Simon Kennewell is realising a dream this week as he returns to Hong Kong to play Sevens on the big stage.
The 20-year-old spent three years of his childhood living in the busy Asian metropolis where his father was based for work and attributes much of his love for Sevens to playing there as a youngster and watching Hong Kong Sevens tournaments.
“I think my Sevens dream started from there, my Sevens exposure (certainly) started from there,”he said.
“It (also) stemmed from playing at the minis tournament before the 2007 World Cup in Hong Kong, experiencing the atmosphere. So I think from there the drive to play Sevens just grew.
From a very young age rugby has been the key element in Simon Kennewell’s life.
He grew up on Sydney’s northern beaches and while he says he played a lot of sports, he declares swimming along with rugby to have been central in his life.
“I played every sport there but obviously rugby was my favourite,” said Kennewell.
“I was a good swimmer too – competed a lot at a high level and I enjoyed it. I did a lot of training for it.”
Eventually though Kennewell says the monotony of swimming got the better of him and his focus turned more fully to rugby.
He credits his older brother as feeding his competitive nature in both rugby and swimming, always trying to emulate him on the field and surpass his records in the pool.
“It’s been a pretty competitive environment at home which has helped me a lot,” he said.
His parents are understandably proud.
“Without their support I wouldn’t be where I am now. They’re always watching me and supporting me, doing their utmost, so I do it for them too,” said Kennewell.
“My whole family is going to the Hong Kong Sevens we (still) have a lot of friends there.”
His parents have also encouraged him to look beyond rugby, emphasising the need to have an outside interest and plans for the future, currently studying construction management as well as playing full-time,
“Mum and Dad are pretty strong about me having something else on my plate," he said.
“I think when I do something other than rugby it helps my performance too – it sort of refreshes me.
His pathway through school seems to be have been defined by rugby and the opportunities it afforded – and he excelled at it.
“I was selected in the Australian School Boys (XVs team) as well as for the Youth Commonwealth Games team in Sevens,” said Kennewell.
“They were both awesome experiences especially the Youth Comm Games in Samoa with a lot of the boys that are here in the team, which is pretty cool. There are about six of us from that team who are on full (Sevens) contracts now,” he said.
Straight out of school he realised a dream, but was then sidelined last year with an ankle injury, a turn of events that t proved to be a valuable learning experience in his first season with the squad.
“It’s about working hard and when you get the opportunity, taking it and grasping it,” said Kennewell.
“When I got injured I was pretty shattered not to be playing and going on tour. So when you do get the opportunity to play for your country – especially at this level – you have to enjoy it.”
Kennewell is also enjoying the journey with the team mates he knows well.
“It’s a really good feeling coming through the same pathway and playing together at the highest level,” he said.
Kennewell has not missed a tour squad yet in the current World Series and is hoping to finish the series off with that trend continuing, right through to London in the final round.
But the most important step is the next – and it is a sentimental one - in Hong Kong.
The Australia Mens Sevens kicks off the Hong Kong 7s campaign this Friday at 8pm. Follow all the updated at RUGBY.com.au.