St Helens boss Paul Wellens has come to the aid of half-back Lewis Dodd, praising the youngster for turning his form around for the better after receiving criticism earlier this year.
Joining the club’s academy setup in 2017, Widnes-born Dodd made his senior bow for Saints as an 18-year-old in a 42-0 thumping of rivals Wigan Warriors back in 2020.
He would go on to play in the 2021 Grand Final win over Catalans Dragons, before getting injured on the Good Friday which followed, meaning he missed the remainder of the 2022 season.
But returning with a bang, Dodd’s drop goal down under against Penrith Panthers back in February this year earned Wellens’ side a triumph in the World Club Challenge, something he said he’d ‘dreamed of since he was a kid’.
The boss – a teenager when he made his own Saints debut back in 1999 – believes regardless of what’s happened since, 2023 has been a year of growth for the youngster.
“I look at this very differently,” Wellens said when asked about Dodd’s uplift of form. “I think this year has been a real landmark moment in Lewis Dodd’s career.
“He’s a young half-back who has come into the team and done really well, and then everybody goes around telling him how good he is, you don’t go through your whole career and have it your own way all the time.
“Obviously he had a wonderful moment down in Australia (in the World Club Challenge), and on the back of that comes a lot of pressure, but what I love about Lewis is that he just comes in every day, works hard at his game, and he doesn’t look to finger point or portion blame anywhere else.
“He works hard on his game and backs himself. We back him and I back him as a coach because his quality is there for all to see.”
Paul Wellens: I need to show Lewis Dodd that I support him 100 per cent
Dodd – eligible for both England and Wales on the international front – has six tries and eight assists to his name so far this term in 22 Super League appearances.
He has previously been linked with a move to the NRL, signing with a leading agent from Australia’s elite division.
Under contract at the Totally Wicked Stadium until the end of 2024, Dodd will become eligible to negotiate with clubs down under from November onwards, unless Saints can get him to put pen to paper on a new deal before then.
The Saints boss continued: “I’m a firm believer, particularly with younger players like that, that when they are going through tough times and perhaps a lot of people externally have opinions around them, they need support.
“I need to show Lewis that I support him 100 per cent and not just myself, but the rest of the staff and playing group here.
“He’s a quality player and he’s showing that now again. All he needed was that support and patience to be able to turn that around.
“Everybody has got an opinion and everybody can see everybody’s opinion, it’s whether you choose to recognise that or whether you choose to trust the opinions of those closest to you and those who care about you the most.
“That’s not me having a go at anybody externally, we understand the way of the world is now and professional sport, but what I am saying is that Lewis has remained really focused on what he needs to do within this environment to turn his game around and he was always going to do that because he is such a good player.”