Bronco forward saved by senior players
Two-try hero Mitchell Dodds could very well have been wearing the opposition colours last Friday night if not for a late contract offer by incoming Broncos coach Wayne Bennett on the back of advice sought from his senior players.
Dodds took his career try tally in the NRL to three with his double against the Titans last week but it is his strong charges and bruising defence that has won the admiration of Bennett who has named him on the bench to face the Roosters on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Dodds was midway through a second knee reconstruction as conjecture grew over Anthony Griffin's future as coach of the Broncos midway through last year and was left waiting on tenterhooks as to where his future lay.
Both the Cowboys and Titans expressed interest in luring the 25-year-old Brisbane boy away from the Broncos and it wasn't until senior members of the squad spoke so highly of him that Dodds was offered a one-year deal by Bennett.
It was a significant show of faith by Bennett and the club towards a prop forward who had not set foot on an NRL field for more than 12 months but one that was welcomed by other members of the squad.
"It is a cut-throat business and he understands that and we understand that. They've obviously got a high regard of him as well and they've given him an opportunity and he's taking it," said Broncos veteran Corey Parker.
"He's been in the system for a while and the Broncos could have let him go after a few years with injuries but to their credit and to his credit he's worked hard and they've stuck by him and he's playing some good footy.
"Doddsy is one of those guys who won't set the world on fire for you but he'll certainly do a job and that's what he's required to do. He's got great defence, he can certainly shorten a few blokes up in defence and he's a big body."
When he played 23 games in his rookie season in 2010 Dodds looked set to become a cornerstone of the Broncos pack but a ruptured ACL suffered against the Knights in Round 21, 2013 set off a chain of events that threatened to end his career.
After the initial operation on his right knee Dodds contracted an infection that laid dormant until he resumed training, the eventual solution to completely remove the hamstring graft and start from scratch in February last year ending his 2014 season before it even began.
Twice Dodds found himself laid up in hospital being treated with antibiotics via a drip for weeks on end and admitted that lonely days in a hospital bed made him question his future in the game.
"It kind of did [freak me out] when I was sitting in hospital because every footballer is used to being pretty active so you're just sitting around attached to machines and you just want to get out and run around," Dodds told NRL.com.
"The toughest bit was being away from training. Being away from your mates and the biggest thing that got me through was family and friends. A couple of boys came in and saw me and that kept my mind on what I wanted to do.
"You're sitting there in the hospital bed by yourself and things go through your head and you don't really know what you're going to be doing or if you're going to be playing next year or what.
"I spoke to my family and I was kind of racking my brain as to what I was going to do next year because my contract was up. It throws out your job security, not knowing if you're going to be working next year or if you're going to be at the club and I was a bit worried."
A qualified electrician, Dodds finally did make it back to the NRL in Round 1 – 561 days since his last – and is now determined to earn a new contract at the Broncos with further strong performances in the top grade.
"I was nervous, very nervous. It was the first NRL game in a long time and as the day drew on I got a little bit more nervous and just tried to calm myself down," he said.
"Being out for that long you can't really help yourself but get nervous and I was very excited to get back on the paddock.
"I tried to put that out of my mind that it was my first game back and that it wasn't about me, it's more about the club and playing for the team and everyone in 'Brissie'.
"You don't know where you're going to be so I want to enjoy my football as much as I can and as long as I'm here I think I'm going to be doing that."