Leeds Rhinos have completed the signing of experienced back Zak Hardaker on a deal until the end of the season following his departure from Wigan Warriors.
The 30-year-old England international departed Wigan last week due to what they describe as him “failing to meet expected standards” with Hardaker seeking a return to his native Yorkshire.
He now returns to the club where he spent the best years of his career between 2011 and 2017.
He won three Grand Finals and two Challenge Cups with the Rhinos and was named Man of Steel in 2015 after they won the treble, including the League Leaders’ Shield.
After a loan spell in the NRL with Penrith Panthers, he joined Castleford Tigers and spent just over a year at the Jungle before a move to Wigan in 2019.
Despite starring as a full-back earlier in his career, Hardaker was used more often as a centre while at Wigan but still became an important player and helped them to the League Leaders’ Shield in 2020.
Hardaker returns to Leeds to provide cover in the attacking areas with full-back Jack Walker and centre Harry Newman currently out injured.
Liam Sutcliffe and Tom Briscoe – the only member of the 2015 squad still at the club prior to Hardaker’s arrival – picked up injuries in the Friday night win against Toulouse.
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Speaking about his arrival, the former Featherstone Rovers man says he cannot wait to play in front of a packed Headingley crowd once more.
“The way I left Wigan wasn’t the way I wanted to leave the club but I would like to thank everyone there for the opportunity to play for Wigan,” Hardaker told the Leeds Rhinos website.
“This started last year when I wanted to get a chance to come home back to Yorkshire with my family. I have got that opportunity thankfully with Leeds and I can’t wait to play in those Friday night games in front of a packed South Stand again.
“It is definitely a case of ‘you don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone’ and I think I let my time at the Rhinos the first time pass me by.”
Hardaker will hope to lift the Rhinos after a poor start to the season as they currently lie 11th after just two wins from ten.
He could make his second debut at home to Hull KR (Match betting – Leeds EVS, Hull KR 5/6, tie 20/1) on Friday.
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