Before this weekend, the last time Denny Solomona had pulled on a Sale Sharks shirt to start a Premiership game was in February, 2021. In the seven months since the winger has, by his own admission, had a ‘dark time.’
But now a rejuvenated Denny is back, he started against Exeter in round three of the Gallagher Premiership, and now he’s looking forward to repaying the Sharks Family for their support.
We sat down with him to get the lowdown on his journey back to first team action.
“I’m not shy to say that it’s been a really dark time for me,” Denny said. “But starting at the back end of last season and then coming into this season has been a real awakening for me in rugby terms.
“Going back to early this year – around the time of the Quins game – I had become bored of the game, I wasn’t enjoying it and I felt I’d lost interest. To be very honest, I was seriously thinking about hanging up my boots.
“I was in a mindset where if I got picked, I got picked, and if I didn’t, I didn’t. I did feel I was ready to play, but Alex didn’t pick me for the rest of the season after the Quins game and to be honest, that was hard.”
Denny said that since Alex Sanderson’s appointment in January, he’s responded to the approach taken by the Sharks Director of Rugby. And he said he had to answer some big questions at home too.
He said: “Alex thinks about things in a very holistic way. He had also come from a team with a winning mentality in Saracens, and he challenged me to become fitter, and to get back to my best.
“My partner challenged me too, and said “are you doing everything you can do?” And I wasn’t.
I needed to reinvent myself and the way that I looked at the game if I wanted to carry on, so I sat down with the coaches and I said I thought I still had a lot to offer. I knew I still had the skills to help the team, but I knew I had work to do.”
Pre-season was a new start for Denny, as his bond with two of his fellow Sharks back saw him take up a new sport.
But despite putting in the work, he missed out on selection for the opening game of the season against Bath, waiting instead until round two of the Gallagher Premiership season to get his chance.
“Pre-season was great for me,” he said. “I’m very close to Manu and Rohan and everyone knows they’ve been cutting some weight so being around them has been brilliant. We’ve been playing golf together and just being around them and spending time with them has helped me so much.
“I threw the kitchen sink at pre-season and thought I was ready for the first game of the season against Bath, but Alex pulled me aside and said he wasn’t going to select me. It was really hard to take because I thought that I was ready. It hit me like a tonne of bricks and to be honest, I was angry about it.
“But I got my head down and tried to train as well as I possibly could and the week after, Alex sat me down and said I was getting my chance as a replacement against London Irish.
“It was a really tough game, especially in the second half when I came on because we couldn’t wrestle the momentum back. But I was happy with the way I played, and it was just so exciting to get back on the pitch with the boys. I was actually really nervous!”
Speaking ahead of the Exeter game, Alex highlighted Denny’s family and friends, and his close-knit support network as being a big factor behind his return to action. And Denny says he’s loving the chance to share his return to the first team with his nearest and dearest.
He said: “Being picked to start was a massive achievement for me but also for my family too. We’ve all been through the dark times together and I’ve had incredible support.
“It was fantastic to run out in front of the Sharks supporters. They’ve always backed me 100 per cent and never criticised or got on my back. I can’t thank them enough for all the messages they’ve sent me on social media.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but after what I’ve been through, to play in front of a packed stadium, with my family, and my little girl watching was amazing.”