'I felt like a pawn' - Higham

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MICKEY Higham admits he felt like "a pawn" during the bizarre transfer deal that took him from St Helens to Bradford before signing for Wigan.

The unusual arrangement was triggered by Saints' refusal to sell players directly to Ian Millward, who they sacked as coach last May.

Great Britain player Higham was signed by Bradford last Thursday for 70,000, but was exchanged for Wigan hooker Terry Newton in a straight swap.

"I heard that Saints wouldn't sell me to Wigan," says Higham, who has signed a three-year deal at the JJB Stadium.

"So even though I signed for Bradford I was resigned to the fact that I would be playing at Wigan.

"It's a bit of a sad way to do it because I just want to play rugby.

"I felt a bit like a pawn in the middle of it all, and I didn't want it to get political because I only put in a transfer request because of my rugby."

Higham – who was handed his first-team debut my Millward at Leigh and then followed him to Knowsley Road – hopes he can further his career at Wigan. "When I was 21 or 22 it didn't bother me playing second-fiddle to Keiron Cunningham," he told the Reporter.

"But I'm 25 now and I want to establish myself as a regular hooker, and not just as someone who comes off the bench.

"I want to be the first-choice and realistically I'm not going to do that at Saints, because of Keiron.

"I have a 10-month-old son, Harry, so I also had to consider the money as well."

Higham, who played one Test in last season's Tri-Nations, added: "I can't speak highly enough of Ian Millward, and with the players they've signed I'm confident we'll be a big force next season. I already know Sean O'Loughlin and Danny Tickle, and I'm really looking forward to it."

l SAINTS winger Ade Gardner was given a pat on the back for his performance in England's 22-12 victory over France at Headingley on Sunday.

Coach Karl Harrison said: "My two wingmen, Gardner and Mark Calderwood, tried extremely hard to speed up the game."

Gardner's team-mate Mike Bennett also came off the substitutes' bench and made a substantial contribution to the final result as the home nation overturned a 12-6 interval deficit.