Ennis' Fitting Milestone
Veteran Sharks hooker Michael Ennis has called many places home over the years. From Newcastle to Cronulla, with memorable stints in Kogarah and Belmore in between, it will all peak this weekend when he steps out for his 250th NRL game.
In the early stages of his rugby league career Ennis spent time plying his trade in Lake Macquarie at Croudace Bay Oval – which more often than not resembled a mud pit rather than a football field (it was built on a swamp after all).
Ennis's suburban roots coincided with his 2003 NRL debut at Campbelltown Sportsground, where he wore the very same Knights jersey many fellow Valentine-Eleebana juniors threw on before him.
It comes as no surprise then that his latest milestone will see him travel to another famous suburban ground this Monday night, Brookvale Oval.
"I'm looking forward to it. It's obviously a special occasion. I definitely didn't think I'd make it to this point in my career growing up," Ennis said.
"As a kid you always just hoped to play in the NRL and to think I've done it this many times now – and faced different challenges throughout your career with injuries and things like that – it's definitely pleasing and something I'm proud of.
"I remember there being a few guys in our little clubhouse there on the wall [at Valentine-Eleebana]. There's a fair list of photos there of guys who had played a fair amount of footy.
"Blokes like Paul Harragon, the Kimmorley boys, Adam Muir, Daniel Abraham, Brett Finch, Luke Burt – there were a fair few from there [who went on to achieve good things]. It was a great time in my life as a kid playing down there at Valentine."
In his second season at the Sharks, and having turned 32 on Wednesday, there is no doubting Ennis has found a new lease on life since joining the club after five seasons at the Bulldogs.
"The way I like to play changed a little bit in my time at Canterbury. In fairness, I probably became more of a defensive dummy half to suit that role in the team," Ennis admitted.
"Certainly since I've come here, Shane's really reopened that book I suppose in allowing me to play that enjoyable, attacking footy and now I just have to get that balance right with Jimmy [Maloney] and Chad [Townsend].
"The Sharks have certainly given me a new kick that's for sure."
Following the Sharks' 30-2 local derby victory over the Dragons last Sunday afternoon, Ennis is hoping for much of the same against the Sea Eagles.
After going down in their first four games last season Ennis was pleased to get the monkey off the back within the opening fortnight of season 2016.
"There are certainly areas we need to improve but that enjoyment of winning again, the feeling around training this week, there's nothing like it. We're still developing but we certainly have a side here that can really challenge," Ennis said.
"Hopefully our big boys can do what they did against the Dragons again. They were excellent; it's always nice for us little guys when our bigger guys are rolling forward like they did."
This article first appeared on NRL.com