Zak Hardaker exclusive part two: Leeds Rhinos signing fit and available to make second debut in Super League game at Salford Red Devils

Treble-winner Zak Hardaker says he is fit and raring to make his Leeds Rhinos return against Salford Red Devils in four days’ time.

By Peter Smith
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 4:08 pm

Hardaker rejoined the club, following six years away, a fortnight ago but was ruled out of the home clash with Hull KR after suffering a suspected seizure.

New coach Rohan Smith will not name a squad until Friday but Hardaker is back in training and told The Yorkshire Evening Post: “I think I will be available for this weekend.”

Hardaker said: “We have got a long week with not playing until Sunday so I can get plenty of training in me.

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Zak Hardaker is back in trianing with Rhinos. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix.com.

“The physios and doctors at Leeds have been brilliant; they’ve been checking I am okay.

“If something doesn’t feel quite right, they are encouraging me to say, but everything’s fine - I feel back to normal, whatever normal is!”

Hardaker returned to training on Monday and stressed: “I have crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s as far as seeing consultants and having tests is concerned.

“At the back end of last week I was able to do a bit of running and light bike and things like that.

Zak Hardaker, middle, celebrates with Mitch Achurch, left and Luke Briscoe at the end of the final match of his first spell at Leeds, a win against Wakefield in 2017. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“I am going through the right protocols.

“On Monday there was no contact and I could do all the skills with the lads.

“I really enjoyed it and it felt good to be back out there.”

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A jubilant Zak Hardaker after Rhinos' Wembley win in 2015. Picture by Steve Riding.

He spent the rest of that season on loan at NRL club Penrith Panthers, with hooker James Segeyaro joining Rhinos in exchange, before moving to Castleford Tigers ahead of the 2017 campaign. He signed for Wigan Warriors the following May and made his debut at the start of 2019, after completing a drugs ban.

He was released by Wigan on April 22 and joined Leeds four days later, on a deal until the end of this season.

Hardaker scored 67 tries in 155 appearances for Leeds from 2011-2016, playing in three Grand Final wins and two Wembley victories.

He was Man of Steel in 2015 when Rhinos won all three domestic trophies, including the league leaders’ shield.

“I am really looking forward to getting out there,” he said of Sunday’s game.

“I was really, really excited for it two weeks ago , getting to play in front of the South Stand again was something I was really keen to do.

“Maybe that didn’t help me when I had that episode the other week - I was too excited for Friday, even though it was a few days away.

“I am just really excited to be back; it is a bit like a trip down memory lane every time I drive into Kirkstall [Rhinos’ training base].

“Putting on the training kit again has been really exciting and I am looking forward to it when I get chance to play.

“I will be keen to give 110 per cent, which I always do.”

Outlining his aims for the next four months, Hardaker insisted: “I am wanting to add to the quality the team has already got.

“There’s a few injuries coming back this week and in the weeks after that, I know the squad has been hampered by injuries since the start of the season and it’s good we are getting a load of fresh bodies back.

“With me being new and the coach being new, it’ll be good to get a bit of solidarity and to learn how we all play and things like that.

“I wanted to come back to Yorkshire and, with Leeds having a few injuries, it helps each other.

“I am looking forward to getting back playing and then we’ll see where we go from there.”