Michael Strickland Gardiner (born 5 July 1979) is a former Australian rules footballer who played for the West Coast Eagles and the St Kilda Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL). Originally from Albany, Western Australia, Gardiner played for the Claremont Football Club in the West Australian Football League (WAFL) before being drafted by West Coast with the number-one pick in the 1996 National Draft. He made his debut for the club in 1997, and over the next seasons replaced Ryan Turnbull as the club's first-choice ruckman. After being named in the All-Australian team in 2003, Gardiner missed most of the 2004 season due to injury. Loss of form and a series of off-field controversies led to him being traded to St Kilda at the end of the 2006 season, having played total of 129 games for West Coast. During his time at St Kilda, Gardiner added another 52 games, including St Kilda's 2009 and 2010 losing grand final teams, before retiring at the end of the 2011 season.
|Full name||Michael Strickland Gardiner|
|Date of birth||5 July 1979|
|Place of birth||Albany, Western Australia|
|Original team(s)||Claremont (WAFL)|
|Draft||No. 1, 1996 National Draft (West Coast)|
|Height||199 cm (6 ft 6 in)|
|Weight||105 kg (231 lb)|
|2007–2011||St Kilda||52 (23)|
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 2011.
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
West Coast Eagles career
Gardiner was the number 1 draft pick in the 1996 National Draft.
There were big wraps on Gardiner as an emerging ruckman/forward. He did not disappoint, winning a Rising Star nomination in 1997 and All Australian selection in 2003. However, he was then limited by chronic knee injuries, and played 18 games in the next three seasons with the Eagles with Dean Cox becoming the leading ruckman in the AFL competition.
In May 2005, Gardiner and then West Coast team mate Ben Cousins were criticised for involvement with a group of alleged Perth underworld figures. Cousins and Gardiner allegedly received phone calls from gangland figures both before and after a stabbing and shooting at the Metro City nightclub. Police questioned Cousins and Gardiner about the incident but they refused to aid the inquiries. The Eagles told the pair that they were on their "last warning" and that their off field behaviour would not be tolerated.
Gardiner's off field lifestyle was often seen as detrimental to the West Coast playing group and, in February 2006, in the midst of the Ben Cousins booze bus incident, he was dropped to the Western Australian Football League side Claremont indefinitely on grounds of poor performance and poor off field behaviour.
On 18 July 2006, Gardiner's playing contract was suspended indefinitely and he was fined $5,000 following his involvement in a traffic accident in the Perth suburb of Scarborough. While he escaped the accident with only minor injuries, West Coast Eagles chief executive Trevor Nisbett said that it was highly unlikely the club would renew his contract at the end of the year.
St Kilda Football Club
2006 Trade Period
With Michael Gardiner's football career in limbo due to his effective sacking by the West Coast Eagles, speculation linked him with a trade to a Victorian-based club, with St Kilda or Carlton touted as the most likely destination for the ruckman.
During the 2006 AFL Trade Period, the Eagles traded Gardiner to St Kilda with a swap of third round draft picks (No. 43 for No. 59).
Michael Gardiner started his St Kilda career by playing in the Saints' 2008 NAB Cup winning side, only the third time St Kilda had won a pre-season cup. During the AFL season Gardiner, hampered by injury, only managed to play 8 games. However, his attitude and effort in training, combined with the glimpses of form and class he showed in his handful of games warranted playing on again the next season.
The 2009 season saw Gardiner return to some of his best football form. Gardiner played in 16 of 22 matches in the 2009 home and away season in which St Kilda finished top of the ladder, winning the club’s third minor premiership. He averaged 10 disposals and 20.5 hit outs per game, while proving a threat up forward, kicking 12 goals for the season. Though unfortunate to narrowly miss out on selection, Gardiner’s return to form and value to the St Kilda side saw him touted as a potential All-Australian selection.
Gardiner played his 150th game of AFL football in the Saints' Round 13 match against Richmond, a remarkable milestone for a player who had battled persistent injuries that saw him cut down in his prime, before being delisted by the West Coast Eagles in 2006.
