Footy a family affair for South Newcastle rookie

WHEN South Newcastle reserve-grade five-eighth Sam Keenan was looking to start his rugby league career his father, Guy Keenan, had the green and red of Western Suburbs in mind.

But before Guy could take Sam over to New Lambton to sign up to play juniors with the Rosellas his father-in-law, Paul Mahony, let his thoughts be known on his grandson’s footy.

‘‘Paul isn’t a harsh bloke, he never got angry with anyone,’’ Guy Keenan said.

‘‘When Sam was about seven or so I said, ‘Mate, I’m taking him over to Wests to play rugby league.’

‘‘He said, ‘Mate if you take him to Wests you’re out of the family.’

‘‘That’s the only harsh words he’s ever said to me.’’

Mahony won the argument and Sam joined Souths, and on Sunday he will line up against the Rosellas in reserve grade at Townson Oval.

Sam has played in the Knights’ SG Ball side and there are plenty of wraps on the 17-year-old, who is expected to have a big future at the Merewether club.

‘‘He’s probably a year or two from first grade, but you’ll see him there in the near future,’’ Souths first-grade assistant coach Adam Bettridge said.

‘‘He’s a really tough kid for the size of him, and I think that runs through the family from what I’ve been told.’’

Rugby league is certainly in Sam’s genes.

Mahony played in the back row for the Lions in 1964 when Australian international Brian Carlson coached Souths to a grand final victory over Wests. In 1969 Mahony again won a premiership for Souths in a side coached by another former Kangaroo, Peter Diamond.

While he later finished his playing days with Singleton, Mahony returned to Merewether, where he was the publican of the Mary Ellen Hotel.

Keenan was brought to Wests from Young in the early 1980s by Rosellas team of the century member David Howell. After beginning his career at hooker, he won a first-grade premiership in 1984 as an 80-kilogram prop. That led to his selection in the Newcastle representative side.

Towards the end of his career, Keenan switched to the Lions and to this day his allegiance is still torn.

‘‘I love both,’’ he said.

‘‘I always go over to watch Wests and Souths play and I sit on the fence.

‘‘I hang with Souths blokes and I hang with Wests blokes.’’

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