Michael Dobson – Super League Heroes
Born in June in New South Wales in May 1986, Michael Dobson was an Australian schoolboy international who played his junior football with Canberra Raiders. His name first came to prominence in early 2006, when a successful short-term loan spell with Catalan Dragons, replacing the injured Stacey Jones, resulted in Wigan Warriors signing him later that season to resolve their half-back crisis. Bottom of the table when he joined, Dobson scored six tries and kicked 61 goals in 14 appearances for Wigan, kick-starting a revival that resulted in the Warriors finishing in fourth place that season.
Back home the following season, 2007, he broke through into Raiders first team, and was their top point-scorer with 124 in 18 games. In 2008, however, with Carney and Campese establishing themselves as Raiders’ first choice half-backs, Dobson was left on the sidelines. Canberra agreed to release him, and, seeking a replacement for the injured James Webster, Rovers beat Harlequins, Hull FC and Wigan to his signature. Aged just 21, Dobson marked his Rovers debut at home to Harlequins on 25th May 2008 with two tries in a 22-8 win. A winless spell over six matches followed, culminating in what he felt was his worst game for Rovers, at Castleford. That spell caused him to question his decision to join the Robins, but coach Justin Morgan responded by telling him that he had faith in him. That faith was repaid immediately, as in the next match, against Wigan, he became the first Rovers player to score four tries in a Super League game. The following season he was a key part of the team in Rovers’ most successful Super League season to date.
From his debut, Dobson played in 78 consecutive games before being injured in the second game of the 2011 season. In five and a half seasons with the Robins, Dobson played in 153 games, kicking 537 goals, plus 12 drop-goals, and scoring 53 tries. His 1,294 career points tally with the Robins makes him sixth on the club’s all-time point scorers list. He kicked over 100 goals in a season on three occasions, being most prolific in 2010, with 275 points from 114 goals, three drop-goals and 11 tries. In 2009, he won the Rugby Leaguer & League Express Albert Goldthorpe medal for the best and fairest player in Super League.
Statistics alone do not fully reflect Dobson’s importance to Rovers. His organisation and kicking in the loose, whether for field position or creating try-scoring chances, his ability to take on the defence with ball in hand and his remarkable goal-kicking ability, made him the linchpin of the side. Dobson had been encouraged by Morgan to ‘run the show’ and he played off-the-cuff. When Dobson played well, Rovers usually played well, and he was certainly the Robins’ most influential player during his time at the club. In 2013, he took over from Ben Galea the additional responsibility of being club captain.
Despite still having another year to run on his contract, Dobson exercised an option to return home and have another crack at the NRL in 2014. He felt as if he was at the peak of his career, and wanted to prove himself in his homeland. ‘It’s now or never,’ he said at the time. He signed a one-year deal with Newcastle Knights and played his last game for the Robins in a play-off defeat at St Helens in September 2013.
Reflecting on his time at Craven Park, Dobson said, ‘I’ve loved it over here. I’ve had some great teammates, and a fantastic crowd – they are so vocal, they stay to the end whatever, and drown out the opposition.’ He singled out the 2010 play-off derby win at the KC as being his most memorable game, and Ben Galea as the player who had the most influence on his Rovers career.
Sadly, his return to the NRL did not work out as Dobson had hoped, and he featured only six times for the club he supported as a boy, Newcastle Knights. Receiving offers from both Hull FC and Salford for 2015, he chose the latter because, ‘I just couldn’t bring myself to play for Hull FC, because I had that affinity with Hull KR.’ He played for three seasons for the Red Devils, notably in the 2016 ‘Million Pound Game’ at Craven Park. ‘It was horrible,’ he said afterwards. ‘I had a lot of good friends at Hull KR. It saved my career, but to do it at Hull KR and knowing people who worked there was hardly an ideal situation for me.’
After 2017, which he thought was his best season at Salford, finishing fourth in Super League and reaching the Challenge Cup semi-finals, Dobson returned home with his family. He ended his playing career with a year at Wynnum Manly Seagulls in 2018, before taking an assistant coach position there.
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