Lomax battles back from adversity

Jonny Lomax
Jonny Lomax

Jonny Lomax was in danger of becoming the forgotten man of rugby league until he burst back onto the scene in fairytale fashion at the weekend.

One of the unluckiest players in the game, there could hardly have been a more popular scorer when he grabbed the the opening try that put St Helens on their way to a 38-34 win over Leeds at Langtree Park.

When he scored a second and was mobbed once more by his jubilant team-mates, it even brought a tear to the eye of Saints’ hard-nosed coach Keiron Cunningham, who was still the team’s hooker when Lomax made his Super League debut in 2009.

The Billinge-born full-back had the world at his feet then. He played on the wing in his club’s 2010 Grand Final defeat by Wigan and formed an exciting half-back partnership with Lee Gaskell that took them back to Old Trafford 12 months later.

Lomax began to find his best form in 2013 after then coach Nathan Brown switched him to full-back and he was on the verge of the England squad in 2014 until he was struck down by a serious knee injury.

He returned from major surgery in time for the start of the 2015 season but only five games in suffered the same knee trauma and required another reconstruction.

Cunningham has described the “dark days” the player endured during another prolonged period of rehabilitation but he was well aware of his resilience and strength of character because Lomax and injuries have been bed fellows for as long as he can remember.

The familiar headguard is a constant reminder of the fearful clash of heads during a schoolboys match that almost ended Lomax’s career before it began.

Initially discharged from hospital, he was rushed back in five days later to have open-skull surgery and was told by the medical people he would not be able to play rugby again.

Lomax, who supported Saints as a boy and dreamed of one day playing for them, spent nine months on the sidelines but eventually got over the headaches and regained his fitness in time to rejoin the club’s scholarship programme, from which he signed for their academy.

The rest, as they say, is history as Lomax continued his battle with adversity to make his mark for his club.

“I know what it means to that kid,” Cunningham said. “I’ve never come across a more committed professional in my my career than him.

“If anyone deserves to do well in rugby league, then it’s Jonny Lomax.

“His preparation is always good and his influence on the team is massive - people forget how long he’s been around and players look up to Jonny as a senior player.”

Lomax will continue to be nursed back gradually by his mentor but, still only 25 and given a free run from injuries, there is no reason why he should not force his way back into the England reckoning.

Nobody deserves it more than Jonny Lomax.