Slammin’ Sam: Young Panthers prop Sam McKendry is living his childhood dream but it hasn’t come without adversity. Picture: Gary Warrick.WHETHER he’s chasing down a dream, a jersey or a try-line, Sam McKendry won’t fall without a hardy fight.
It’s the reason he cruised past four Sydney Roosters defenders to open the scoring with ease last weekend, it’s the brutal physicality that’s helped him become a distinguished Kiwi International and it’s the admirable strength of character that’s ensured he’s achieved a respectable NRL career.
And as the menacing prop begins his fifth first grade season with the Panthers, he’s just 22 years of age.
“Yeah, I’m living the dream,” he admits poolside at the team’s recovery session on Monday morning.
“I’ve had to work pretty hard but it was always the dream to play NRL, to play for my country — and now I’m living the dream.”
McKendry was born in Perth before jetting across to New Zealand as a youngster and quenching his appetite for footy as a Mount Albert junior.
He returned to Australia after being scouted for the Panthers SG Ball Cup side in 2007 — where his team went on to lose the grand final to the Parramatta Eels — before debuting for the club’s first grade side in round 10, 2008.
But as McKendry moved up the ranks, the future New Zealand Four Nations representative was being weighed down by an undesirable waistline. “I was about 125 kilos,” he recalls.
“It was a bit of weight I had to lose and it was pretty tough but I put in the hard yards and it’s paid off.
“Here I am now playing first grade and playing for my country.”
Currently stomping the field at 111 kilograms, McKendry says he doesn’t feel the need to take his game to a new level now influential team captain and Australian veteran Petero Civoniceva has departed the team’s shed.
“I’ve just got to be consistent with my game, go forward and do what’s good for the team,” he said.
And he says he couldn’t ask for a better line-up of stars to join him in the Panthers’ forward pack than its current cast: Tim Grant, Dayne Weston and Chris Armit.
“They’re all good blokes,” he said.
“We’ve got a forward pack that’ll beat any forward pack in the comp.”
Charging over to collect his first four-pointer for 2012 last Sunday, McKendry says he simply put his head down and ran for the try-line with unshakeable intent.
The effort ensures he’s spared the obligatory end-of-season nudie run for those Panthers who fail to pick up a try throughout the year and allows the 185cm tormentor to focus on his goal for the remainder of the season.
“To play consistent football, make it to the grand final and hopefully play in the Anzac Test,” he said.