Up-and-coming half-back Dodd is set to get a run in the St Helens team with Theo Fages injured, starting with Monday’s clash with Hull FC. Watch it live on Sky Sports Arena from 7.30pm
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 30/07/21 8:21pm
When St Helens return to Super League action on Monday night away to Hull FC, it will present another opportunity for one of the reigning champions’ most promising teenage talents to show what he can do.
The broken shoulder sustained by Theo Fages in the Challenge Cup final which ruled the Frenchman out for the rest of what could well be his final season in a Saints shirt means 19-year-old Lewis Dodd is set to feature in the halves at the MKM Stadium, live on Sky Sports.
Former Halton Hornets junior Dodd has long been touted as a future starter for the club, something which is underlined by the fact head coach Kristian Woolf will not be pursuing another half-back in the transfer market should Fages, as expected, move on at the end of this season.
Hull FC vs St Helens
August 2, 2021, 7:30pm
For his part, Woolf has been hugely impressed with what he has seen of Dodd since arriving at Totally Wicked Stadium ahead of the 2020 season and expects him to make the role his own for years to come.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for Lewis,” Woolf said. “He’s a guy we see as a real part of the future for the club, and who can be a part of the club for a very long time.
“We say that not only because he has got terrific potential, but he has got a lot of strings to his bow in how he plays.
“He’s got a terrific kicking game, terrific running game, really good vision and he’s an outstanding kid in terms of how he wants to learn and work hard. That’s one of the best things about our group and he’s certainly one who fits right into that “
He’s got a terrific kicking game, terrific running game, really good vision and he’s an outstanding kid in terms of how he wants to learn and work hard.
Kristian Woolf on Lewis Dodd
Dodd actually made his debut off the interchange bench as a hooker in the derby clash with Wigan Warriors last year and he is not the only St Helens youngster to have experienced playing in a position other than where his long-term future lies.
Last year’s Grand Final hero Jack Welsby has done just that, most recently coming off the bench at loose forward in the Challenge Cup final win over Castleford Tigers before switching to the halves after Phases went off.
The 20-year-old, who has featured in the three-quarters as well, is seen as the long-term heir to Hull Kingston Rovers-bound Lachlan Coote at full-back and Woolf believes seeing the game from other positions will help his understanding of what others require from him in the No. 1 role.
Welsby has impressed his coach with how keenly he has embraced playing whatever role has been asked of him, while the 46-year-old Australian is also impressed by how he has continued to put in the hard work behind the scenes to ensure his early success does not prove fleeting.
“It’s easier to be hungry and have that real work ethic and drive because there is something there at the end for you,” Woolf said.
“When you’ve had success as quickly as Jack has, particularly the way it came in the Grand Final last year, that’s always the question you have as a young player is if they can keep that same work ethic, that same hunger and real drive to keep improving and have more success than they’ve already had.
“That’s exactly what I’ve seen in Jack. He hasn’t changed one bit and if anything he’s grown in confidence, his voice has bigger in the group and he’s starting to have an influence in other ways.”
As a former junior development manager with NRL outfit North Queensland Cowboys, Woolf has a good knowledge of what it takes to get the best out of young players and help them with the transition from academy to senior level.
It’s important we don’t put too much pressure on him. He’s a young bloke who’s going to find his way and make that position his own, but he’s up to it.
Kristian Woolf on Lewis Dodd
Even though he has been effusive in his praise of Dodd and assessment of his prospects, he is wary of putting too much pressure on the young half-back’s shoulders. However, he has the utmost confidence he is more than capable of dealing with whatever questions Hull FC post of him.
“I know he’s going to come in, work really hard and make the most of his opportunity,” Woolf said. “I love the fact he’s got a real air of confidence about him, he knows his own ability he’s got about himself, so he’s going to come in and back his own ability, and we’re certainly going to back him as well.
“I think he’s right up to the task and everyone will be really impressed with what he comes up with. At the same time, it’s important we don’t put too much pressure on him. He’s a young bloke who’s going to find his way and make that position his own, but he’s up to it.”