Michael Dobson has been one of the surprise packets of the season. Copyright: Colin Whelan/NRL Photos. Credit: Colin Whelan/NRL Photos Copyright: Colin Whelan/NRL Photos
Unassuming Newcastle five-eighth Michael Dobson has staked his claim as the 2014 NRL season's most surprising success story with a series of attention-grabbing contributions for the Knights.
Handed his chance following Jarrod Mullen's injury in the Auckland Nines, 27-year-old Dobson has not looked out of place leading the Newcastle backline - despite a resume boasting just 20 first grade games heading into the year.
Incredibly, those appearances were tallied for Canberra way back in 2007-08, with Dobson spending the interim period in the English Super League, where he captained Hull KR and also had stints with the Catalan Dragons and Wigan Warriors.
Dobson admits he has unfinished business back in Australia.
"I spent five and a half years there [at Hull KR] and really enjoyed my time but it's good to be back home and playing in the best competition in the world and to challenge myself," he told NRL.com.
"I just wanted to come back and give it a good crack back here and test myself."
With the Knights winning their first game of the year against the Sharks last round, Dobson can finally see the upside of life in the NRL – in a season where he has admirably managed to average 22.3 tackles per game and garner three try-assists with his sleek passing game.
"It's been a bit rocky the last few weeks with not winning but it's good to get a win on the board," Dobson said.
"Obviously you don't enjoy it when you're losing but we've won one so it's all positive."
And the difference between the Super League and the so-called best competition in the world in the NRL?
"The consistency – week in, week out – you obviously have tough games every week [in the NRL]," Dobson explains.
"Over there you don't have that."
Dobson will now turn his attention to this Monday night's game in North Queensland, his 25th in the NRL, as he looks to solidify his spot in the Knights' 17 with the incumbent Mullen set to return in the coming weeks.
How he handles himself up against Cowboys five-eighth Johnathan Thurston will be key to his team's chances of inflicting a fourth season defeat on the home team - and place him on Wayne Bennett's radar for a spot on the bench when Mullen returns.