Saints Q&A: Craig looks to get back on track

ON THE RISE - Saints flanker James Craig has returned to full fitness and is looking to rediscover the form he found last season (picture: Linda Dawson)
ON THE RISE - Saints flanker James Craig has returned to full fitness and is looking to rediscover the form he found last season (picture: Linda Dawson)

At the start of last season Saints flanker James Craig looked to have the world in his hands.

The youngster, signed from Leeds Carnegie, had enjoyed a fine pre-season; the apex of which came against Toulouse at the small, sun-soaked town of Camares.

Craig replaced injury victim Phil Dowson early on and went on to put in a towering performance, iced with a try.

Saints beat the French giants 31-17 and the club’s back row prospects looked bright.

Craig went on to get his fair share of game time during last season and played in the heartbreaking 25-23 Premiership semi-final defeat to Harlequins.

He got a full pre-season under his belt again last summer, but injury problems have since hampered the 24-year-old.

But the Beverley boy is back in the swing of things now, having made his long-awaited comeback against Gloucester last weekend, and the Chron caught up with him this week for a Q&A session.

Firstly, James, we hear there’s an interesting story behind your nickname, Trammer. Can you tell it to us?

“I was in the academy at Leeds and one of the pre-seasons we went on a trip to a coal mining museum in Wakefield. They had people who pushed the carts uphill with their heads to get it out of the mine.

“We had a hooker called Rob Rawlinson and I tried to get the nickname to stick on to him, but somehow it got reversed on to me.

“I’m now Trammer, I push things and do the hard work. That’s pretty much it.”

Do you like it?

“It’s all right. It pretty much sums me up really. It’s a good nickname for a forward.”

On a more serious note, you’re now back from injury. Talk us through your season so far.

“In pre-season we came back from a trip to France, where I played 40 minutes of a game.

“But in the first training session back I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), a grade two tear, so that kept me out for a few weeks, and then I came back in an A League game against Sale, played 20 minutes and dislocated my shoulder.

“That needed an operation and that’s kept me out for 15 weeks until last Saturday, which was my first game back.

“It’s obviously been tough, but it’s one of those things. There are worse things that happen to other players and I’m happy to be back playing and contributing to the season.”

Did you ever worry you might not make it back?

“No. I’ve never had any issues with the shoulder I injured, so there wasn’t really a chance that I wouldn’t make it back.

“It’s been a long road, but I’m back now and looking to build on last year.”

You make reference to last year there; has this season been even more frustrating because of how well you did during the previous campaign?

“The start of last season was around the World Cup time when a lot of boys were away so I got an opportunity a bit on the bench.

“Then when the boys came back I was more involved in the Wanderer, which was good for me. It gave me a chance to work on stuff in the gym, getting bigger and stronger.

“It’s something that’s been one of my issues, not being big enough, quick enough so it was good to work on that.

“Then when there were various injuries and bans it gave me another opportunity to state my case and play a bit.

“That was fantastic at the end of last season and I obviously hope to get to that kind of level now.”

Did you look back on some of the bigger games you played last season and use them as inspiration when you were trying to get back from injury?

“In the (Premiership) semi-final and the final of the LV= Cup, you look around the room and you’ve got people like Andy Long who are coming towards the end of their career and it’s tough.

“That’s possibly their last chance to get into a final and it makes you realise, as a younger guy, you’re not going to get 20 chances of getting to a Premiership final, you’re going to get maybe five or six.

“And if you don’t get there and you don’t win them then you’re left at the end of the day thinking you want to win trophies. That’s what we’re here for, that’s what we want to do as a squad.

“It makes you stronger as an individual going forward, but obviously at the time it’s massively disappointing. You have to use that experience for the future.”

And you came so close in that semi-final at Harlequins...

“Yeah, we’re were 10 minutes away. It’s tough because we had lost a lot of players during the season.

“We lost people to injury in that game as well and it just gets harder and harder. You get down to guys who haven’t been fully involved in training and they don’t fully know their roles.

“It’s always tough and it’s one that we’ll look back on that sort of got away from us.”

Back to this season, and what are you hoping for for the rest of the campaign?

“I just want to get back playing and anyway that I can help the squad – we’ve got a good squad in the second row and the back row – in a rotation role, I’m more than happy to do that.”