When the New Zealand players in the Penrith Panthers squad were given 20 tickets each to dish out for their NRL trial match against the Warriors in Hamilton, Sam McKendry had no trouble in thinking of recipients.
The Panthers and Kiwis prop had a large fan base at Saturday's game at Waikato Stadium, with a host of family members on hand to watch the 23-year-old's first outing of the season.
McKendry's grandma lives in Hamilton and after she got to spend time with him during the week she then got to see her 1.88m, 115kg grandson put in his trademark heavy hit-ups on the paddock.
She was joined by Sam's dad from Whitianga and his mum from Dargaville, along with a host of others who had made the journey to see him.
"Yeah it's always good to play in front of the family," said McKendry, who was born in Perth before moving to Dargaville as a youngster.
After joining the Panthers in 2008 McKendry will be on track to rack up 100 matches for the Western Sydney club either this season or next.
Already he's proved a key figure at international level with seven tests for the Kiwis after debuting in 2010.
This season, in order to better Penrith's 15th placing from last year, his main focus is individual and team consistency under the watchful eye of coach Ivan Cleary.
"He's got a good game-plan and we just have to execute it.
"When we execute it we win games.
"That's all it comes down to," said McKendry, who was happy to get his first run of 2013 done and dusted.
"It was pretty tough today, you're always blowing when you play your first game, but it was good to come away with the win."
"The lungs were burning out there, I got a shot to the ribs and I couldn't breathe for a while, I was struggling for a bit."
But McKendry was able to ensure his family saw him a winner.
His Panthers proved too good for the Warriors, who he delighted in beating.
"They're always a physical side when you play against them, especially playing against a few of the Kiwi boys," he said.
But he said that there was a friendly rivalry between himself and them.
"It's always a bit of a laugh out on the field, it's nice.
"There's a little bit of cheek there."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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