Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker isn’t put off by Oz ‘exit poll’

Zak Hardaker

Zak Hardaker

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LEEDS RHINOS full-back Zak Hardaker says experiences of some of his England colleagues, who swiftly returned after short-lived spells in the NRL, did not deter him from making his own move to Australia.

LEEDS RHINOS full-back Zak Hardaker says experiences of some of his England colleagues, who swiftly returned after short-lived spells in the NRL, did not deter him from making his own move to Australia.

He expects to fly out next week having completed a deal to join Penrith Panthers until the end of the season with James Segeyaro coming the other way.

Hardaker, 24, remains transfer-listed at Headingley where he still has more than three years of his contract to run but hopes to impress sufficiently enough to make the switch to Sydney a permanent deal. For all the lure of Down Under, however, others have soon returned to Super League.

Barely four months into his first campaign there, England winger Joe Burgess announced last week that he would be heading back to Wigan Warriors at the end of this season.

Sam Tomkins, Hardaker’s big rival for the England No1 role, cut short his stay at New Zealand Warriors last year to rejoin Wigan while prop Lee Mossop did the same after an injury-blighted season at Parramatta Eels in 2014.

“With those players who have come back after a year or so I still think they deserve credit for getting out of their comfort zone and giving it a

shot,” Hardaker told the YEP.

“For some it hasn’t worked but others – the Burgess brothers, James Graham, Mike Cooper – they have established themselves as real high-quality players in Australia.

“I’m going to go over there and give it my best shot for these next few weeks. I’m quite optimistic I will get a longer deal.”

Pontefract-born Hardaker admitted: “It’s all right saying you want to go to Australia but it’s a different ball game over there.

“I’m sure the rugby will be different and I’m moving away from family and friends while different environments will come into play, too.

“I’m going until the end of this year initially and this is a great opportunity for me to find out just what it is like over there.

“Hopefully I can grab it with both hands, take any chances I get and sort a deal out for the following year and a few years after that as well.

“I’m really thankful to Leeds for letting me go halfway through the season and, at the same time, it is massively sad leaving such a great bunch of lads who I’ve achieved so much with.”

Given Penrith have New South Wales State of Origin star Matt Moylan at full-back, Hardaker may find himself playing centre.

“It could be a possibility,” he said, with the Panthers yesterday releasing France forward Ben Garcia, who returns to Catalans Dragons with immediate effect.

“I can play any outside back positions and I’m not going over there to commit to any one position; it’s a bit of an experiment and I’ll see which position I’m best suited to in the NRL.”

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