Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker has no hard feelings about move away from Leeds

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FORMER MAN of Steel Zak Hardaker says he has “no hard feelings” over his move away from Leeds Rhinos.

Hardaker was transfer-listed last June and joined Castleford Tigers on a season-long loan this week, following a short-term spell with Australian club Penrith Panthers.

Zak Hardaker.

Zak Hardaker.

He is contracted to Leeds until the end of 2019, but the two clubs have already agreed a fee for a permanent transfer in a year’s time.

The 25-year-old full-back’s six seasons at Leeds were marred by a series of disciplinary issues and Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has insisted a change was necessary.

But Hardaker stressed: “I can’t have any hard feelings.

“What they [Rhinos] have done for me as a player and a person is fantastic.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Gary and Brian Mac [McDermott, Leeds’ coach] and everyone at Leeds.

“I have won everything that could be won and that’s not just done by me, it is a team and a squad effort. The incidents I got in trouble for, they stood by me. I can’t say one bad word about them. It’s just a shame it came to a bit of a weird ending, but me and Gary are still good friends and all the boys are good friends.”

Hardaker revealed he never expected to see out his career at Rhinos and said the prospect of returning after his spell in Australia “didn’t really excite me”.

He added: “I could have stayed there for another 10 years and been happy with my career, but I want to challenge myself and explore different things.

“Going to Australia was a big thing for me and coming to Castleford – a rival club – is a big challenge. It’s a club that’s not far off and hopefully I can achieve something with Castleford. That is going to drive me on this year. I can see why people stay at Leeds because it’s a fantastic club and it’s great to be around, but I want to do different things and achieve different things.

“Inevitably I was going to leave. I thought it was going to be after this contract I am on, that’s what I was looking towards. But it has come sooner and I am pretty pleased about where I am at now.

“I want to be at a new place, a fresh start somewhere.”