Shaun Kenny-Dowall deserved a better send-off than that. Here’s an attempt.

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

(Stats courtesy of The Rugby League Project)

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):

Bedlam.

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.

SKD GF 2013

Source: The Daily Telegraph

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.

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25 responses to “Shaun Kenny-Dowall deserved a better send-off than that. Here’s an attempt.

  1. Here here… he deserved better… I understand the club’s frustration… but he was an amazing player on his day… thanks for the email. Needed that!!!

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    • you’re welcome James. It was a really sad end to a career at the club — and that statement wasn’t enough for all he put in to the Roosters on and off the field. It didn’t sit right.

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  2. Great words mate, such a shame they didn’t come from someone at the Club. I hope Shaun gets to read them and if he does, thanks for everything mate, you will be missed.

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    • I hope he does too — because he deserved more than what the Roosters publicly dished out. So cold, man. I hope in private they actually did more than that.

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  3. why you make me cry like that. I am at work! I agree, shitty way to go and ever poorer send-off. I really hope he reads this. Great post.

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    • Sorry mate! Just let them flow, screw it. I hope he does too, because he copped so much shit during his time that it’d be good for him to know the fans truly did appreciate him.

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  4. Lovely “Obituary” Jake, well done.

    I find the whole business very curious indeed. From the allegations against Shaun to the cold statement from Easts.

    I wouldn’t claim to know Shaun, but have met him several times. In my brief time on the Clovelly Crocodiles exec, Shaun was always our “go to” man for gear for fund raising, appearances at presentation nights, registration days, training or whatever. To my knowledge Shaun never said no to a request. When he was with the kids he was always so friendly and engaged. All the kids loved him. I have no idea if the allegations against him are true or not, but I do know they are totally at odds with the man who was so supportive of his junior club.

    The rule of law in the country is, fortunately, that anyone is innocent until proven otherwise.

    Easts’ statement was damning in it’s lack of acknowledgement of Shaun’s considerable achievements on the field and his commitment off it – not only to the senior club, but league in the area, particularly with Clovelly.

    He deserved better.

    Only he and the Roosters know the full story, and for any of us to speculate on it without knowing the facts is foolish.

    If there is more to it, the club should have kept quiet until the court process has taken its course. Such a cold press release speaks well neither for Easts nor for Shaun.

    Whatever the future holds for him, I will always remember him fondly as a wonderful player and club man. On his best day he was unstoppable. On his worst he could never be accused of lacking effort. He always gave 100%.

    I wish him well, and hope that at some point, sooner or later, Easts will give him proper respect regardless of the outcome of the court.

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    • Damn. You just said in a couple of hundred words what i didn’t address in 1700. You’re right, maybe in time they will give him his props. I hope so. For now, it’s juts a bitterly disappointing end to his career, not helped at all by a cold release. We may never know the full story, and that’s fine. I just wish they had put something resembling emotion into that release. It was, in a word, brutal.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe they will in time? Who knows… there’s obviously more to his sacking than meets the eye, but regardless that statement was just absent of any emotion whatsoever.

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  5. I have followed Easts/Roosters since 1956, this is the most unprofessional management performance by senior management at our beloved club ever and that’s saying something.

    SKD was a real character, loved the club and yes he as rocks but who cares. His time at the Roosters will not be forgotten I wish him the very best for the future. Born a Rooster 24/6/47 Easts beat Saints at the old Sydney Sports Ground.

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    • well said Mike. There certainly seems to be a disconnect between our expectations of management and what they’re giving fans, to be honest. That could all change in time i guess.

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  6. 100% agree!! The only thing I don’t agree with is the seriousness of the crime. 2 weeks before that Papali pleads guilty to drink driving and plays the next day! But that’s beside the point. I have been a Roosters supporter for 40 years and have never been left feeling so empty about the club as I do now. I rang the club and suggested that he be allowed a send off in front of the Chook Pen. I got the regulation blah blah in reply. Depending on how the players feel this has the potential to derail the season. Please get to Newcastle before June 30 and we get to see you a few weeks later. I assure you he will get the biggest cheer an opposition player has ever gotten. Love you Skiddsy

    Liked by 2 people

    • The crime is serious enough in a vacuum, and while we don’t know the full details of what happened that night (though many of us have heard the rumours) a possession charge is a big enough deal to warrant sanction and yes, in a vacuum, a contract being torn up. In light of other indiscretions around the league it pales, that’s for sure. But maybe this is the line in the sand? Though i’ve said that before about countless indiscretions and their subsequent punishments in the past.

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  7. 100% agree!! The only thing I don’t agree with is the seriousness of the crime. 2 weeks before that Papali pleads guilty to drink driving and plays the next day! But that’s beside the point. I have been a Roosters supporter for 40 years and have never been left feeling so empty about the club as I do now. I rang the club and suggested that he be allowed a send off in front of the Chook Pen. I got the regulation blah blah in reply. Depending on how the players feel this has the potential to derail the season. Please get to Newcastle before June 30 and we get to see you a few weeks later. I assure you he will get the biggest cheer an opposition player has ever gotten. Love you Skiddsy

    Liked by 1 person

    • The club has been wholly uncommunicative to its customers for a long time now. they make a lot of noise about listening to us, but they aren’t hearing a thing.

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  8. Skidsy was one of our greatest clubmen it’s a bloody disgrace the lack of respect he was shown.Thanks for this post I reckon Sean will always be a legend regardless of his departure in SKD WE TRUSTED

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s Shaun’s dad here John , that’s a great review of his 13 years of service to the roosters our memories of his time here we will only remember with pleasure and joy it’s sad for us too that his time here is over , I’ve not a bad word to say about the club at all they have been like a family to us I’m sure in time Shaun will address his fans at the club thank you all for the wonderful memories but for me 2013 is the greatest memory of all thank you all John dowall and family cheers

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey John, your son deserved it. He bled for the club and I hope he’s doing ok all things considered. I’m sure the next few weeks you’ll see a bit of an outpouring at games from fans who feel a little peeved at how this all went down. We all love your son and what he did for the Roosters and we’ll never forget the SKD era!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. That was a well scripted, heartfelt, beautifully written peice of writing. Thank you for doing what the Official Roosters media rep failed to do. His fans will miss him terribly, and i personally only wish all good things for this wonderful human.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Love SKD … The Roosters should have a hard look at them selves… If they treat players who fans love and players treat as an equal … his departure was disappointing to say the least …. SKD u deserve better than the disrespect the board have shown u … I can not believe how they have treated u… Be proud Shaun you are the one who can hold your head high … shame on the board .. ❤️💙🐔SKD

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  12. Excellent piece Jake.
    Reliving that amazing 2010 also brought tears to my eyes
    All the best for the future ‘Skidsy’, we loved your commitment & passion.
    And to the %^)&$ Roosters management, I look forward to your call asking me to renew my membership for 2018. You will get a gobful! I’ve been a very passionate supporter since the late 50’s & I have never been so disgusted.

    Like

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