Leeds Rhinos v Hull KR: Hardaker ruled out by ‘bizarre’ illness confirms JJB

LEEDS RHINOS are rallying around Zak Hardaker after a “bizarre” illness delayed his second debut.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 4:34 pm

The 30-year-old had been due to play against Hull KR tomorrow, but was ruled out after collapsing during a walk with his young son following training on Tuesday.

Hardaker, who had signed for Leeds the previous day, underwent treatment in hospital, but could be available for Rhinos’ next game, at Salford Red Devils on Sunday, May 15.

“I’ve been talking for the last four, five weeks about controlling the things you can control and some things just pop unexpectedly,” interim-coach Jones-Buchanan said of Rhinos’ latest fitness blow.

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Rhinos' re-signing Zak Hardaker will miss the game against Hull RK through illness. Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix.com.

“Our first thoughts are with Zak, his health and making sure he’s all right.

“As always, the club have responded really well, he has got everything he needs in terms of medical advice and support and will continue to do so.

“I’ve been around the boys and told them to send him a text message or give him a call to let him know we’re all thinking about him and can’t wait to see him back.”

The caretaker boss insisted: “There’s a lot of the season still to be played and he’ll make some big contributions, for sure.

Incoming Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith has been keeping abreast of the situation at the club. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“I think it just underpins the fact that, for whatever reason, he’s not quite well.

“We need to look after Zak and make sure he’s good and has an opportunity to be a better version of himself.”

Jones-Buchanan said early indications are the former Wigan Warriors man is not facing a long lay-off.

“From what we’re hearing early on, the tests have been really good and everything seems all right,” he added. “We’ve got a couple of weeks now so maybe he’ll be all right for the next game but, ultimately, we have to have a conversation with the doctors to make sure everything is absolutely fine for him to go and play rugby.”

Jones-Buchanan, who played alongside Hardaker during his first spell at Leeds, from 2011-2016, said there were no indications anything was wrong when he trained with his new team-mates on Tuesday.

“He was great, brilliant,” he said. “He trained really well, he was bouncing around the place and some of his old friends were excited to see him back.

“There was plenty of banter and jokes in the right areas and he was fantastic in the meetings.

“We always play a few games to break the ice and he was brilliant.

“In the afternoon, he has gone home and this has happened - one of those really bizzare things.

“I’m in constant dialogue with our coaching staff and medical team as to how he is but, ultimately, he needs to rest up and get himself right. I’ve no idea what caused it.”

With Jack Walker, Richie Myler and Liam Sutcliffe also ruled out, Jack Broadbent is set to start at full-back tonight in only his fourth game of the season.

He was out of favour earlier in the season, but impressed Jones-Buchanan after being called into the side which beat Toulouse Olympique seven days ago.

“We’d been preparing on the assumption that Zak wasn’t going to come [to the club] so Jack has been preparing there really well,” Jones-Buchanan said.

“He has been excellent, I thought he was exceptional against Toulouse.

“We looked at his numbers and statistically, he was out of this world.

“If there’s any response a young fella needs to produce on the back of not playing and being disappointed, that was it.”

Tomorrow will be Jones-Buchanan’s final game at the helm before Rohan Smith arrives in Leeds next Tuesday, but the new boss has already been having an input.

“I’ve had lots of conversations with him, he has been watching a lot of video and we’ve been sending him a lot of information,” Jones-Buchanan revealed.

“Ultimately, he’ll form his own subjective opinions on players and the set-up.

“I’m really looking forward to learning from him; he has a lot of experience and comes from a great pedigree.

“Already some of the messages and conversations we’re having, they’re of great interest and really encouraging.

“It’s going to be exciting when he gets here early next week.”