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The last couple of years haven’t been easy for Dom Manfredi. Back in 2016, the Wigan Warriors winger was hit with a serious knee injury, suffering a horrific ACL blow in a match at Castleford in August. Despite the setback, the now 25-year-old had done enough to secure a place in the 2016 Super League Dream Team after scoring fourteen tries for his boyhood club. Back then, however, he wouldn’t have known how long it would take for him to get back into the first team fold.
During his bid to return to fitness, in August 2017 – after already having had a year out of the game – Manfredi suffered another injury. The player himself admitted that his lengthy absence caused him to question his future in the game but, 762 days after his last appearance, the winger returned this year in the Super 8s. In just his fifth game back, Manfredi played a huge part in securing Wigan’s fifth Super League Grand Final triumph as he scored two tries and, despite the fact that Sam Tomkins, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton and himself are all now to leave, iconic head coach Shaun Wane admitted that he didn’t want the headlines – he wanted them to belong to his winger.
“I was nervous like one of my own kids was playing with the problem,” he admitted, suggesting that if the same injury had happened again to Manfredi that it may well have spelled the end of his career. “In his first game back I had my heart in my mouth.” Indeed, it could be argued that Manfredi may well have not been the first choice winger had the Warriors had their full squad available as, during his absence, the likes of Tom Davies, Joe Burgess and Liam Marshall have all developed to be superb Super League wingers. The injuries to the latter two, though, made it straightforward for Wane and, after impressing in his four appearances prior to that at Old Trafford, he may well have gone with the former Leigh Miners junior anyway.
After scoring his team’s first try in levelling the scores after fellow Wigan academy graduate Josh Charnley had opened the scoring for Warrington, Manfredi would have to leave the field for a short period in the second half after suffering a head injury. Returning shortly afterwards sporting a bandage, when he dived over with minutes remaining in the corner to clinch the trophy for the cherry and whites sparking jubilant celebrations, you’d have been forgiven for thinking he would have wanted to carry on last night no matter what.
It may well be that the names of Tomkins, Bateman, Sutton and Wane are associated with the 2018 Super League Grand Final but they certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the superb finishing ability of Manfredi.
Now, he will go into the off-season and 2019 having truly announced his return and extolled the demons of the 2016 Grand Final triumph he missed.
He has written his own fairytale and rugby league fans throughout the country will have been happy for the player to have, after such a long absence, truly marked his return to top form.
Original video taken from SLHighlights Youtube channel.