After missing much of pre-season through injury Castleford Tigers hooker Adam Milner is making up for lost time in training and confident he will be fit to keep his run of appearances going when the new Super League campaign starts.
Recovery from a knee operation has threatened to break Milner’s run of 47 Super League games, which goes back to 2015, but the proud ever present from last year is back on track and hoping to prove his fitness in this Sunday’s warm-up against St Helens.
He told the Express: “It’s been a different pre-season for me this year because I had an operation on my knee.
“It was a microfracture and just after the New Year I got back running. I’ve been slowly getting into it, but I’m still feeling pretty fit, I’ve kept myself in good shape.
“It’s been the longest injury I’ve had and it’s been tough seeing the boys train. You sort of don’t feel involved with the team..
“I’m hoping the knee is fixed and it feels good so I’m looking to make the St Helens friendly then the start of Super League.
“I am pretty confident I’ll be fit to start the Super League season. It’s been a pretty good rehab, credit to the Cas physio staff. Matty Crowther, our physio, has been a massive help. He puts up with some flak at times, but it’s all good craic really. We’ll have to see how it goes.”
Milner, 25, is looking to build on his best season so far in a Cas shirt when he became a consistently good performer in his usual hooker position and a new role at loose forward.
He said: “Personally I thought I had a pretty good year last year, probably my best one.
“I just want to grow my game and keeping growing.
“A lot of people had to step up last year and I think I was one of them. Missing a lot of senior blokes, like Shenny and Lynchy, I thought I stepped up in that department.
“I played every game last year, which is something I’m proud of.
“I’ve had a little bit of a break with my knee being injured and I would have liked to have kept the ball rolling throughout pre-season, but I’m looking to build on last year.
“There’s competition in the team so hopefully it brings out the best of everyone in the team and myself.
“I really enjoyed playing as loose forward as well last year. It’s a position that I think the coaches were happy with me playing and I felt pretty comfortable in that position as well.
“We’ll have to see where the gaffer puts me, whether it’s nine or 13. I’ll play anywhere – I even had a stint on the wing, which I’ll never forget!
“I get more game time playing at loose forward, which I like. When you’ve got two hookers it’s mostly 40-40, but it frees me up to play more minutes going from nine to 13.”
Milner is looking to keep his successful combination with fellow hooker Paul McShane going after the pair became a strong double act at number nine for the Tigers in 2016.
He said: “We call ourselves Team Madz! It’s a good little mix we’ve got going on. I think both of us had a good year last year and we want to keep on from where we left off, keep improving and developing as players.
“With me being injured I’ve been watching Macca and for me he’s looking like an international nine. Watching Macca from the sideline, his smarts and game awareness is special.
“There’s competition between me and him all the time. I’ve got traits in my game that he’ll probably like and there’s parts of his game I learn from.”
Milner, a former England youth captain, has his own ambitions to push on and play international rugby, although he acknowledges there is big competition in his position.
He added: “Every English player’s got to put their hand up and say ‘I want to play international rugby’.
“But there’s a lot of talented number nines about, Clarky, Hodgson and Roby. I would throw Macca in with them and McIlorum, who missed a lot of last year. Every English player should have ambitions to play for England and going to Australia for a World Cup is something that’s going to be a highlight of your career.”