WE may only be in the middle of May, but experienced Saints winger Ade Gardner has already endured a turbulent, topsy-turvy campaign.
Turning out for Whitehaven as part of the dual registration system, severely concussed during the Good Friday clash with Wigan, scoring tries for Saints and banned for a disputed shoulder charge against Hull KR - there hasn’t been a dull moment.
“It’s been a little bit up and down so far this year,” he admitted.
“When I’ve played, I feel like I’ve played well - I’ve just not played as much as I’d like. Sitting out the London game because of the ban was particularly hard.
“Admittedly, the tackle I made against Hull KR looked like a shoulder charge - but it certainly wasn’t intentional. I made a split second decision and didn’t even realise I was in trouble until the referee called me over. I didn’t think it was any different from what I’ve been doing for most of my career. But the rules have changed now and I’ve got to accept it.
“The concussion I suffered against Wigan really knocked me sideways too. I’ve never suffered anything like it. It took days for me to feel anything like normal again.”
Gardner, a supporter of the dual registration system, insists there were no hard feelings about being sent away with youth player Anthony Walker to get some game-time for Whitehaven earlier this year.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “I’m a Cumbrian lad, so it was good to be back there, and I needed to get a bit of match sharpness because I had only played two halves of rugby in pre season after a long time out.
“Obviously, that league isn’t as skilful as Super League - but the physicality is right up there. It was excellent preparation.”
And the 29-year-old, who admitted that Saints had struggled during their nightmare run with injuries and suspensions, called on the side to improve their attack, more than their defence, if they are to put a halt to the alarming slump in form.
He added: “We haven’t got the depth in our squad that sides like Leeds have - particularly in the halves. But we’re a very dangerous side when we execute well offensively.
“The better we attack the less pressure we’ll be under in defence. I know it’s a cliche, but the best form of defence is attack. On the whole, I actually think our defence has been pretty good this season - we’ve just been doing far too much of it!
“We’ve had a few tough knocks already this season but a little adversity never did anyone any harm. And with all the young kids who’ve made an impact for us this season, the future looks exciting too.
“The great thing about the young lads is that they have no fear whatsoever and just want to learn and push the regualar players every single day.”