LONG-SERVING BACK Ian Hardman reckons Featherstone Rovers are beginning to get to grips with the First Utility Qualifiers.
Rovers have lost their opening three games, but gave Super League hopefuls Leigh Centurions a fright two days ago before going down 30-18.
Hardman said: “That’s the third time we’ve been close to them this year and they’ve managed to get over us. Credit to them, but it is a massive improvement from our previous performances in the Qualifiers.
“We showed a little bit of character, especially after going 12 points down early doors in the game.
“It looked like same old story, but we dug in and got ourselves back in the game and probably missed some opportunities in the second half.
“A couple of errors cost us, but it’s an improvement, we’ve got a weekend off this week to get some good training into us and hopefully we can have a good second phase in the Qualifiers.”
Hardman added: “We’ve had a tough start, but we are approaching every game like we can win it. We feel we’ve let ourselves down a little bit in the first part, but we’ve got some games where we’ll definitely be targeting wins and we can see where that takes us.
“We’ve got a taste for it, we know what it’s all about and we realise how hard we’re going to have to work and how well we’ll have to play as a team. We’ve got something to build on now and hopefully we can have some success.”
Batley Bulldogs are Rovers’ next opponents and Hardman is predicting a tough game. He said: “Every single time we play Batley it is tough, especially at their place. I think everybody finds it the same. We’ve had some great battles with Batley this year and it is going to be a big game for both clubs.”
Hardman has been granted a testimonial and is also now working for Leeds Rhinos’ foundation.
“I had a testimonial dinner the other week to kick it all off,” he said of his benefit year. “We had a load of people down at Featherstone and we had a good do in the clubhouse. I’ll be running plenty of events over the next 12 months and hopefully making the most of it.”
Of his work at Leeds, he explained: “I am a rugby league development officer for the Rhinos Foundation.
“That’s my day job, coaching in schools and clubs around Leeds. It’s something I enjoy and I am hopefully looking to go towards that sort of career path when I finish playing, maybe into coaching somewhere at some level, so it’s a good job for me at the moment and I’m enjoying it.”
Hardman is expected to be available for the clash with Batley, despite being charged with making grade A dangerous contact against Leigh. He could submit an early guilty plea, which would mean he avoids a ban.
Hardman was also cautioned for a dangerous throw. Teammates Bradley Tagg and Tim Spears both have the option of an early guilty plea after being charged with a grade A dangerous throw, while Leigh’s Harrison Hansen faces a grade c dangerous contact charge.