Kenny-Dowall central to Roosters plans - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Kenny-Dowall central to Roosters plans

By Ben Horne 23/02/2010 08:44:52 PM Comments (0)

Roosters coach Brian Smith has the crucial playmaking roles well and truly covered, but he's still looking for a pair of centres to establish themselves for the upcoming NRL season.

The Bondi club struggled for options in the backline last year and heading into 2010, centres Iosia Soliola and Setaimata Sa have moved on, while Mitchell Aubusson has shifted into the backrow.

It's a problem area for Smith, especially given the defensive importance of centres and how many points the Roosters leaked last year in collecting the wooden-spoon.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who has played his entire NRL career on the wing, and Canberra recruit Phil Graham appear to be Smith's three-quarter combination for round one.

Both will start in the centres against Parramatta in a trial match in Gosford on Saturday.

Kenny-Dowall played well against the Wests Tigers in the Foundation Cup last week, but learning the defensive structures at centre will be the biggest challenge for the 22-year-old Kiwi.

The imposing 190cm, 101kg Kenny-Dowall is physically capable and is keen to fill the void for his club.

"Definitely, that's why Smithy asked me to have a crack at it and I'm really enjoying it. I'm looking forward to the challenge of it and see how I go," Kenny-Dowall told AAP.

"I've been doing a lot of work at training on my defence and it's all coming together nicely.

"It's good to get out there and practice in a game what we've been doing at training and hopefully progressing as the year goes on.

"I played centre until I came into grade but obviously this is a different level."

Fullback and winger Anthony Minichiello, who Smith said he won't consider in the centres, believes Kenny-Dowall can do a job for the Roosters and turn a weakness into a strength.

"We were probably a bit lean at centre last year and leading into the pre-season but he's stepped up and a lot of young guys have stepped up as well," Minichiello said.

"Because he plays on the wing he normally comes up and in but he's adjusting to sometimes sliding and coming up when he needs to.

"He's got some real threat at centre. He's a strong ball-runner and he's deceptively strong and able to break a lot of tackles."

Smith concedes that much of the Roosters' depth this year will come from young, inexperienced players - and perhaps the most notable of these is centre, Joseph "BJ" Leilua.

The 18-year-old is a future star and should break into first grade during the year.

Initially however ex-Raider Graham, who recovered from a back-injury in the off-season, will start in jersey no.3 and is excited about the change.

"I'm looking forward to it and hopefully I'll get a bit more time there this weekend," he said.

"I haven't played with Toddy (former Canberra teammate Todd Carney) in a while with me at centre, so hopefully I'll get some time there and we'll see what we can do."

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