Another of the highlights of the season for Gardiner occurred the next week in the Round 14 blockbuster clash between the two undefeated sides of the competition - the Saints and the Cats. In front of an AFL record crowd of 54, 444 at Docklands Stadium, Gardiner kicked four goals including the match-winner after a spectacular mark in the closing minutes of the game. Gardiner would receive 3 Brownlow Medal votes in recognition of his performance as best player on ground against the Cats.
St Kilda qualified for the 2009 AFL Grand Final after qualifying and preliminary finals wins. Gardiner played in the grand final in which St Kilda were defeated by 12 points.
Gardiner had a stellar 2010 season. He played 22 games, the most he had ever played in a single season, during which he averaged 10.5 disposals, 17 hit-outs a game and kicked 10 goals for the year. He combined his aggression and mobility around the ground with masterful ruck performances, recording a top three finish in the competition for hit-outs to advantage.
However, Gardiner's onfield performances helped the Saints reach the Grand Final, particularly his critical role in the Saints' Preliminary Final victory over the Bulldogs which included his kicking the first goal of the game. However, during the first half of the Grand Final, Gardiner sustained a hamstring injury which prevented him from playing on, his absence being notable in a tightly contested drawn match. This injury led to his omission from the Grand Final Replay which the Saints would go on to lose.
Hampered by persistent injuries throughout the season, Gardiner was only able to play in one match – the round 24 victory against Carlton which secured finals football for the Saints. During the game, Gardiner proved he had lost none of his ability with a 10 disposal half before being subbed out. The Carlton match would prove to be Gardiner’s last AFL game before retiring after the Saints elimination final defeat to Sydney the following week. Gardiner played 52 games for the Saints, during which time he returned to pre-eminence as one of the best ruckmen in the game and played a pivotal role in the Saints challenging for premierships during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
|Totals||Averages (per game)|
Gardiner married Danielle McCann in late 2009 at a ceremony in South Melbourne, with Ben Cousins serving as his best man. His wife's sister, Haylea McCann, had married Adam Cooney of the Western Bulldogs a week before, making Cooney his brother-in-law.
- Sport – Old Haleians' Association. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- "ABC News – Football club hits out at Gardiner graffiti". 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2008.
- "The resurrection of Michael Gardiner" Archived 11 July 2013 at Archive.today
- "Ghost of St Michael haunts the Eagles" Archived 10 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- "Bikie gangs run nightclub drug scene"
- "The vicious fight that ignited bikie bad blood"
- "Champion's Rise And Fall", The West Australian, 21 March 2007, pp. 8–9
- "Gardiner suspended indefinitely and fined"
- "Eagles suspend Gardiner's contract"
- "Sinner close to being Saint" http://www.foxsports.com.au/afl/sinner-close-to-being-a-saint/story-e6frf33l-1111112352356#.Ua7g0Gedjps
- "Michael Gardiner re-signs with St Kilda" "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 July 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "St Kilda tall Michael Gardiner continues good AFL form with four goals" http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/st-kilda-tall-michael-gardiner-continues-good-afl-form-with-four-goals/story-e6frfkp9-1225746175056
- "Saints are NAB Cup Champions in 2008". Jeld-Wen. 8 March 2008. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
- "Changing of the Michael Gardiner". Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "2009 Season Scores and Results – Ladder". AFL Tables. 2009. Retrieved 8 November 2009.
- "Michael Gardiner". Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Rehabilitation of Cousins, Gardiner a footy success". Archived from the original on 17 July 2009. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Gardiner delivers on his promises". Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "St Kilda tall Michael Gardiner continues good AFL form with four goals". Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Carlton's Mitch Robinson and St Kilda's Michael Gardiner clash after a night out" http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/afl/carltons-mitch-robinson-and-st-kildas-michael-gardiner-clash-after-a-night-out/story-e6frf9io-1225863822310
- "ST KILDA ruckman Michael Gardiner says Saturday's Grand final could be his final game". Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Gardiner rated only 25 per cent chance to play". Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Keeping the faith a tall tale". Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Saints farewell Gardiner, Baker, McQualter and Eddy". Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- Firkin, Katherine (2009). Ben Cousins among guests at St Kilda ruckman Michael Gardiner's wedding to Danielle MacCann – Herald Sun online. Published 3 November 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- Footy's still a family game – The Age. Published 7 January 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
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