REPENTANT Leeds Rhinos player Zak Hardaker reckons his recent “mistake” will be a turning point in his life and career.
In his first interview since his admitting an assault in Leeds two months ago, Hardaker conceded he is in the “last chance saloon” – and pledged to repay his club for their support.
Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington this week concluded his investigation into the behaviour of Hardaker and four other players on a night out in Leeds two months ago.
Hardaker and under-19s player Elliot Minchella both admitted assaulting a man, but avoided a police charge after agreeing to pay their victim compensation and write him a letter of apology.
The club’s own disciplinary process led to Hardaker being told to donate a month’s salary to charity, enroll on an anger management course and do voluntary work for the Rhinos foundation and marketing department.
Minchella, who is now on a season-long loan at London Broncos, was fined half a month’s salary and given a written warning and Josh Walters, Ash Handley and Robbie Mulhern all received a verbal warning.
“I made a mistake,” admitted Hardaker, ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Salford Red Devils.
“Apart from myself, it has affected the club and the players as well.
“Now that’s done and dusted and we’re picking up some form on the pitch, I have got a smile back on my face.
“That’s starting to show in the games I am playing at the moment.
“I love playing rugby, that’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was seven years old.
“The media stuff and everything that comes along with the rugby was something I didn’t quite expect and it was hard to grasp, but the mistakes you make, you have to make sure you learn from them.
“I am glad it’s all done and dusted now and I can concentrate on a good season with Leeds. At the moment we are sitting top of the table, four points clear and hopefully we can keep that going.”
Hardaker received a written warning from Rhinos after his early exit from England’s World Cup camp two years ago and served a five-game ban last season for abusing a referee.