Once the man who had to tell Scott Sorensen he wasn't getting an NRL contract, Michael Maguire reveled in letting the Panthers forward know he would be joining the Kiwis for their mid-year Test.
Back in 2015, following a first year in the NRL in which he’d managed three games for Cronulla, Sorensen spent the pre-season sweating it out with the then Maguire-coached Rabbitohs but couldn’t earn a spot in the team.
Seven years later, Sorensen’s form as part of the ladder-leading Penrith Panthers — with whom he won a Premiership last year — saw Maguire come calling again.
This time, the call was much better news.
“To talk to Scotty about coming into camp... it’s been very special,” Maguire told NRL.com. “I had kept in touch with Scotty along the way and tried to grab him at club level from time to time.
“He was always going to be something special.
"His work ethic is up there with the best I have seen.”
Sorensen too hot too handle
After managing just 39 NRL appearances between 2014 and 2020, Sorensen’s career had stalled ahead of the 2021 season and could have been over completely if not for a lifeline from Ivan Cleary and the Panthers.
Since then he’s established himself as a key member of the Penrith squad, who he credits for helping him earn a spot in the 25-strong New Zealand group.
“It was a tough time (at the end of 2020) but I always had the fire in the belly and desire to keep playing NRL,” Sorensen said about his career to date.
“Penrith came calling and I’m so grateful. I do believe that if I wasn’t at the Panthers then I wouldn’t be here with the Kiwis.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, but I am super excited and the New Zealand boys have all taken me in with open arms and made me feel so welcome.
“I know my bloodline and it’s special to me to be here. During the week to have my dad pull up in my driveway in tears... seeing that made me know I am doing the right thing.”
Had the Kiwis not come calling there is every chance Sorensen would still be taking the field this Saturday at Mount Smart Stadium, albeit for Mate Ma’a Tonga who he is also eligible to represent.
“I have that bloodline as well and in recent years I had spoken to Tonga and they’d let me know I was on the radar,” Sorensen said. “But when New Zealand came knocking it just felt right to be with the Kiwis.”
Should he make final 17 against Tonga he will become the fifth member of the Sorensen family to play for the Kiwis.
Grandfather Bill appeared in 21 Tests, while Bill’s brother Dave also played for New Zealand.
Kurt and Dane Sorensen – who are Scott’s uncles – were among the best players to wear the black jersey through the 1970s and 1980s, with both also enjoying stellar careers at club level with Cronulla and Eastern Suburbs.
While clearly delighted by his nephew’s selection, Kurt admitted he didn’t see it coming.
“When I was told Scott had made New Zealand’s squad I sort of said ‘well that was a surprise’,” Kurt said.
“His story has really just developed in the last two years in the NRL and now he’s got his foot in the international door, which I’m sure he thought was never going to happen.
“He got to a club where everyone probably thought ‘gee he wouldn’t have much shot of playing at Penrith’, but he’s made every post a winner.
“He’s a very tidy player and a guy you can really depend on. He works hard and does most little things correctly and is an asset to a team.”
Match: New Zealand v Mate Ma'a Tonga
Round 1 -
Mate Ma'a Tonga
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland