DURING the “dark” times of a career-threatening injury last year, Kieran Dixon was contemplating working on a building site.
Now, however, Hull KR’s new signing has something entirely different in his sights – England duo Sam Tomkins and Zak Hardaker.
In 2013, Dixon was the name on everyone’s lips as the lightning-quick young winger raced in 18 tries for lowly London Broncos.
He finished the campaign playing with England Knights, but that ended with a serious knee injury against Samoa which, essentially, ruined any hopes of continuing his rapid ascent last season.
Dixon was restricted to just four games, not making his comeback until August amid doubts he would ever fully recover.
However, Hull KR had already seen enough to be certain he could recapture his scintillating best – 38 tries in 52 games with Broncos – and Chris Chester handed him a three-year deal.
For Dixon, 22, it was a revelatory moment in his rehabilitation.
“Being out for 10 months was horrible,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“Before that, I’d never been injured. I went through some really bad times with myself, the way I was thinking.
“I thought I’d never play again so was thinking about what I’d have to do – going back to work and things like that.
“I really don’t know what that would have been. I’d probably have just ended up working as a labourer. There’s not much else I can do really.
“But I’m glad it didn’t come to that and Hull KR showed faith in me on what they’d seen the last two seasons before.
“It is something I never really spoke about with anyone and I was in a really dark place.
“So, to get an offer from Rovers while still injured, I think it brought me back. I am just hoping now that I am fully fit again I can pick up from where I left off.”
Chester certainly thinks he can. Dixon – who saw a move to Salford Red Devils fall through when that injury struck – has been given the No 1 jersey at KC Lightstream Stadium.
Chester, who has brought 13 players in for the season that starts against Leeds Rhinos on Sunday, envisages him as his full-back in his new-look side.
“I came through at Broncos on the wing, but came through all of my academy stuff as a full-back,” explained Dixon.
“I got the opportunity to play on the wing in the first team down in London and was never going to turn down that experience given the two seasons I did.
“Obviously that third season I got injured, but to come here and be given a shot in the position I like to play is really good for me.
“Hopefully I can cement it in Chessie’s mind.”
This is where Leeds star Hardaker and Tomkins come into the equation.
Dixon is “100 per cent” certain he wants to get back in England colours, but at the next level up.
“Zak Hardaker has proven himself as one of the best full-backs in the league and, before him, Sam Tomkins,” he said.
“But I think I could be on the same lines as them. I know it will take time as it’s my first season at full-back for a while and a lot for me to still learn.
“But I’m hoping to see myself in an England shirt again soon.”
That would be some journey for a Hackney kid who was originally turned down by the then Harlequins club for being “too small” and, instead, made his mark at Hemel Stags before earning his shot in Super League.
London, though, have now been relegated and his current abode is far different to anything he has witnessed before.
“It’s obviously a massive move for me,” he said.
“Coming from the big city to Hull is a big change in culture. It’s a lot slower, not as much running around and bumping shoulders with people.
“It’s refreshing for me coming somewhere a bit more chilled out – and the fans are mad about their rugby. Obviously I experienced that by playing at home in a friendly against Halifax and at Hull FC as well.
“I’ve never really had any support like that and it’s a big positive for me coming into a team with a massive following like Hull KR. (After London) I’m just glad to see a lot of fans sitting in the stands.”
True. But, if this thrilling young player returns to his devastating best, those fans will not be sitting for long.