HE may have scored the crucial try in Hull KR’s epic win over Wigan Warriors but Kieran Dixon admits he faces an ongoing battle to even earn a place in Chris Chester’s team.
The sprightly England Knights full-back could only make do with a bench spot on Sunday after returning from an illness that had sidelined him for the earlier loss to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Dixon then had to wait until the 70th minute to come on against Wigan but almost instantly made an impression when he crossed for the score that levelled the game, Josh Mantellato adding the match-winning conversion in a 22-20 success.
It was Dixon’s first since joining the club from London Broncos last autumn and capped a remarkable comeback after Rovers had trailed 20-6 until the 51st minute.
However, the 22-year-old had to bide his time given head coach Chester had preferred to start with Ben Cockayne, the experienced player who, like Dixon, can operate at wing or full-back.
“It’s not what I want, obviously,” he explained, having already missed much of 2014 with a serious knee injury.
“I’ve not really experienced being on the bench too often so it was a different experience for me.
“Obviously it was a bit tough having to sit for that long and watch but any time on the field is good time so I was just glad I got on and could make an impact.
“People are playing with better form than me and so, for me to push myself back into the team, I have to put in performances like that no matter how long I’m out on the field.
“I have to make the impact when I am out there.”
There can be no denying that Dixon did just that as he showed great awareness and strength to expose some tired Wigan marking in the closing stages, following Terry Campese’s initial attack.
“I’ve been told it was my third touch,” he smiled, as Rovers picked up their first win of the season at the third attempt.
“It was a quick play of the ball from Campo so I took the opportunity to jump out as quickly as I could.
“I’d seen players retreating and they weren’t set so that’s my time to shine.
“I thought I took my opportunity and managed to get over.”
It remains to be seen whether Dixon – handed the No 1 jersey on his arrival at KC Lightstream Stadium – will get the nod from Chester for Sunday’s trip to Warrington Wolves.
Cockayne, called up to England’s elite training squad just two years ago when at Wakefield, was an assured presence on Sunday and offers his own threat out of the back.
It is an interesting conundrum for Chester to wrestle with but one that should bring the best out of both players.
Dixon started on his debut in the 40-30 opening day defeat to Leeds Rhinos before going down sick ahead of the 44-24 defeat at Wakefield when Cockayne stood in having previously been on the bench himself.
That said, with Australian stand-off Campese pulling the strings, there will always be chances created for whoever is playing.
He was man-of-the-match at the weekend, fittingly considering his uncle, the famous World Cup-winning Wallabies winger David Campese, was in attendance in East Yorkshire to watch him live in action for the first time.
Campese, who now lives in South Africa, had caught a train down from Edinburgh where he had been watching Scotland’s extraordinary Six Nations capitulation to Italy.
Dixon, not even born when Campese senior lifted the World Cup with Australia at Twickenham in 1991, admitted: “It was a good performance for anyone to come and see.
“It’s his first time watching his nephew and for him to witness a game like that is a real positive for him as well as us.
“It can boost everyone here. It’s been a long time coming that first victory.
“We’ve put in some good performances and to get the win against a big club like Wigan will always be a positive and pump everyone up.”
The key now, of course, is to back it up at Warrington, although that will potentially be a sterner test especially as the hosts seek to atone for their first loss of the year, Saturday’s sobering 38-18 defeat in Perpignan.
“They took a big beating from Catalans but a team like Warrington won’t come back lightly after receiving what they did,” added Dixon.
“But hopefully we can do it again and a good performance like this, against a big club like Wigan with their in-depth squad, I think will roll over for us into the week ahead.”
Meanwhile, Dixon’s former boss Joey Grima has quit as head coach at London just three games into the relegated club’s new season citing “family reasons”.
He will return home to Australia and current assistant coach Andrew Henderson, the former Sheffield Eagles hooker, will take charge on an interim basis.