MAN OF Steel Zak Hardaker insists his confidence has not been dented by Leeds Rhinos’ opening First Utility Super League defeat.
Rhinos shared four tries with Warrington Wolves, but were beaten 12-10 after Hardaker missed with his second conversion attempt and a late penalty.
The spotlight is on Rhinos’ kicking after the departure of fabled marksman Kevin Sinfield, who is the third-highest points scorer in rugby league history.
Just one of Leeds’ six tries in Carl Ablett’s pre-season testimonial game was converted, with Hardaker missing three and Jordan Lilley and Ablett one each.
Hardaker admitted he will “beat myself up” over the penalty two days ago, but stressed he is keen to keep the job.
“I’m pretty disappointed with that,” Hardaker conceded. “I’m really upbeatabout my kicking, but it’s something I said I was working on and obviously I’ll have to continue working on that.
“I am disappointed about that, but more about us losing as we could have won it with a few things going our way.”
Of the late kick, Hardaker added: “I didn’t even strike it well at all.
“That’s what bugs me most, I can strike the ball really well and I reckon if I strike like can that would sail through.
“But I didn’t hit it good at all. I’ll probably beat myself up about it over the weekend and then come Monday we’ve a long week into Widnes and we have
positives we can take into next week.”
Despite Leeds’ first round one defeat since 2000, Hardaker reckons Rhinos remain in confident mood.
“It was a tough game, but we always expected that,” he said.
“We knew Warrington would turn up like that and I’d hope they knew we would too.
“As disappointing as it was, it was just a bit of a game of fine margins.
“It was a good test for us with new people in the side and new things in place.
“It was just a shame we lost, but the boys gave 110 per cent. I’m probably the worst when we get defeats, but on the positive side we got some good things out of that game.”
Rhinos were without new hooker Beau Falloon due to a broken toe and had to reshuffle after captain Danny McGuire suffered a knee injury.
“And then Sutty picked up a bit of a niggle first half, too, so he wasn’t 100 per cent for all the game,” Hardaker pointed out.
“But then we’ve got the strength in depth and the cohesion together that we know works for us. It’s those fine margins we missed out on and we just came short.”
McGuire has since been ruled out for two months and tweeted yesterday: “Decent news back from scan so hopefully only miss a couple of months.”
The also club confirmed he had suffered a MCL tear (medial collateral ligament) in his knee.
Meanwhile, off-season signing Anthony Mullally is due to feature for Rhinos in a trial game at Doncaster tomorrow (3pm).
Mullally was signed from Huddersfield Giants after a loan spell at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats last year. He suffered a foot injury in Leeds’ game against New Zealand four months ago and has not played in pre-season.
First team squad players Ashton Golding, and Josh Walters are also included in what is otherwise an under-19s squad.
Rhinos side is: Ashton Golding, Charlie Brown, Tommy Brierley, Jack Norfolk, Ryan Jones, Joe Sanderson, Jack Wray, Sam Hallas, Ben Brady, Connor Sunderland, Harvey Hallas, Cameron Smith, Josh Walters. Subs Harvey Whiteley, Nathan Waring, Mikolaj Oledzki, Anthony Mullally, Jack Walker, Billy McDermott.