Hardaker targets England after loan to Tigers

Zak HardakerZak Hardaker
Zak Hardaker
ZAK HARDAKER has targeted reclaiming an England place following his season-long loan move from Leeds Rhinos and believes Castleford Tigers is the perfect environment to achieve that aim.

The full-back, who turned down interest from Huddersfield Giants and Salford Red Devils, remains under contract with Rhinos until the end of 2019.

However, Castleford have secured an option for a permanent move in November 2017 for an undisclosed transfer fee already agreed by the West Yorkshire rivals.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Hardaker was transfer-listed at £300,000 in June and spent the last three months of the season on loan at NRL club Penrith Panthers where he made 11 appearances mainly at centre off the bench.

He was Man of Steel just last year, of course, having helped Leeds win the treble and then played all three Tests for England as they earned a series victory over New Zealand.

But Hardaker – who has had a series of off-field issues during his time at Headingley – was left out of the Four Nations by new national coach Wayne Bennett, something he hopes to remedy now his future is sorted at last. Asked if he feels capable of recapturing his Man of Steel form with Castleford, the 25-year-old told The Yorkshire Post: “I thought I was already doing that with Penrith.

“Even though I didn’t play as many games as I’d have liked in Australia I thought I did pretty well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It was probably the best I felt playing-wise and head-wise for a while and I was happy with how I was going.

“But the difficulty is not many people watch the NRL over here so it might have gone a little unnoticed.

“I’m looking forward to doing it all over here and let everyone know I’m in pretty good shape.

“And I’m delighted to be at Cas; since Daryl (Powell) took over he has taken them to a different level and they play a real attractive style of football that I think will suit me.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Pontefract-born Hardaker links up once more with Powell, the coach who guided him as a teenager at Featherstone Rovers before his £60,000 move to Leeds at the end of 2010.

“Daryl brought me up as a kid at Featherstone more or less,” he said.

“It was a massive influence him being here. He knows me personally as well as professionally and that was important – working for a coach who I think could develop my game further but also knows me well as a person.”

Castleford have already signed a new full-back – Greg Eden from Brisbane Broncos – and freed up salary cap space for Hardaker’s arrival by loaning centre Ben Crooks to Leigh Centurions while prolific winger Denny Solomona is still linked with a £300,000 move to Sale Sharks.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Daryl’s not really spoken about which position I’ll play yet,” he added.

“ That’s what pre-season is for to have a look. All I asked for was an opportunity and I’m pretty sure I’ll show Cas I’m worth it.”

Hardaker, who scored 67 tries in 155 games for the Rhinos, winning three Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and the World Club Challenge, added: “Leeds gave me the opportunity in Super League. Even when there was some trouble there, Gary (Hetherington) kept me when other clubs might have thrown me out. I’ll be forever grateful but I’m looking forward to linking up with Cas after a stressful few weeks.”

Englishman Robert Hicks will referee the Ladbrokes Four Nations clash between England and Australia at the London Stadium on Sunday.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

NRL referee Ben Cummins will be in charge of Friday’s game between New Zealand and Scotland at Derwent Park, Workington.

The appointments were made by a three-man panel of Steve Ganson (England), Tony Archer (Australia) and Luke Watts (New Zealand) and based on the performances of the referees in the first two rounds of games.

Catalans Dragons have announced the signing of Fiji international Brayden Wiliame on a two-year contract from Manly Sea Eagles.

Wiliame, 23, who can play anywhere in the outside backs, made his first grade debut for Parramatta Eels in 2013 and had a spell with Newcastle Knights reserves before joining Manly in 2015.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Catalans coach Laurent Frayssinous said: “I’m really satisfied with the signing of Brayden. He has the profile we were looking for, a young, ambitious player with a real sense of professionalism on and off the field.

“He already has a great experience in the NRL despite his young age and his versatility is a real asset.”

Salford have given former Wigan hooker Logan Tomkins a new contract for 2017.

The 24-year-old younger brother of Sam and Joel Tomkins joined the Red Devils for the 2016 season following an initial loan spell and appeared in all 30 of their fixtures in Super League and the Qualifiers as well as The Million Pound match.