The former Hull KR forward restarting his career

Sebastian Sternik
Joe Wardill may only be in his early 20s however his rugby league career has already seen its fair share of ups and downs.

Wardill, 22, retired 18 months ago having gone through three hip surgeries while playing for Hull KR. Fast forward to last month, Dewsbury Rams announced that he would return to the sport after signing a one-year-deal with the club. 

He said: “I was thinking about getting back involved after playing a couple of games for the Hull KR Reserves. My body held up really well.

“Obviously, I know I’ve still got some restrictions on what I’m able to do but I’m hoping that it won’t be as bad as some of the problems I faced while playing for Rovers.”

Even though rugby league has caused Wardill many injury worries, there’s still something about the game that keeps attracting people like him back.

“There’s no buzz like it to be honest,” he said. “Ever since I left the game, I’ve been coaching for the Hull KR Women’s team and the Hull KR girls programme. Even when watching the game, you get that buzz.

“I started volunteering with the academy set up at Rovers so I kind of joined in a per-season with them to keep fit. Just literally doing all the conditioning sessions but not actually training with them. My body felt really good so I decided to put my name down for reserves. The kick you get out of this is too good. If I feel alright, I’m trusting that my body will be ok.”

When asked what his close family made of the return, Wardill said: “They were excited but slightly nervous as well. They don’t want to see me get into any harm. They came and watched me play in the reserves a couple of times and they said I looked back to normal again.”

The player also admitted that he will not be putting any pressure on himself during this comeback.

“All of this now is just for the enjoyment of the game again. Before at Rovers there’s different pressures that come with a Super League environment and you’re training every day. Now, talking to Dewsbury, the pressure is not really on me. It’s just for me to see what I can offer to the team and help out where I can.”

Upon his retirement back in April 2019, Wardill told the Hull Daily Mail that he feared he would never be pain-free again. However, better understanding of the injury has enabled the player to manage the situation ahead of his return to the sport.

He said: “I don’t think I’ll ever be a 100% because the injury is still there. It doesn’t hurt but it’s something that after training for a couple of days, it could start to get stiff again. But I have full faith that I’ll be able to manage it because I’ve got better knowledge of the injury then I did before.”

Despite an injury-plagued professional career, the player has achieved a lot in the sport having played in a Hull derby, represented England on the international stage and even being part of the first ever game between a Super League club and Toronto Wolfpack.

Wardill travelled with his Hull KR teammates to Canada during the 2018 Super League Qualifiers. Hull won the game 22-28 and the player has fond memories of the trip.

“When I was over there, I really enjoyed the experience. It was different to any other Super League game that I’ve been involved in.

“Especially the way that the fans interacted with it, we were very hands on with everybody after the game. Meeting a lot of people who watched the game and really enjoyed it. All I’d say is that for me, if they can get the situation right where everything’s in order and there’s no more problems then I can’t see why not.”