Lewis Dodd is set to be given a chance to shine for St Helens in the coming weeks, and Kristian Woolf insists he’s ready for the big stage.
The young playmaker, billed as one of the brightest talents in rugby league, has been given cameo roles in the Saints side post-lockdown.
He scored his first try for the club in the victory over Wakefield and has predominantly played at hooker, despite being a halfback.
Woolf admitted it was a decision made to aid his development, but with a quick flurry of games incoming, he was set to be given a chance to showcase his talents in his specialist position in the coming weeks.
“I think somewhere around the next couple of weeks we’ll be able to allow Lewis Dodd to be our halfback and steer the team around and demand what he needs to of players as a halfback needs to do,” Woolf said.
“I’ve been really happy with how he’s been introduced to the team, playing a little bit of hooker has been a really good introduction for him to the physicality and the speed of Super League and obviously doing that over shorter periods means he can do it over shorter periods and not the fatigue periods.
But Woolf insists Dodd is ready to experience the full rigours of first-grade rugby league.
“I’m not too worried about him getting exposed to be honest because I think he’s ready to go at Super League.
“The intention has always been to give him a taste there at hooker because I think it helps his development and he’s had a little taste at half. It’s hard sometimes to manufacture that because you need games to be going your way and also it’s hard to chop and change halves and break combinations.
“The real opportunity for Lewis to play some halfback was when Theo Fages was injured and he had the Covid scare. That did take away a little bit of that opportunity so it’s been a matter of trying to find the right time and not interfere with the rest of the team too much as opposed to being worried about whether he’s being overexposed because he’s ready to play Super League. If I threw him out there for 80 minutes he’s going to handle it no dramas.
“In the stint against Wakefield you’ve seen the class that he’s got and the confidence he’s got at this level as well.”
Saints have an incredible record of bringing players through their system, boasting one of the best production lines in the game.
That has played a part in their prolonged success on the pitch, which Woolf believes in return has gone hand in hand with their ability to produce players.
“It’s a bit of a catch 22 sometimes because some of our young blokes might look at other opportunities other young blokes are getting at other clubs to play some more games and feel like they’re missing out a little bit.
“But what they really gain is when you get to stand alongside Jonny Lomax or in the middle of the field with Alex Walmsley and James Roby and guys like that, you don’t get a better environment to learn how to be a first-grader and part of your success in becoming a long-term first-grader is how you learn in those early stages.
“I think our blokes are in the best possible position there to learn from that opportunity and it does give us the chance to drip feed them in a little bit and pick and choose I suppose to make sure when they do get their opportunities it’s at the right time and the right time on the field as opposed to throwing them in and hoping. When we put them in we know they’re ready.”