Leeds Rhinos: Hetherington confirms plan for future without Hardaker

Zak Hardaker
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MAN OF Steel Zak Hardaker is not expected back at Leeds Rhinos next season, chief executive Gary Hetherington has confirmed.

And Hetherington says he knows whether star hooker James Segeyaro will be a Rhinos player in 2017, but is not yet ready to make an announcement.

England full-back Hardaker is currently on loan at Penrith Panthers in Australia’s NRL, but remains on Rhinos’ transfer list with a £300,000 price tag.

He has been playing regularly as a substitute for Penrith.

And Hetherington said they have first refusal on his services for 2017. “The position with Zak has not changed,” Hetherington said. “He asked to go on the transfer list and the club agreed it would be best for him to start afresh with another club, either in the NRL or Super League.

“We agreed ultimately for him to spend the rest of the season with Penrith and from that moment we have planned for 2017 without Zak Hardaker.

“He is obviously planning his own future with another club, but so far we haven’t progressed anything with either Penrith – who have first option on him – or anyone else.”

Hetherington added: “I haven’t spoken to Zak for a while.

“I don’t know whether he wants to remain in the NRL or come back to England. In that regard we would still be open to offers, but we do have a courtesy with Penrith.

“They have the first option provided they want him and he wants to stay there.”

Hardaker had an outstanding year last season, winning the British game’s top individual award, but has been dogged by off-field issues since joining Rhinos from Featherstone Rovers ahead of the 2011 campaign.

He received a fine and club written warning after pulling out of England’s 2013 World Cup squad and was dropped for a match at the start of last term following a police investigation into an incident at student accommodation in Leeds.

His final game for Rhinos was a 32-6 win at Wakefield in June.

Leeds have lost just once in eight games since and have won all seven following Segeyaro’s move from Penrith in a loan-swap.

The former NRL hooker of the year has a two-year contract with Rhinos, but that includes a get-out clause should an NRL club come in for him.

St George-Illawarra are among clubs believed to be interested in signing Segeyaro, though reports in Australia have suggested he is keen to stay at Leeds.

Hetherington said: “We are aware of what his plans are, but we are not ready to make an announcement at this stage.”

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