The world of Rugby League.

rleague.com

Gardner ready for shot at NRL contract

Cronulla fullback Nathan Gardner is preparing for the most important game of his NRL career against St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
Gardner ready for shot at NRL contract
by AAP

By Ben Horne

SYDNEY, June 6 AAP - Cronulla fullback Nathan Gardner is preparing for the most important game of his NRL career against St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium on Saturday.

After a year out of first grade, Gardner feels as though he's making a second debut.

But at the same he knows there's no time for a settling in period.

Off contract and turning 24 next month, Gardner is at his career crossroads, and it's now or never in his bid to earn a new NRL deal.

Nominated for Dally M rookie of the year honours back in 2010, the speedy, jack-in-the-box is determined to prove that 24 months of hell hasn't curbed his potential to make it as a first grade No.1.

A devastating run of injuries coupled with Michael Gordon's arrival in the shire 12 months ago has meant Gardner's last NRL appearance was round 11 last year - when he was called in as a last-minute replacement against South Sydney.

Gardner admits he felt as though his prospects were dead and buried.

But coach Peter Sharp's decision to switch Gordon to centre to face the Dragons has presented Gardner with a glimmer of hope.

"I started doubting myself and my position at the club," Gardner told AAP.

"It was pretty frustrating and I didn't know where I would end up so it feels like I'm starting fresh.

"It feels like I'm making my debut again.

"I'm off contract so I guess it's pretty important to start playing some good footy now."

There were rumours towards the end of last year that Canterbury coach Des Hasler was sniffing around Gardner as he looked to fill the shoes of Ben Barba at Belmore.

However, Gardner says he never personally spoke to the Bulldogs.

He's yet to enter discussions with the Sharks for a new contract, believing he needs to do his talking on the field.

"They told me if I'm doing everything off the field as well as on the field I'll get my chance in the top grade and hopefully now I've got that chance and some contract stuff will progress from that," he said. "Now people are starting to sign players and player movement is happening.

"I think I can provide a bit of enthusiasm and a bit of speed and a bit of something different."

Cronulla are trying to arrest a three-game losing streak and get off the bottom of the ladder, while the Dragons are equally desperate - having dropped four on the bounce.

Gardner will go head-to-head with a player in a similar boat, Dragons fullback Adam Quinlan.

With Josh Dugan being given a shot at right centre, Quinlan is looking to make it hard for new coach Paul McGregor to drop him again.

Quinlan is contracted to the club for next season, but it's understood his name has also been mentioned by rival clubs looking for a sharp custodian.

"I'm just trying to focus on cementing a spot in the side," he said.


Your thoughts?


You need to login or register to contribute here



Follow rleague.com on Facebook

Related Profiles

View profile pages including statistics, results, news, photos and more on all of the following...

Popular News Stories