OUR latest Great Saint is a player for whom today is a great anniversary.

On this day 14 years ago wingman Ade Gardner grabbed two tries – including the winner – as Saints defeated Brisbane Broncos to be crowned World Club Champions.

The Barrow Arrow (Heritage Number 1117 ) joined Saints as an 18-year-old in 2001 and would go on to score 173 tries from 286 appearances in the red vee.

As part of the tribute, we will reproduce part of the interview Gardner gave the Star when he he left the club’s strength and conditioning department to join Warrington.

St Helens Star:

In it he started off by describing the steep learning curve after arriving at Knowsley Road.

He said: “When I was at Barrow, I could get away with being the fast kid. It was a case of give me the ball and I would invariably make a break or score.

“But as soon as I turned up at Saints, everyone was fast, big and strong, and worked and was fit.

“I did not settle in really quickly and was really homesick and probably still immature for an 18-year-old.

“Slowly but surely the good, veteran playing group took me under their wing, congratulated me when I started training well and then we had the crack. It is easy for the penny to drop when you are playing with a great group of blokes.

“That comfort blanket at Barrow went away – not that I did not want to go up and see my parents – but I did not need to be going back all the time.

“I slowly but surely started my adult life,” he said.

St Helens Star:

There were key influences on settling him into the team – and is not the first player to credit the role of skipper Chris Joynt in making that process run smoothly.

Gardner said: “Chris Joynt was the captain and knew when to give you the stern word or when to put his arm around your shoulder.

“He is a really good bloke – but I reckon his name comes up whenever you speak to any of those fellas who he played with.

“He was an old school player. He had worked as plasterer and had a really good perspective on everything, even though he was Chris Joynt and he embedded that perspective on you.

“At the time Sean Hoppe, Peter Shiels, Darren Britt they were in there – for experienced NRL players to say you are training well was a big boost.

“I played about 10 games in my first year and then in 2003 I played in the World Club Challenge game because Wello was injure. I made a big break down the right and had a good game in what was a 38-0 drubbing.

“The 2003 year was a real learning curve of highs and lows – not just for myself, but the team after winning the Super League the year before.

St Helens Star:

“But we had a five-year spell from 2004 where we were in every final and won four Challenge Cup and a Grand Final, and probably should have won another."

The departure of Ian Millward in 2005 and arrival of new boss Daniel Anderson took the wing’s career up to another level.

And Anderson was the first coach to use Gardner’s physical attributes – which when combined with Sean Long’s pin point kicking proved lethal.

“Daniel was a great reader of how people were, what abilities they had and the things they did well.

“For me personally I was still raw. I’m not one of these that had played since they were seven, I was a late comer and still had a lot to develop.

“Daniel was first realise my jumping ability and that’s what made my game in 2006 and the ability to take the high ball.

St Helens Star:

"He made me safe under it as well. He was just a fantastic coach and knew everyone’s personality – and was a great man manager.

“He was my best coach by a long way – 2006 was the stuff dreams are made out of the whole season.

“When you take a step back and think of the games you played in, like the comebacks against Warrington, and the big plays that you made – that is proper rugby.

“It is nice having the medals and I am glad I have all of those – but the last league game at Knowsley Road could not have been written better – that epitomised what it was like to be a Saints player in that era.

St Helens Star:

"Kids coming in, players out of position and veterans having to step up – and we got the win over Castleford at the end,” he said.

Towards the back end of his playing career, Gardner became noted for the strong way he brought the ball away from the line – sometimes as a personal cost – as he sought to give his forwards the best possible start to the sets.

It was a job he relished.

“I had always been a decent ball carrier and that evolved. When I was getting older I did not quite have the gas so I took it on board that this was going to be my job.

“I did that – there was no backward step and it is my personal peeve if I see someone not carrying the ball as hard as they can.

“I used to enjoy that and the lads appreciated what I had done.

“You know what happens, and you know what it is about when you sign up – I was more than happy to put my body on the line for the teammates and the club.

St Helens Star:

“It is not tiddlywinks and I was trying to physically dominate who I was playing against.

“It was only towards the back end when my concussions started to rack up – and you have more perspective when you have kids.

“When you start second guessing what you are doing it is time to transition to another role and that worked seamlessly for me.