IT IS often interesting how some players unexpectedly get their chance to bring themselves back into the spotlight and duly take it.
Kieran Dixon did just that by scoring a hat-trick of tries in Hull KR’s emphatic 54-16 win at Wakefield Trinity on Thursday – despite not knowing until a few hours before kick-off that he was actually playing.
The winger was only drafted in when Joe Wardill, the East Yorkshire club’s England Academy international, fell ill at the 12th hour, but he was certainly not going to let the opportunity pass him by.
Dixon has had a mixed time at Craven Park since moving from London Broncos at the end of 2014, enjoying moments of sheer brilliance but also suffering heartbreaking lapses including an error-ridden Challenge Cup final appearance at full-back during a 50-0 Wembley destruction from Leeds Rhinos last August.
Nevertheless, he has the commendable quality of being able to overcome such adversity, underlined by when successfully returning from a serious knee injury suffered while on England Knights duty three years ago.
He endured more misery in the Challenge Cup when being part of the embarrassed Rovers side that lost to part-time Oldham in April.
Indeed, that was the Londoner’s last game for them as he fell down the pecking order under James Webster.
Yet he reminded everyone of his potential with some fine finishing at Wakefield, showcasing not only his obvious pace but poise as well when supplying team-mate Shaun Lunt with his 150th career try.
During the last few weeks out of the picture, the 23-year-old was sent on dual-registration to Newcastle Thunder to gain some match-fitness and form – only to be injured during their 46-26 League One win at London.
“I’ve not been in the side for a good few weeks but I’ve been putting in the work in training and righted a few wrongs that I needed to do from those earlier games,” admitted Dixon.
“The stuff that I’ve been working on in training is paying off for me and, obviously, that paid off against Wakefield and I managed to get on the scoresheet.
“I got a call the night before saying I might be playing and I’d need to prepare myself and then got the call midday on the day of the match saying I was playing as a few of the boys had pulled out.
“Obviously, I feel sorry for those that had to pull out but that was when my time to step up was and I think I managed to do that.”
He certainly did that, scoring inside just three minutes and going on to enjoy a fine, confident display.
It was just his sixth game of the season in Rovers colours but ended it in style with that treble, his quality third seeing off Wakefield when he sprinted in from 50m, rounding full-back Craig Hall.
“It means a lot,” he admitted, having previously scored four tries against Bradford Bulls last September but in a Qualifiers game, not Super League.
“Just to score one try means everything. You are there on the wing to finish efforts the boys put in to get you the ball.
“To bag three of them, I was really pleased and, obviously, it’s not an easy thing to do at the top level.
“But it doesn’t come without the efforts of those boys on the inside.”
Centre Iain Thornley twice fed him but it was the midfield triumvirate of Terry Campese, Albert Kelly and Shaun Lunt – back in tandem at last – that inspired Rovers’ win on the back of a fine forwards effort.
They look a different team with that trio fit and, if they can maintain that for the final six regular rounds, it would be no surprise if Rovers did still force their way into the top eight.
“It’s crazy how that works,” said Dixon, about the half-backs and hooker who are so key to the Robins.
“As long as you have a strong core we have a very, very good middle pack and good half-backs that can put us around the park.
“Even with Bobby Blair; he’s playing in the back-row but is a machine with the ball and can play it as well.
“That’s the sort of stuff we need. If we can keep everyone out on the field we can go a long way.”
Rovers have an arduous fixture list ahead of them starting with Wigan at home on Friday.
But there is renewed optimism among their ranks after a third win in six games.
Webster was pleased with Dixon’s return.
“Kieran played well and credit to him given he only knew at lunchtime he’d be playing,” said the Australian.
“There is a lot of facets in his game that other people don’t have.
“He realises has to be as consistent as he was tonight and, if he can be, then he has a big future.”