While the Knights have been out of action for a year, the wait for rugby league has been longer for Ronan Dixon, sponsored by The White Family. Having missed the start of the 2020 season through injury, you’d have to go back to September 2019 for the last time Dixon took to the field for the Knights.
Now, however, the 23-year-old forward admitted he is raring to go and that he believes the team have prepared well for the season ahead. “We’re doing well and our training so far has been on the money,” he explained. “Our preparation has put us under a lot of stress in training, both physically and mentally.
“It’s been really tough and competitive and I think all the boys have enjoyed it because we want to be the best.”
That preparation will be put to the test when the Knights face Hull FC in our first match at the LNER Community Stadium on Thursday 11th March (7:30pm kick off) live on Our League and, while expecting stern opposition, Dixon noted that it is a challenge he and the team are looking forward to.
“At the end of the day, we want to be at the top of the Championship at the end of the year, we want to be challenging teams like Hull FC because that is where we want to be,” he commented.
“It will be a tough game against them. They’re a well-established, high-quality Super League side but we will put our best foot forward and it’ll be a good run out for everyone.”
The encounter against Hull FC will be the first where the Knights have played rugby league under the newly brought in rules, including the six again rule.
The ‘six-again’ rule will see the referee award a fresh set of tackles, instead of a penalty, for certain offences around the ruck area and, in the shape of Adam Cuthbertson, the Knights pack boasts a player who has played under the new rules.
Of the impact the Australian forward has had on the squad so far, Dixon paid testament to his positive input.
“He’s played his career at the top level, from playing and winning trophies with Leeds Rhinos to his time in the NRL.
“He’s always open to help us younger middles,” Dixon said. “He’s always got a positive input and, for players like myself, we have players like Tim Spears, Danny Washbrook, Danny Kirmond and Adam to help us younger ones, to pull us along with them.”
The recruitment of such Super League experience has led to praise of the Knights’ culture. Dixon, with the club since the 2017 season, has been with the Knights through the development of that professional environment and commented on how he has seen it grow stronger each year.
“It’s just gone from strength to strength,” he reasoned. “I think James Ford’s style is that he brings people to the club who want to win things and people who want to work hard, whether that’s on the pitch or off it.
“Rugby league isn’t just about what’s going on on the pitch but also off it. It’s about recovery, the lifestyle you’ve got to lead.
“It’s 24/7 and Fordy looks for players who want to buy into that philosophy which, nowadays, is what you need to do if you want to succeed,” he explained.
“I personally buy into his philosophy. If you want to be successful, then the way Fordy is means that you’ve got to buy into it 100% and I think the group really has.
“In my time at the club, every year has been competitive in training and that’s just continued. The competition for places is getting tight now and Fordy gets the best out of you,” he said.
“Our training is always tough because he wants a mentally tough team and I think we are, we’re coming to the point where will do whatever we need to do to win.”
The optimism of 2021 comes in stark contrast to Dixon’s 2020 – “it was a shocker” – after injury, lockdown and, ultimately, the curtailment of the season. Despite knowing the regard in which he is held at the club, Dixon admitted his worries given his contract expired at the end of last year.
“I hadn’t played a minute of rugby so it was always in the back of my mind whether I was going to be playing this year in the Championship or whether I’d have to find my feet somewhere else,” he shared.
“Luckily, I’m still at York and rugby league is getting back up and running. I’m really looking forward to getting back playing this season more than anything,” Dixon admitted.
“After missing so long with my shoulder injury and then the Covid situation and what’s happened, I’m raring to go.”
In the midst of this eagerness, however, Dixon noted the privilege that elite athletes currently have given they are able to train and play. “It’s great to be able to train but, ultimately, we’ve got to keep people safe,” he warned. “As much as we want to be out on the pitch, we’ve got to make sure that everything is right around us for our families and how we go about our business away from rugby because, if we’re not following the rules off the pitch, then the game will come to a halt again.
“I’m sure, if you ask any rugby player in the professional game, they don’t want that to happen.”
Dixon, himself, has volunteered to assist at a Covid-19 vaccination centre in West Yorkshire, he revealed. “Partly down to me and down to work,” he explained, “I’m doing some volunteering at one in Wakefield.
“We have to do some volunteering each year and I was keen to do it with the Covid effort – I saw it as an opportunity to help.”
Looking ahead to the Hull FC match and life in our new LNER Community Stadium home, Dixon acknowledged the impressive facility the team will play their home matches in. “I’m sure it’s one of the things that will attract fans to matches.
“It’s a brand new, immaculate stadium and it’s one of the best I’ve been in so you can look at that as well and it’s just another area where the club is growing.”
One player fans will no doubt be keen to take to the field is new signing Brendan O’Hagan, the Australian half-back having joined the club after spells in the NRL with Canberra Raiders and Wests Tigers, and Dixon noted how good Brendan looks in training.
“He looks really sharp in training. He’s trained really well since he’s come in and his talk and input are great,” he said. “The little details he gives on what we could do better, where we can improve are really good and, as a middle, the fact he is always talking is brilliant because when you’re tired and need a kick up the backside, Brendan’s been giving us that.
“He kicks the ball and organizes us really well and I really think he will be a fantastic signing for us.”
As for Dixon, he has been working alongside some of the Knights’ more experienced forwards as he seeks to improve his game. “I’ve been doing a lot of work with Tim Spears in terms of my wrestle on the floor as that’s something we looked at and thought I could develop.
“I’ve been working on my passing as well. That’s not been bad but I’m always keen to work on that side of things.
“We’ve got some skillful middles in our side and, when we put our plays on, we look quite sharp.”
With the clear positivity coming out of the Knights’ camp as we approach the start of the season and our pre-season friendly against Hull FC, it is plain to see that the team are confident ahead of a successful campaign – and that’s something Dixon is clearly keen to be part of.
You can purchase your Live Stream Pass for our friendly against Hull FC on Thursday 11th March, to be shown live on Our League for an Early Bird price of £4.95 or on the day for £10 HERE.
2021 season ticket holders of both teams will receive a complimentary access code to watch the match and our season tickets are available to purchase now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01904 876527.