Sam McKendry’s face says it all.
Three knee reconstructions should have been the end of his rugby league career but Penrith’s longest serving player has defied the odds and is now hoping to play on beyond this season.
After more than 12 months on the sidelines battling away with the all-too-familiar rehab team, the former New Zealand international returned to the field in reserve grade a fortnight ago with plenty of support in the stands.
McKendry’s mum flew in from New Zealand, while more than a dozen of his teammates as well as his young family were cheering him on too.
It will be a moment that the 29-year-old will remember for the rest of his life.
“That was very special,” McKendry told Extra Time.
“The ‘old lady’ flew over from New Zealand, it was nice to have her there. All my family and friends were there, my wife and kids too. It’s been a roller coaster ride but it was good to have everyone’s support. It meant a lot.”
Despite a slight head knock during his very first hit up, McKendry got through the game unscathed and backed it up with another promising performance last Saturday afternoon at Panthers Stadium.
McKendry said his knee is feeling much more stable this time around after he opted for a different type of surgery.
“I wouldn’t say this recovery was harder than the previous ones but it was certainly frustrating. I tried to stay positive, my family got me through it,” he said.
“This time I did a different type of surgery, the first two were donor grafts while on this occasion I used my own. I wouldn’t recommend a donor.
“The knee is feeling good now. I just have to touch wood and not get injured.”
If the Western Australia-born prop can stay injury-free for the remainder of the year, there’s every chance he could secure himself a new deal beyond his current contract which expires this season. McKendry confirmed he’d like to play on in 2020, preferably at the Panthers.
“At the moment I’m just taking it week to week but if I play some good footy, not get injured then I would like to keep going. I’ll just have to see how I go, if they want me here I would like to stay,” he said.
In the meantime, McKendry’s main goal is to work his way back into the NRL and with his long-time friend Tim Grant sidelined with a pec tear, there’s every chance the man they call the “Mack Truck” could be powering his way back into first grade sooner than you think. The Sam McKendry story is far from over.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.