Dom Manfredi reflects on dark days after helping Wigan Warriors to Grand Final glory
As he basked in the glory of his club's Grand Final triumph, two-try hero Dom Manfredi reflected on the dark days when he contemplated quitting the game.
In only the fifth match of his comeback from injury, the 25-year-old winger scored two of Wigan's three tries to help them to a 12-4 win over Warrington in Saturday's Super League title decider at Old Trafford.
"If you had told me that two months ago, I would have said I had no chance," Manfredi said. "I'm really made up."
Manfredi seriously damaged knee ligaments a month out from the 2016 Grand Final and, after suffering a setback in a reserve match, spent more than two years on the sidelines, wondering if he would ever play again.
"It's been unbelievably dark," he said. "I've felt like giving up a lot of times but this has made every minute of it all worth it.
"I started HGV driving and was planning on doing my test, but as I was getting fitter I pushed it back.
"Just the thought of playing 80 minutes with my mates was pulling me through, never mind playing in a Grand Final. To do it in this fashion is just unbelievable and I'm lost for words.
"My family, team-mates and staff at Wigan all mucked in and made sure I was alright all the way through the injury.
"It got me there in the end and I've my mum to thank mainly. She was there when I couldn't get up to take my dog for a walk, bringing me food, cooking for me, cleaning for me. That was my mum."
Manfredi is also grateful to outgoing coach Shaun Wane, who ended his 30-year association with his home-town club on a high by guiding them to a third title in his seven years at the helm.
"I owe a lot to Waney," Manfredi said. "I'd probably be digging holes on a building site if it wasn't for him. I'm gutted he's leaving but I'm sure he will kill it wherever he goes."
Also departing on a high is full-back Sam Tomkins, who paid tribute to the determination of his team-mate.
"Six months ago Dom was in the worst place a professional athlete could be mentally," said Tomkins.
"What Dom has gone through you wouldn't wish on any player of any sport. I've had injuries where I've been out for six and seven months and you go through some real lows. It's a cruel time and Dom had two years of that.
"But what Dom has got is an ability that you can't teach, he's just a natural and that's why we knew, if he could just get back anything like he was before, he'd show the same form.
"He's proved that and I'm absolutely buzzing."
After enduring so much torment with his knee, a eye injury was not going to stop Manfredi making the most of his big chance.
He was forced off for treatment after being hurt making a try saving tackle on his opposite number Tom Lineham but, after undergoing running repairs, was back out on the field in time to score the winning try.
"It was my eyelid that was cut so there was blood going straight into my eyeball," he explained. "I couldn't really see anything, so that needed stitching up.
"Brooksy (doctor Chris Brookes) nailed that within about five minutes so I was back out there and ready to go. There was no doubt whatsoever I would be going back out there."