SAINTS prop Alex Walmsley says he feels as fit and strong as ever after recovering from the broken neck bone sustained last March.

Walmsley spoke of the worry and doubts that the injury caused, but now sees the silver lining in the cloud that wiped out his entire season.

And after enduring the frustration of watching from the sidelines as Saints faltered at the end a year that had promised so much, Walmsley is not short of motivation for the campaign ahead.

Walmsley said: “It was frustrating to watch. It was a tough year; my first real taste of injury and so to miss large parts was something new to me.

“We know the game we play and the risks that come with it – but it was scary.

“The stigma that comes with a broken neck scared me for a few weeks afterwards.

“You think about it and that it is not going to simply affect your playing career, but also your livelihood.

“It has been a tough year and I have been in some dark places, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“That is what I have been charging towards, knowing not only that I am going to be fine, but I am also going to play rugby again.

“I am looking forward to getting back out there next year.”

There was speculation that the big prop would be back before the end of last term for the business end, but there was insufficient growth on the healing bone.

He said: “We were given a glimmer of hope that I would come back in 2018 but in hindsight it was never really realistic. You cannot cheat time.

“For me to get the all clear I needed a certain amount of growth on the bone.

“It has allowed me 12 months to allow my body to repair itself in other ways itself.

“I feel brand new and I am excited to see how I go in 2019 as this is the best I have felt in years. Every cloud has a silver lining and mine is that I will back next year fitter than ever.”

“One of our main strengths over the last few years has been in the pack. I’m really excited to see Joseph Paulo come to the club and seeing what he can do.

“I’m proud of how the boys went without me but I am looking forward to getting back out there next season.”

Although Saints won the League Leaders Shield, Walmsley reflected the mood across the club that this was not one of the big prizes they sought.

“We won the Shield but there are two other trophies we want to win,” he said.

“We have lost in a number of semi finals and that is unacceptable for a club as big as this and the effort everyone puts into the team.

“We need to address a few things but I am really excited about next year.

"The quality of the players we have brought in will complement the squad.

"We were the best team over the last year and to add these players, we will be better.

“It was a good year with what we brought to the field, the style of rugby and how entertaining we were to watch but ultimately you have to be disappointed with how it ended.

"As good as we were, to not come out with either of the main trophies is really frustrating.

“We want to rectify that and I’m sure 2019 will be that year we do that.”