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What happened to St Helens’ treble winning winger?

Very few players get their hands on the treble. It’s the pinnacle of club rugby and any side who accomplishes such a feat is brimming with quality and that was very true of the St Helens side who won all three trophies on offer in 2006.

Many rightly swoon to the likes of Jamie Lyon, James Roby and Sean Long when they consider the legends in that team but in truth plenty of the stars in that side deserve to be considered Super League greats including Ade Gardener.

Unlike plenty of his teammates, his rugby career had humble beginnings with Barrow Raiders. However, he soon found himself drafted into Super League with St Helens. After making the odd cameo in 2002, Gardener cemented himself as a first team regular in 2003 even featuring in the World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters.

Over the next few years, the winger developed into one of Super League’s best wingers and appeared immovable on the flank for the Saints as he scored tries for fun. However, the Saints were no longer as dominant as they had been prior to Gardener’s arrival.

Yes, they won the Challenge Cup in 2004, but Super League glory alluded them until Daniel Anderson arrived and revitalised the club forming them into a powerhouse once more. They proved unstoppable in 2006 and Gardener was at the heart of their success finishing the year as the club’s top try scorer.

One of those scores came at Old Trafford as the Saints completed the treble with a 26-4 win over Hull FC at the Theatre of Dreams.

2006 also saw him rewarded for his form with an international debut in June however he was surprisingly left out of the Great Britain squad ahead of the Tri Nations leaving the winger with more to prove going into 2007 and prove it he did scoring twice in the World Club Challenge win over Brisbane to start the season.

Another two try haul would befall the winger at Wembley as the Saints again went in search of the treble. They again rocked up at Old Trafford as favourites but a 33-6 humbling at the hands of Leeds ended their dreams of a double treble.

That no doubt hurt Gardener, so he again stepped things up a notch in 2008 and produced his best ever season finishing the campaign as the league’s top try scorer before being named in the Super League Dream Team. He again found himself playing and scoring in the decider at Old Trafford at the end of the season but this time his try didn’t propel the Saints to victory as it had in 2006 and instead they slumped to defeat against the Rhinos once more.

However, he’d done enough to earn himself a place in England’s World Cup squad but it wound up being a disappointing tournament for him and his side and the disappointment continued into the 2009 Super League campaign as the Saints were hit with a third consecutive Grand Final defeat.

The next few years saw him struggle to remain fit with the likes of Tommy Makinson coming into the Saints side to replace him. Eventually this prompted a loan move to Hull KR in 2014. Despite a decent stint with the Robins, Gardener retired at the end of 2014 to become assistant strength and conditioning coach at St Helens.

He still coaches today and now plies his trade at Warrington as head of performance but has also been drafted into Shaun Wane’s England plans ahead of next year’s World Cup. Hopefully it’ll be a chance for the former Saint to re-write the wrongs of 2008.

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