Joe Wardle is slowly picking up the pieces from a shattered season.

Last week’s outing for the Bulls’ Under-20s ended a frustrating spell on the sidelines for the 18-year-old centre, whose rapid rise to prominence was cruelly halted by injury.

Wardle’s season ended on the same day he made his first Super League start – a pulled hamstring suffered in the defeat at Crusaders ruining any ambition he had of nailing down a berth at right centre.

There was a brief comeback in the Under-20s game against Castleford two weeks later but that too was ill-fated.

The news that a torn quad would likely end his season came as a jarring shock to the system for the Halifax-born star.

“It was really depressing,” said Wardle.

“I was just pushing through into the first team, things were going right and then that happens and you feel like you’ve been shot. Everything fell to bits.

“At the time we though that would be the season done with but it’s not been as bad as we thought, so that’s one positive.

“I’m just glad to be back training with all the boys again. During the rehab I was continually away from everyone else and you don’t even feel part of the team anymore.”

For a player whose ascent to first-grade had come so quickly, it proved difficult to slow things down.

Patience and conscientiousness became key during a painstaking recovery process – something that ran contrary to Wardle’s natural instincts and ambition.

But, like the shift from academy football to Super League, his injury lay-off proved to be a useful learning curve.

Having experienced both sides of the coin during his first year as a full-time professional, Wardle believes he will be much better equipped to push for a regular first-team spot in 2011.

He said: “When you’re doing the rehab you do want to push yourself and move things along as quickly as possible but if you do that you’re just delaying the time you’ll be back.

“It’s a waiting game. You have to be patient and do all the right things to make sure there are no problems down the line.

“I need to make sure the body stays okay and I don’t pick up any more niggles and then I’m aiming to get a good pre-season under my belt and push on from there.

“My first season’s had highs and lows but I wasn’t even expecting to break through this year so to get the chance at all was a shock to me.

“I’ve learnt from my time injured. It just makes you more eager to get out there and play again.”

Another factor in Wardle’s development could be the arrival of Mick Potter.

The current St Helens boss arrives at Odsal in November to take up a two-year deal as head coach and, having seen the way he has integrated young talent into a champion team at Knowsley Road, Wardle is excited about his potential impact.

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t be positive,” said the former Illingworth amateur.

“It will be nice to see what he can do and we’re looking forward to it. I know he can help me with my own game as well.

“There’s a lot of good kids at this club. Mick has brought a lot of youngsters through at Saints and they have shone in that team.

“He could do the same at Bradford. Hopefully a few of us will get a chance and we can take it.”

Although his current contract expires at the end of the season, Wardle is close to agreeing new terms with the Bulls and insists recent on-pitch struggles have done nothing to damage his passion for the club.

He said: “It feels like home. The atmosphere is really good at the club and we’re still thinking positive.

“We’re going through a bad patch at the moment but every team has times like this. It’s about how you deal with it and recover.

“It’s not stopped me enjoying my time at the club. They really look after you here, everyone from the players and staff to your family.”