter how you think that night went down) is certainly a turd. But the Roosters didn’t even try to roll the turd in glitter.
Instead, their tactic was to send off a player who had literally bled for the club with a few terse words and a refusal to comment further.
I won’t reprint the statement, as you can read it for all its glory on the club’s website. But it was a few paragraphs wishing him all the best. That’s it. No stats, no acknowledgement of his role at the club, his rapport with fans or any recognition of what he did in 2010 and 2013. No video, no pomp, nothing. Just the media statement version of a smokebomb.
I don’t give a shit why they cut him. He deserved a proper send off, if not in a game then at least in a statement that had warmth and emotion. Not the cold, harsh truth and nothing else.
Screw the club. They read the tea leaves wrong on this one and didn’t understand the depth of feeling the fans had for a player that was both maddening and endearing, who we watched become more than just a backpacker who trialled at the club in his teens. We watched him grow up, we supported him through the shitty times and loved him through all the good, and his departure requires more than a regurgitation of the statement reserved for Paul Carter or, heck, even Todd Carney.
So without further ado, this is an attempt at acknowledging Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s long career at one of the code’s foundation clubs. It’s an attempt to give him a semblance of the send-off he has earned, one that the club deemed unneccessary.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall: a Roosters Career in Numbers
Games Played: 224
Tries: 121 – second all-time at the club
Goals: three (from five attempts – he kicked them the year we won the spoon)
Premierships: one (2013), a tryscorer in a premiership
Grand Final Appearances: two (2010,2013)
Finals appearances: 13 – seven tries in the finals
Win-loss record 2007-2017: 114 wins, 109 losses, one draw
Rep career: 21 matches for New Zealand, nine tries, 12 wins and nine losses
Awards: 2010 RLIF Centre of the Year, equal leading tryscorer in the NRL, 2010 (21 tries)
Top three moments of Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s career
“I thought Shaun Kenny-Dowall was pretty good tonight”: four tries versus the Broncos, Rd 20, 2010
What a year 2010 was. Shaun had always shown potential in his career, especially as a tackle-buster, but no-one saw this kind of year coming for the centre, or for the club in general. They started out the year in an up-and-down rhythm, sandwiching wins with losses and generally lacking a personality. Todd Carney was playing fullback for some reason and the club didn’t seem like one destined for a grand final appearance.
So they finally moved Carney to five-eighth and they started rattling off wins. Funny that. Prior to the Broncos game in Round 20 they won three straight games, and they’d win the next one against the Eels in the best offensive display by the club that year, and arguably this decade, in winning 48-12.
But the Broncos game was something else.
Leading by 22 with 26 minutes remaining, the Roosters let in a barrage of tries to take the lead with 10 to go in controversial fashion, before SKD scored his fourth try to regain the lead for the Roosters, seal the match and propel the Roosters to third on the ladder, a year after finishing with the wooden spoon.
Carney was the star, but no-one truly remembers his performance, because Shaun’s fourgasm is in the books as something we’ve not witnessed as Roosters fans in the modern era. Downplaying Carney’s performance to avoid giving the Eels any ammunition for their next encounter (one reporter compared his performance to Jarryd Hayne’s versus the Bulldogs a week earlier), coach Brian Smith said at the time “Gee, was it that good? I mean he was awesome. I thought Shaun Kenny-Dowall was pretty good tonight.”
Yeah he was, and more than that, he was memorable.
“Gibbs is after him, Fulton’s after him, they are not gonna get him although here’s Simon Dwyer late, Tuqiri late… but there’s Kenny-Dowall!”: Intercept try versus the Tigers, Preliminary Final, 2010
They were billing this as one of the games of the year. Little did they know this would become one of the most incredible games of all time, one often cited as the greatest game in NRL history – and not just by Roosters fans.
The Tigers led this one 15-2 and the Roosters didn’t look like scoring. From the kick-off, the Tigers were amped and didn’t let their foot off the clutch for the majority of the game. But then Carney came alive, setting up Mitchell Pearce’s try from a break to make it 15-8, and then chipping-chasing and finding Braith Anasta out wide to get it to 15-14. We all know what happened next, and while this is Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s tribute, this video simply has to go in here to, um, set the context (not because I really want to watch this again or anything, I swear):
But it wasn’t over yet. What followed was near miss after near miss, and an extra 17 minutes of play before the soon-to-be-crowned RLIF Centre of the Year did this:
That we can all recite Ray Warren’s commentary verbatim is testament to how important this moment was in the club’s history. And the sweetest of ironies is that the man who took the intercept was someone who is oft-criticised for his poor hands.
“I didn’t want to let my teammates down”: playing with a broken jaw versus the Sea Eagles, Grand Final 2013
We all know what happened in this game: Sonny Bill Williams dominated the second half, Daniel Tupou made David “Wolfman” Williams look like a lead-footed statue and the Roosters pulled out the victory to claim the trophy for the first time in an 11 year span that featured three grand final losses and a wooden spoon.
We remember Michael Jennings scoring a diving miracle and in the process going viral, and we remember looking at Shaun after the game and wondering why his mouth was so bloody.
Well, it turns out he played the game with a broken jaw after fracturing it early. He just didn’t tell anyone. Trent Robinson noticed the blood and thought he looked ordinary at half-time, but didn’t dare ask what the issue was because, well, they needed him.
And how were we to know? The game is brutal, sure, and blood happens in rugby league. But a broken jaw? After all, he took a spiral pass from Anthony Minichiello in the second half and scored the try that tied the game with a kick to come, and no-one noticed him shirking any responsibility because, in a nutshell, he didn’t.
And SKD didn’t say a word until after the game, when word spread that he’d fractured the jaw among media and fans. He played 75 minutes with a broken jaw, and didn’t mention it. Why?
“I just didn’t want to let my team mates down,” he told media after the game, but not before providing us an iconic image.
He never made a big song and dance about it. That’s the kind of guy SKD was to this club: humble, loyal and dedicated.
And if the club refuses to send him out the right way, screw them. At least his career – warts and all – will never be forgotten by the fans who watched him become a man.
Let me rephrase that so as to not speak on behalf of all fans: I’ll never forget the Shaun Kenny-Dowall era at Easts, and even with all his flaws, I’ll remember him fondly.