Ex-Kiwis star Shaun Kenny-Dowall about to make Newcastle Knights debut
Former Kiwis star back Shaun Kenny-Dowall admits he has to repay the lifeline the Knights have thrown him when he makes his club debut against former club Sydney Roosters on Friday.
A month after his contract was torn up by the Roosters following an illicit drugs charge, the controversial centre was named in the Knights line-up by coach Nathan Brown on Tuesday.
Kenny-Dowall was among a host of key inclusions across the competition, including the return of a number of State of Origin players for their respective clubs.
The Roosters have turned to Connor Watson at fullback and Mitchell Cornish at hooker following injuries to respective regulars Michael Gordon and Jake Friend.
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Penrith veteran Peter Wallace and skipper Matt Moylan were also included for their crucial clash with Gold Coast, while Titans playmaker Kane Elgey is on an extended bench.
Mason Lino replaces Warriors star Shaun Johnson at halfback.
But it is the anticipated first Knights appearance of Kenny-Dowall that will draw plenty of interest when he takes on his ex-teammates back at Allianz Stadium.
The New Zealander said he owes much to Brown, Knights chief executive Matt Gidley, and the Newcastle community.
"(I'm) so grateful. Browny really did stick by me through a tough time, and Gids and the club. I want to work hard and repay the faith," he told reporters on Tuesday.
"I want to earn the respect of the coach, players and the Newcastle community as a whole. I learnt a lot of lessons and I just want to be the best person I can be for the Knights and myself."
The 29-year-old conceded it was a challenge going from a team contending for the premiership to a club rebuilding with plenty of youngsters, but is confident they would put up a fight.
The Knights are on track to finish with their third straight wooden spoon.
"They showed last week that they can compete with quality opposition and the Roosters are a great team so it's going to be a great challenge," Kenny-Dowall said.
"If we can play to our potential, we can be competitive; we have shown that and we've just got to get the little areas right and go toe to toe with them."
Origin stars Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire return for Brisbane's match against Canterbury, who get their own representative troupe back in Brett Morris, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer.
James Maloney slots back into five-eighth after being given a rest by Cronulla, while Melbourne's Origin sextet have also been named for Saturday's road trip to Canberra.
Euan Aitken and Tyson Frizell are also welcome additions for St George Illawarra who play Manly at WIN Stadium on Sunday.