Smithy Speaks with Kane Linnett
by Courtney Beaton
At the ripe old age of 24 he holds the record for the most metres gained in a match for the North Queensland Cowboys and it appears his career is only on the up and up after recently being named to make his World Cup debut for Scotland later this year. This week we sat down with North Queensland Cowboys centre Kane Linnett to talk training, life and league….
Where and at what age did you start your football career?
I started with the Windang Pelicans when I was five, then went to play for Port Kembla when I was 12 because some mates changed teams. I played there all the way through until U’18s and played some first grade for Port while at the Dragons at the age of 17.
As a junior you excelled in both League and Union before committing to League – what was it that made you choose League and have you been swayed to switch codes?
I also played Rugby Union at U’12 and played League on a Saturday and Union on a Sunday. It started to get too full on as I would train nearly every day and also did athletics in the summer. I started to feel tired and got over it when I was 16 so I decided to stick with just rugby league as I enjoyed it more and played from a young age – although I made a lot more rep teams in rugby union!
Was there a moment or event that triggered your drive to want to be a professional NRL player?
I realised my potential at the age of 17 during year 12 when I was in SG ball for the Illawarra Steelers. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after school, I was working delivering papers and bricklaying from 6am to 4pm then going to trainings. It really toughened me up and gave me the drive to be successful at football as I hated working those hours.
During that year I played really well in SG Ball and got my first contract with the Dragons for three years on pretty good money so I gave away most of that hard labouring work and concentrated on my development into the NRL.
How has your career from a junior rep progressed to where you are today?
After a successful two years in the Toyota Cup at the Dragons I decided to take an opportunity with the Sydney Roosters as I couldn’t see myself getting a run in the NRL with the Dragons as they had a star studded backline including [Mark] Gasnier, [Matt] Cooper, [Josh] Morris, [Darius] Boyd and [Jason] Nightingale.
Where and how did you get your start in the NRL top grade?
I challenged myself at the Roosters and worked really hard and got my opportunity under Brian Smith – although a bit later than what it was going to be initially after being sidelined for four weeks after rolling ankle in my last session prior to my debut. I went back to Newtown and played well and got my call up against the Melbourne Storm in Round 13, 2010.
It was a really good debut, one I will never forget. I scored a try and made over 200m. I was nervous but excited at the same time. I couldn’t believe I played in a grand final the first year of NRL.
What has been one of the toughest challenges to overcome in your career to date?
I think the year after playing in the grand final (2011). I was still young during my second year and I had a horror run with injuries and my form was not the best so I found myself in an out of first grade which was probably the toughest part of my career. To make matters worse I dislocated my shoulder scoring a try against Cronulla in round 10 and required surgery before signing on with the Cowboys.
You are a self-confessed family man, what inspired your move to North Queensland and how have you coped with the move, the distance and the team.
After that horror year I knew it was time for a new challenge as things were not going how I wanted them to and so I made a big decision to move away from family and friends of which I’m very close to and sign with the North Queensland Cowboys. The offer was to good to refuse, not just the money but the chance to learn from JT [Jonathan Thurston] and Matt Bowen and better myself into a much better person and player on and off the field.
Now I can’t look back, I’m really happy up here, it’s laid back and I hope to play out my career here.
What are your goals moving forward?
To play rep footy is a big goal of mine and it starts later this year when I play for Scotland in the World Cup. This is a really exciting opportunity for me and my family are all proud and it is my heritage. My Scottish Grandfather who passed away when I was playing in the Toyota Cup will be watching from above.
I do hope to also play for NSW and maybe even Australia. One day.
Which coach or player assisted you towards cracking into the NRL. Do you still look to them?
I would have to say Steve Price now coach of the Dragons had a big influence on me bringing me through the Dragons 20s and teaching professionalism. Then Brian Smith at the Roosters for giving me an opportunity to show what I had in the NRL.
Away from the fields, do you do anything to continue to improve yourself – be it football specific or professionally?
Away from footy I love working with kids and continually put my hand up to help develop kids in sport and I also have a school which I go to regularly to talk and work with the kids.
I also love getting out to snorkelling on the Barrier Reef and fishing,
Have you ever lined up against a player who genuinely intimidated you – either due to their sheer size, skill or just their reputation/fame?
I was probably most intimidated when I first came up against Israel Folau in 2010. He is such a great athlete who you hear so much about.
What has been the secret to your success?
I’ve always worked hard for everything I have achieved growing up. I was never the best player but I look back now and what separated me from the rest was how hard I worked and the sacrifices I made during my teenage years and my overall desire to be successful.
What would you consider your biggest strength and how have you developed it?
My strength would definitely be my defence and hitting a line on the edge. Over the years I have definitely built my body up and now I feel a lot stronger and powerful.
And your weakness?
I was very quiet growing up which was my weakness but I am definitely a lot louder and more comfortable as I have gotten older and have built a lot of good relationships at the Cowboys.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your future self if you had your time again?
I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself. Over the years I have learnt, and continue to learn to be able to balance myself to just have fun but at the same time work hard and keep working on little things every day.