Internal probe to decide Hardaker’s future with Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos' Zak Hardaker (Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Leeds Rhinos' Zak Hardaker (Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe).
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LEEDS RHINOS’ head coach Brian McDermott says it would be “wrong” for him to comment whether Zak Hardaker’s latest indiscretion places question marks over the England full-back’s future at Headingley.

However, the fact he has answered in such a manner suggests the 23-year-old’s prospects are certainly opaque to say the least.

It is hard to imagine the club will sack one of their main assets after he admitted earlier this week to an assault on a student in Leeds last month.

Yet Hardaker, fined £2,500 and given a warning by Rhinos for breaching their code of conduct after being thrown out of England’s World Cup squad in 2013 for misconduct, is on thin ice and will nervously await the outcome of an internal investigation into the matter.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington has returned from a trip to Australia and will take command of the situation following the events that have played out in his absence.

If the club decided Hardaker has run out of chances – he also served a five-match ban imposed by the RFL last June after being found guilty of making homophobic comments to Warrington’s Michael Monaghan – they could try to sell him, perhaps to a club in the Australian NRL but it all remains to be seen. Asked if the incident did leave doubts over the player’s future, McDermott said: “That is what this investigation is for, to find out exactly the how, why and wherefore that led up to it.

“We’ve got the police report, but we need to go further than that. It’d be wrong for me to make any comment about what the future holds.

“We’ll have a far better idea when this investigation is complete. There is a lesson to be learned but – and most clubs will say this – we need to make sure this isn’t acceptable.

“But, bigger than that, this is not what we’re about – having a beer and getting into scraps in the early hours of the morning. You can’t be doing that if you are a professional player and knowing what we expect of them at training.

“They are really well alerted to where they are allowed to be and when and the big thing for us is why they would want to be out on a ‘school’ night like that.”

Hardaker was left out of last Friday’s loss at Warrington Wolves after CCTV appeal pictures of him and Minchella, 19, issued by the police emerged in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

McDermott – who says the club notified the police of the duo’s identity when they were made aware themselves – may recall him for tonight’s game against Wigan Warriors, but was still undecided yesterday.

Asked if he felt let down by the player, who is under contract until the end of 2016, he responded: “I don’t know if ‘let down’ is the phrase. I’m disappointed. It’s something you don’t want to have to deal with.

“Whether Zak plays or not this week, it doesn’t mean everything is all right. What he’s done is made an error; it’s another error and we’re aware of Zak’s record.

“We need to make sure that he’s aware of that. There’s a process to go through. It’s just not one conversation. We’re going to look at a few things.”