By his own admission Sam Keenan was somewhat “brushed” at the start of this year.
Unwanted in first grade, back in reserves and away regularly with Newcastle’s under-23 representative team at the NSW Country Championships.
But this Saturday afternoon at McDonald Jones Stadium he will wear the Western Suburbs No.7 jersey after making it his own and hopes to add a prestigious premiership to the family collection.
“I was a bit brushed,” Keenan said.
“I couldn’t quite make firsts at the start of the season and was playing reggies. Then I was away with the rep team as well. But eventually I got a chance and I’ve tried to make the most of it.”
And that’s what the Bar Beach-based 22-year-old has done ever since, making this weekend’s grand final against Macquarie even more “satisfying”.
In his 15 regular-round appearances for the minor premiers, Keenan not only managed to become the competition’s leading point scorer with 148 but also polled second in the 2017 Newcastle Rugby League player of the year points.
The only person ahead of him was halves partner Ryan Walker, who claimed the best and fairest prize at last week’s presentation.
“Playing with Walks has been fantastic,” he said.
“He helps me to play my natural game and just brings a lot of experience to the table. You’re always learning from him.”
In terms of his own form Keenan said settling into one position has been beneficial after bouncing around almost the entire backline and hooker during his two seasons at Harker Oval.
“It’s been nice getting used to a spot and all the combinations that go with it instead of chopping and changing all the time,” he said.
“Being comfortable out there definitely helps.”
September 23 marks his maiden decider in the top grade but Keenan was no stranger to the stage during his junior career at South Newcastle, teaming up with the likes of current Knights Sione Mata’utia and Lachlan Fitzgibbon for a virtual decade-long unbeaten run.
“We were pretty lucky back then because we had a fair side,” Keenan said.
Now in the senior ranks there’s an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of father Guy, who has won titles for Wests previously.
“I think all the medals and photos are in a box in the attic somewhere,” he said.
“It would be good if I could add to it.”
The weekend’s result aside Keenan has more rugby league ahead of him with NSW Country commitments featuring matches next month against World Cup squads Samoa and Scotland next month in Wagga Wagga and Ballina respectively.
- Tickets are $20 an adult and $12.50 concession (disability, aged). Free entry for children 15 years and under.