St Helens’ Lewis Dodd celebrated his coming of age in dream fashion on Friday as he ended nearly 12 months of kicking his heels in frustration on the sidelines.
The half back turned 21 on Friday - the same day as he returned to action in team-mate Mark Percival’s testimonial match against Championship club Widnes Vikings at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
"I have had worse birthdays," said the talented playmaker, who only managed to feature in 10 early season fixtures last year after suffering a serious Achilles injury against Wigan Warriors on April 15.
He also marked the occasion by grabbing one of Saints first-half tries in a 16-12 victory and said he was thrilled to be back among his clubmates.
Head coach Paul Wellens said: "What a lot of people on the outside don’t see don’t see are the lonely early mornings, week on week, month on month players like Lewis have to endure in their recovery programme when suffering a nasty injury.
"Doddy has done really well and had it really tough over the past few months but since he has been back in training he has had a twinkle in his eyes and a spring in his step and that’s what we wanted to see. He has slotted back quite seamlessly but given his intelligence as a rugby player we expected that."
Saints started the testimonial game, which attracted more than 5,000 fans on a cold night, with as strong a team as possible, but it didn’t include Percival, the England World Cup quintet of Jack Welsby, Tommy Makinson, Morgan Knowles, Joe Batchelor and Matty Lees, as well as skipper James Roby, Alex Walmsley and Willie Hopoate.
However, all are expected to travel Down Under to face the Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge on February 18, leaving Wellens the far from easy task of selecting his final squad.
Wello said: "Both ourselves and Penrith have enjoyed great success in the competition but over the past few years it has been disappointing that we’ve been unable to fulfill the fixture.
"Not only is it great news that we are able to resume the match but it will benefit the sport in general terms.
"We are obviously motivated by achieving further success and this gives us, as a club, an early chance to do exactly that in 2023.
"We aim to represent ourselves, the town of St Helens and the |Betfred Super League in the best possible manner. "
TESTIMONIAL FACTS AND FIGURES
Saints: Jon Bennison, Jumah Sambou, Konrad Hurrell, Ben Davies, Tee Ritson, Jonny Lomax, Lewis Dodd, Agnatius Passi, Joey Lussick, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sione Mata’utia, Curtis Sironen, James Bell.
Interchange: Jake Winfield, Dan Norman, Sam Royle, Lewis Baxter, Taylor Pemberton, George Delaney, Daniel Moss, Ben Lane, McKenzie Buckley, Wes Bruines, Jake Burns, Keane Gilford, Eliot Peposhi, Alfie Pyke, Will Roberts, Jonathon Vaughan
Sin bin: Joey Lussick (35)
Widnes Vikings: Jack Owens, Ryan Millar, Matty Fleming, Joe Edge, Kieron Dixon, Joe Lyons, Tom Gilmore, Owen Farnworth, Matty Fozard, Kyle Amor, Shane Grady, Sam Wilde, Adam Lawton.
Interchange: Liam Bent, Aaron Brown, Oliver Davies, Callum Field, Lewis Hatton, Brad Holroyd, Ryan Ince, Jordan Johnston, William Tilleke, Anthony Walker.
Tries: Ryan Ince (62), Brad Holroyd (75)
Conversions: Tom Gilmore (2/2)