Zak Hardaker exclusive part one: Leeds Rhinos reveals background to 'scary' collapse

New Leeds Rhinos signing Zak Hardaker has recalled the “scary” moment he collapsed while out walking with his toddler son.

By Peter Smith
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 8:59 am

Hardaker rejoined Rhinos two weeks ago, six years on from the end of his previous spell at the club.

But, after just one training session with his new team-mates, the 30-year-old England full-back/centre was taken ill in the street and needed hospital treatment, ruling him out of the 12-0 win over Hull KR three days later.

Rhinos were without a game last weekend, giving Hardaker extra time to undergo tests and he is now back in training and available for Sunday’s game at Salford Red Devils.

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Zak Hardaker training with Rhinos before he was taken ill. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix.com

Hardaker is on a contract until the end of this season and was brought in to add quality cover to a back division which has been ravaged by injuries this season.

He is one of eight members of the full-time squad who were ruled out against the Robins but comes back into contention this weekend, when new coach Rohan Smith will take charge of a Rhinos game for the first time.

Recalling the events of a fortnight ago, Hardaker admitted it was an unnerving experience, particularly as he had his little boy Abel with him at the time.

“I have had the tests that’s required, to see if I am okay,” he confirmed.

Zak Hardaker in training with Rhinos. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix.com.

“I’ve had tests on my brain and heart; it was a pretty weird, out-of-the-blue episode and Leeds were pretty keen if there’s any major reasons for it.”

Hardaker, who was released by Wigan Warriors four days before signing for Rhinos, was aided by a paramedic who witnessed his collapse.

He was taken to nearby Pinderfields Hospital, in Wakefield, for treatment and later allowed home.

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Zak Hardaker has not played since helping Wigan to a Challenge Cup win at Wakefield on April 10. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

“All I am going off is what the women who saw it happen told me, because it came out of nowhere.

“I came to sat on the floor and I didn’t know what was going on.”

Hardaker stressed: “My first major concern was my son, where is he and is he okay?

“It took me about 20 minutes to really come to and realise where I was. It was a bit of a scary one; I was just walking my son on his bike. After that I had a few days off, but I was really keen to find out what the reason was. It is nothing major, anyway, so that’s the positive out of it.”

Hardaker’s priority now is to “keep looking after myself and stay healthy”.

The 2015 Man of Steel revealed he had a similar experience during a camp with Rhinos in Florida almost a decade ago, which was attributed to jetlag and the intense pre-season training.

However, after undergoing tests and speaking to medics, he is confident there is no long-term issue that could affect his rugby career. He added: “It’s just one of those things that has happened.

“I can’t pinpoint an exact cause, so I’ve got to crack on and go forward.”

The fact he was with his small child at the time added to the stress of the incident, but Hardaker confirmed the 15-month-old is fine.

“He’s good,” he said. “I’ve got another one due in two months so I have got to try and get on the mend and be all right, so I can look after my kids.

“Luckily, I think Abel is too young to understand what happened, but he certainly seemed a bit confused and fazed by it. It is something I certainly don’t want to happen in front of my son again.

“I don’t think any parent wants that.”